To a degree, hair loss is totally normal. In fact, most men typically lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day, says Dr. Robert Glatter, MD, an attending emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital who has frequently consulted with men about hair loss.
By far the most common cause of hair loss is male pattern baldness, which is caused by increased sensitivity to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). While “nearly 50% of men will experience some degree of hair loss by the time they turn 50, hair loss can also begin earlier in life,” says Glatter, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition to early hair loss.
But if you’re younger than 50 and you’re constantly seeing strands of hair on your pillow, in the shower, or on your favorite sweater, you might want to take note, particularly if your hairline isn’t actually receding (the most common sign of male pattern baldness). It could mean you’re losing hair at an abnormally fast rate. You’ll need to speak to a physician to figure out what’s stressing out your head, but here are 6 surprising reasons why your hair might be falling out.
Up to 40% of men have dandruff, a.k.a. seborrheic dermatitis. “Dandruff occurs when the scalp sheds its skin, so whitish flakes or scales may appear on your back or shoulders,” says Glatter. “Causes stem from hormonal changes or fluctuations, excessive oil or sebum production in the skin.”
The good news is, seborrheic dermatitis is highly treatable. If seborrheic dermatitis is contributing to your hair loss, and it’s treated right away, you’ll likely notice significant hair regrowth 8 months after starting treatment, says Glatter.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes excessive skin cell turnover, as well as a thick white scaly patch on the scalp that can potentially bleed if removed.
“Scalp psoriasis can result in hair loss, [because] you may scratch your head to relieve the itching caused by scaling. That could cause your hair to fall out,” Glatter says.
To reduce scalp itch and potential hair loss, limit use of blow dryers or styling irons, which heat the scalp. It may also help to apply an ice pack or cool wet towel against the irritated area of the scalp. There are also a number of shampoos on the market (like Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner, $6.67, buy it here) which can help treat the condition.
In more severe cases, a dermatologist can prescribe you “oral medications, topical creams, and ointments, along with use of ultraviolet light therapy to reduce and treat flare-ups,” Glatter says. “While you can’t completely prevent psoriasis breakouts, you can manage the condition. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage your stress, alcohol intake, medications, and other changes in your health.”
Ringworm, a.k.a. tinea, is a fungal infection that produces scaly red patches on the skin. While you can get ringworm anywhere on your body, if you get it on your scalp or beard it can lead to patches of hair loss, says Glatter. “Once the area is treated with an oral anti-fungal medication, hair typically should regrow within 6-12 months. But it is still possible that some of the hair loss may be permanent,” he cautions.
While it’s much more common among women, hypothyroidism (or inadequate thyroid function) in men can cause fatigue, constipation, unexplained weight gain, difficulty concentrating, depression, and yup, you guessed it, hair loss.
“Hair, nails, and skin may become weaker and thus break more easily,” says Glatter. Youmight notice your hair thinning or difficulty growing facial hair.
If you suspect you might have reduced thyroid function, talk to your doctor.
If you have long hair, excessive tension from tight braids, man buns, and ponytails can lead to weakening of the hair follicle and subsequent hair loss and volume, Glatter says. That’s why it’s important not to keep your hair in a super tight up-do. You should also avoid using chemicals and hot tools as much as possible. (It’s also worth noting that apparently, only 23% of women think man buns look good.)
If you do use hair products often, “gels and waxes don’t directly contribute to hair loss, but they can weaken the hair shaft with longer term use, leaving hair brittle and more prone to damage and breaks,” Glatter says. “Polyethylene glycol and alcohols may both dry your hair out and make it quite brittle, so products that are water-based [like this pomade for $12.99, buy it here] are much healthier for your hair.”
Approximately 7% of men color their hair, according to 2012 marketing research firm data. If you’re one of them, your hair dyeing habit might be weakening your hair: many hair dyes contain paraphenylendiamine, which may raise the risk of hair loss. While this is relatively rare, Glatter suggests taking a break from dying your hair every few months to make sure you’re not weakening your hair follicles.