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It’s a common situation: after taking a shower or brushing your hair, you notice that a little more of your hair has fallen out and collected around the drain or stuck to your brush . You may even start to wonder how much hair loss is normal.
While everyone sheds a certain amount of hair on a daily basis (for most people, it’s around 50 to 100), shedding more hair than normal could be a sign that you’re beginning to lose your hair as a result of male pattern baldness.
It may also be a signal that you’re losing hair due to a medical condition, such as chronic stress, an infection or a nutritional deficiency.
Below, we’ve shared seven common causes of male hair loss. For each potential cause, we’ve explained how it can occur, as well as the effects that you may notice on your hairline and scalp if you’re affected.
We’ve also listed some common misconceptions about hair loss, as well as factors that typically don’t cause hair loss or hair shedding in men.
Finally, we’ve shared several proven, evidence-based approaches to treating hair loss that you can use if you’re starting to notice excessive hair loss and want to do something about it.
Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, from genetic conditions to severe stress, infections and even hormonal issues. Common causes of hair loss in men include:
Male pattern baldness. The most common cause of permanent hair loss in men, male pattern baldness (or androgenetic alopecia) occurs as a result of genetic factors and the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Severe or chronic stress. Stress can cause a form of temporary hair shedding referred to as telogen effluvium, in which your hairs abruptly fall out en masse due to a disruption in your hair growth cycle.
Poor diet. Although dietary issues don’t cause permanent hair loss, certain nutritional deficiencies can contribute to telogen effluvium. For example, a low protein intake or a lack of iron can both cause temporary hair shedding.
Certain medications. Several widely-used medications, including drugs for high blood pressure, blood thinners, beta-blockers, retinoids, thyroid drugs and cancer treatments, are all associated with temporary hair loss.
Medical conditions. Sometimes, hair loss can develop as a result of health conditions such as thyroid disease, lupus, autoimmune diseases, fungal scalp infections and other issues.
Hair care products. Some hair care products, particularly those that can damage your hair or cause your scalp to become irritated, can play a role in weakening your hair and causing shedding.
Tight hairstyles. Finally, hair loss can also develop as a result of hairstyles that pull on your hair follicles. Some hairstyles, such as dreadlocks or braids, can even contribute to a form of permanent hair loss called traction alopecia.
Below, we’ve shared seven reasons why your hair may be s
tarting to fall out. We’ve also talked about the treatment options that are available for each form of hair loss to help you gain control over shedding and enjoy healthy hair growth.
One of the most common causes of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness. Often referred to as androgenetic alopecia, this condition might begin to affect you in your 20s or 30s. By age 49, more than 50 percent of men are affected to some degree.
If you’re prone to male pattern baldness, you’ll usually notice your hairline starting to recede and look more mature. Some men also start to develop hair loss around the crown, or vertex scalp -- a form of hair loss referred to as vertex baldness.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a mix of genetic factors and your body’s production of male sex hormones, or androgens.
The main hormone responsible for male pattern baldness is DHT -- a byproduct of testosterone and an androgenic steroid.
According to StatPearls, DHT plays a key role in a variety of processes in the body. Before birth, it’s involved in the development of your male genitalia. During puberty, it helps you develop male secondary sexual characteristics like a deep voice and body hair.
However, DHT can also affect your hair follicles. If you have a genetic sensitivity, the DHT that’s produced by your body can target your hair follicles and cause them to shrink in a process that’s referred to as miniaturization.
Over time, these affected hair follicles may stop growing new hairs, resulting in permanent bald patches on the affected part of your scalp.
While every male produces at least some DHT, not everyone is equally sensitive to its effects on hair. Men who aren’t genetically sensitive to DHT, for example, can maintain a complete head of hair well into old age.
For other men, however, even a small level of exposure to DHT may result in a receding hairline or other visible hair loss.
Dealing with male pattern baldness can be a stressful experience, especially if it strikes early in your life. The good news is that male pattern baldness is treatable, provided you catch it before it becomes severe.
If you’re worried that you might have male pattern baldness, you can use our list of the common early signs of baldness to check.
Because the hair thinning of male pattern baldness is caused by DHT, most treatments work by either lowering DHT levels in your body or moving your existing hair follicles into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle.
Currently, the two most popular options for treating male pattern baldness are the medications finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia®) and minoxidil (Rogaine®).
Finasteride is an oral prescription medication that works by inhibiting the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. Used daily, it can reduce DHT levels in your bloodstream by as much as 70 percent, which significantly reduces the impact of DHT on your hair follicles.
This reduction in DHT levels is often enough to either slow down, stop or reverse the effects of hereditary hair loss.
You can learn more about finasteride in our guide to finasteride results. Like other medications, finasteride has the potential to cause side effects, although most of these issues only occur in a small percentage of users.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that stimulates hair growth. It’s often used to improve thickness in bald spots or areas of your scalp with thinning hair, such as around the crown.
Although it doesn’t block DHT like finasteride, minoxidil does help to improve blood flow to your hair follicles, which may help to supply extra nutrients. It also moves hairs into the anagen, or active growth, phase of your hair growth cycle.
Several studies have found that minoxidil works well as a medication for stimulating hair growth and treating pattern hair loss, including one study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy that noted that it’s particularly effective when it’s used with finasteride.
Like finasteride, minoxidil needs to be applied daily over the course of several months to be fully effective.
We offer finasteride and minoxidil online (or both together, as part of our Hair Power Pack), with finasteride available after an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Other non-prescription products, such as ketoconazole shampoo, appear to improve hair growth in men affected by male pattern baldness, although the results of studies aren’t as conclusive as they are for finasteride or minoxidil.
Chronic or severe stress can have a range of negative effects on your health, including a higher risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune syndromes and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
It can also affect your hair. Although it’s less common than male pattern baldness, hair loss from stress is a surprisingly frequent issue that’s referred to as telogen effluvium.
Stress-related telogen effluvium often happens after a stressful event, whether psychological or physical. Common issues that can trigger telogen effluvium include trauma, surgery or illnesses that cause you to develop a high fever.
Stress-related hair loss tends to affect your entire scalp at once, meaning your hair won’t fall out in a typical receding hairline pattern. However, you may notice sudden, excessive shedding and diffuse hair loss that gives your hair a thin appearance.
Unlike male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent. However, it can take a major toll on your appearance and self-confidence in the short term.
Because stress-related telogen effluvium isn’t caused by androgen hormones, medications such as finasteride aren’t effective at treating or preventing this type of hair loss.
Most of the time, telogen effluvium hair loss improves gradually as time passes from stressful or traumatic events. According to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, this form of hair loss usually takes three to six months to cease.
Achieving “cosmetically significant” regrowth can require more time -- in some cases, as long as 12 to 18 months.
Although research on its effectiveness is limited, minoxidil is often used to speed up hair growth during the recovery process from telogen effluvium. Depending on the source of stress, options such as counseling and lifestyle changes may also help to stop further hair loss.
Telogen effluvium, the form of stress-related hair loss covered above, can also occur as a result of certain dietary issues, including crash diets and nutritional deficiencies.
Crash diets, which involve drastically reducing calories to lose weight quickly, can put stress on your body. This stress could be particularly severe if your diet is deficient in vital nutrients, such as protein. Both crash dieting and a low protein intake are known causes of telogen effluvium.
In addition to crash dieting, simply not getting enough essential nutrients can affect your ability to grow thick, healthy hair.
One common nutrient deficiency that’s associated with hair loss is iron deficiency. If your intake of iron is too low, you could develop iron-deficiency anemia -- a condition that often affects your hair growth.
As we’ve covered in our guide to lifestyle factors and hair growth, other vitamins and minerals -- such as zinc, biotin and vitamin D -- are all linked to optimal hair health.
Deficiencies in these nutrients may cause your hair to lose some of its thickness, become brittle or simply not grow as it normally would.
If you believe that your diet or rapid weight loss is causing your hair to fall out, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
Depending on your personal situation, they may recommend changes to your diet and everyday life to maintain your hair and help you regrow any hair that you’ve lost.
Most of the time, hair shedding that’s caused by a dietary issue will improve once the underlying problem is treated. This usually means making small changes to your diet or using supplements to increase your intake of essential vitamins, minerals or other nutrients.
In some cases, topical medications such as minoxidil could also be effective at speeding up hair regrowth after rapid weight loss or a dietary issue.
Our guide to what you should eat for hair growth shares several hair-friendly foods to prioritize if you’re worried about losing hair due to dietary issues.
Certain medications can interrupt your hair’s natural growth cycle and cause you to lose more hair than normal.
Hair loss is most commonly associated with drugs used to treat cancer, such as chemotherapy medications. However, it can also occur with other drugs used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and skin conditions such as acne.
For example, medications used in chemotherapy can cause a form of hair shedding referred to as anagen effluvium, which happens when the hair shaft -- the part of each hair that grows out from your scalp -- is fractured due to an inflammatory or toxic insult.
In addition to affecting the growth of hair on your scalp, medications used in chemotherapy may also stop the growth of your eyebrows and body hair.
Other medications, such as beta-blockers, anticoagulants and some retinoids used in skin care, can cause telogen effluvium by moving your hair follicles out of their normal growth cycle.
Finally, some hormonal medications, such as drugs that contain estrogen, may trigger hair loss if treatment is stopped abruptly. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) used by women to control pregnancy contain estrogen and similar hormones that may affect hair growth.
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Most of the time, hair loss that’s caused by medication will gradually get better on its own after you stop using the drug that’s responsible for the hair loss.
In other cases, you may be able to avoid or limit the severity of your hair loss by adjusting your dosage. This is something you’ll need to talk about with your healthcare provider, as changing your dosage on your own may increase your risk of side effects or other health issues.
If you’re convinced that a medication you’re prescribed is causing you to lose hair, don’t make any changes without first consulting your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may suggest changing your dosage or switching to a different type of medication that’s less likely to affect your hair. In some cases, they may recommend taking an additional type of medication to control any hair shedding that occurs during treatment.
Hair loss can be triggered by a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, lupus, thyroid disease, hormonal changes and anemia.
Some skin infections, such as fungal infections that affect your scalp, can also cause hair loss and damage to your skin.
Most of the time, hair loss caused by medical conditions is temporary. However, some medical issues can cause permanent hair loss, and in some cases, even cause severe damage to your hair follicles and skin.
For example, tinea capitis -- a common scalp fungal infection that’s similar to athlete’s foot and jock itch -- can cause painful, pus-filled nodules called kerion when it becomes severe, as well as permanent scarring that can prevent your hair follicles from functioning properly.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it’s also possible for autoimmune diseases to cause a form of hair loss called alopecia areata, in which your immune system may target your hair follicles.
Alopecia areata usually causes small, round patches of hair loss, rather than the pattern hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Because a wide range of different medical conditions can contribute to hair loss, there isn’t one treatment option that works for every case.
Instead, treatment for hair loss that’s caused by a medical condition generally involves treating the primary condition first, then taking action to improve hair growth.
For some medical conditions, this process is straightforward. For example, tinea capitis usually improves with the use of a systemic antifungal medication such as griseofulvin over the course of four to eight weeks.
Using antifungal shampoos, creams and other topical treatments may also help to prevent this type of infection from spreading to other areas of the body.
For other conditions, treatment may be more complex. For example, treating alopecia areata is typically a long-term process that involves the use of immunosuppressants, corticosteroids and medications like minoxidil to stimulate hair regrowth.
If you’re losing hair and think it might be related to a medical condition, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to test for common medical conditions that may cause hair loss, then recommend the most appropriate form of treatment.
Related post: Does anesthesia cause hair loss?
Although most hair care products are safe, certain shampoos, dyes or chemicals products that you may use at home can damage your hair and/or scalp, resulting in a form of temporary hair loss.
In a list of tips for managing hair loss, the American Academy of Dermatology mentions several hair care products and treatments that can contribute to hair loss. They include:
At-home hair coloring, perming, chemical straightening and hair relaxing products all have the potential to damage hair, especially when they’re applied improperly or without the use of any moisturizing conditioner.
Some shampoos contain harsh ingredients that may strip moisture from your hair, resulting in damage and hair loss. This effect may be worse if you tend to concentrate shampoo on your hair, rather than your scalp.
Most of the time, hair loss that’s caused by a hair care product can be treated by switching to a newer, gentler alternative.
If you think your shampoo is causing hair loss, try switching to a gentle shampoo. You can also try a growth-promoting shampoo like our Hair Thickening Shampoo, which uses saw palmetto to prevent shedding and promote extra volume and moisture.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence to show that hair gel, wax or pomade is linked to hair loss. Although these products might make your scalp oily and affect the appearance of your hair, they won’t cause you to go bald.
If you still have persistent hair loss after changing shampoos, consider talking to your healthcare provider or contacting a dermatologist in your area.
Similar to at-home hair care products that can dry out and damage your hair, certain hair styling devices and hairstyles that you may use every day could be setting you up for hair loss, without you even knowing it.
For example, hairstyles that pull on your hairs can contribute to a form of hair loss called traction alopecia, in which hairs gradually loosen from the hair follicles.
Traction alopecia is common in people of color and can occur with hairstyles that put tension on your hair follicles, such as dreadlocks and cornrows. It may also develop if you use strong hold styling products, which may tug on your hair and damage your hair follicles.
As for devices that can cause hair loss, curling irons, hot combs and other tools that use heat to change the shape or texture of your hair may all cause damage. The greater the heat applied to your hair, the drier your hair can become, potentially causing breakage and thinning.
Even your hair dryer can potentially harm your hair follicles and cause hair loss if it’s used at too high a temperature or held close to your scalp.
Although hair dryers, strong hold gels and other hair styling products can cause you to lose hair temporarily, they aren’t linked to male pattern baldness. This means that your hair should begin to grow back on its own after you stop using the product that’s causing damage.
As for traction alopecia, it’s best to switch from harmful hairstyles to a looser style that puts less pressure on your hair follicles.
If you’re losing hair, it’s likely caused by one of the factors we’ve listed above. These causes of hair loss are well documented, with real scientific evidence to explain how each issue can lead to shedding or permanent hair loss.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of persistent myths about hair loss, including about potential causes of hair loss in men.
If you’re beginning to lose hair and aren’t sure why, you can rest assured that it most likely isn’t caused by any of these factors:
Wearing a hat. Contrary to popular belief, wearing a hat doesn’t appear to contribute to hair loss or have any significant impact on your hair health. There’s also no high quality evidence that wearing a hat speeds up male pattern baldness in any way.
Masturbation. Another common myth is that masturbation plays a role in male pattern baldness. Like with wearing a hat, there’s no scientific evidence that this is true, or that any type of sexual activity affects your hair growth.
Using gel, wax or pomade. With the exception of products that pull firmly on your hair and damage your hair follicles, there’s no evidence that using mild or medium hold wax, gel or other styling products can cause hair loss.
Eating lots of sugar. While diabetes may affect your blood flow and hair growth, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that eating simple sugars or other carbohydrates has any significant impact on the health of your hair.
Your mother’s father’s hair. Finally, while genetics do play a role in hair loss, the idea that you inherit your hair from your mother’s father is not accurate. Put simply, having a bald father-in-law doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily go bald yourself.
Our guide to hair loss myths goes into more detail about common misconceptions about male pattern baldness, hair shedding and other forms of hair loss.
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Hair loss is a common issue that can occur in men of all ages and backgrounds. While dealing with hair loss can be a stressful experience, the good news is that options are available to treat just about every condition that can affect your hair.
If you’re beginning to lose hair and think it could be male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium or another common cause of hair loss, it’s important to take action as soon as you can.
You can get help for hair loss by talking to your primary care provider or visiting a dermatologist in your area.
Interested in learning more about treating hair loss before you get started? Our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair goes into more detail about your options, from hair loss medications to surgical procedures for restoring hair.
Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.