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March 14, 2023 • read
How dermatologists can help with seasonal hair loss
Each season comes with unique health challenges. In fall and winter, harsh winds and cold temperatures create perfect conditions for dry skin. Springtime brings blooming flowers — lovely to look at, but one whiff can send those with allergies straight to the pharmacy.
Lots of us have learned to anticipate these challenges each season. But there’s one seasonal change that affects both men and women that’s not often discussed — seasonal hair loss. It’s most common in the summer and fall months, and with a little attention, it’s possible to minimize your seasonal shedding each year.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help prevent hair loss, we can help. Maple’s a virtual care platform that connects you with Canadian-licensed doctors and specialists from your phone, tablet, or computer. You can speak to a dermatologist within hours about any scalp concerns you may have. Dermatologists can diagnose hair conditions like hair loss and prescribe the appropriate medication, if deemed necessary.
What’s hair loss?
Alopecia (hair loss) occurs when the hair is thinning or falling out. It can be temporary or permanent and isn’t restricted to one gender. Androgenetic alopecia, known in men as male pattern baldness, happens in about 50% of Canadian men by age 70.
Female pattern baldness occurs in 40% of women by age 50. And while there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, many Canadians fear developing confidence issues if they experienced this — 59.1% of women and 40.9% of men said baldness would affect their overall confidence.
While there are many types of hair loss, these are the most common:
As mentioned above, this is also known as male or female pattern baldness. In males, the condition commonly affects the hairline and crown, whereas thinning hair in women usually happens near the crown of the head.
Cicatricial alopecia (scarring alopecia)
This is permanent hair loss caused by the destruction of hair follicles. It’s usually a result of autoimmune disorders, infections, or chemicals, and the damage makes it difficult for hair to grow back, often resulting in indefinite areas of hair loss. Scarring alopecia may also cause pain or itching. Scarring alopecia doesn’t cause symptoms most of the time but may cause pain or itching. The main treatment goal is to prevent further hair loss.
An autoimmune condition that causes sudden, nonscarring hair loss from the scalp or other parts of the body as the immune system attacks hair follicles. This often results in smooth, round patches of hair loss from the entire scalp or body. While there’s no permanent damage to the follicle and most people see their hair regrow within one year, the condition can return.
This occurs when the body sheds more hair than usual, typically during a stressful time. Hair loss is rapid, and events that can cause telogen effluvium include, but aren’t limited to, pregnancy, thyroid disorders, severe infections (such as hair loss caused by COVID-19), surgery, certain medications, and deficiency disorders.
How much hair loss is normal?
If a small amount of hair ends up in your brush when combing it daily, don’t worry. Hair loss is a natural daily occurrence for both men and women. Losing a few strands isn’t a sign you’re going bald. Adults who shed a normal amount lose between 50-100 hairs from their heads each day.
It’s part of the cycle of hair growth, which happens in phases. The stages are growth, rest, shedding, and replacement. When you shed more hair than you replace, you’ll start to notice patches of thin hair. Over time, a lack of new hair growth can leave bald areas on your head or body, known as androgenic alopecia, as mentioned above.
If you’re wondering whether or not baldness is your future, take a look at your family tree. Hereditary-patterned baldness is the most common form of baldness, caused by genetics and hormonal changes as you age.
What’s seasonal hair loss, and why does it happen?
Scientists and doctors are still looking for the root cause of seasonal hair loss. While people notice more hair loss in the summer and fall seasons, we don’t know exactly why it happens during those times of the year.
Researchers speculate that the trend is tied to human evolution. It once made sense for us to shed body hair to keep cool in warm weather. Back then, we had a lot more of it than we do today. Similarly, in the winter months, mammals like humans grow extra thick hair or fur to protect them from the elements.
That could be why we don’t see as much hair loss in the wintertime in the modern day. Additionally, lifestyle changes in the warmer months may cause hair loss, such as chlorine from swimming pools or too much sun exposure.
And while we’ve been plagued with myths like getting scalp massages and cutting your hair often helps it grow, there are actually some things you can do to help prevent hair loss — including treatments for hair loss you can do on your own. Here’s a rundown of the most popular methods to help prevent and treat hair loss.
Eat hair-friendly foods
One of the best at-home treatments for hair loss is eating foods high in protein and consuming foods with plenty of vitamins and minerals to help you grow healthy, strong hair. Hair follicles are the tube-shaped passages in the scalp and skin that your hair grows from. They’re made primarily of protein, which is also a key ingredient in producing healthy hair cells. Try introducing more eggs or fish into your diet to boost your body’s protein levels.
Crash diets and eating disorders can also contribute to hair loss, so it’s crucial for your hair — and your overall health — to consume enough calories, protein, and vitamins and minerals from food.
Up your vitamin intake
You may also have hair loss due to certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It’s important to know which ones are safe to supplement as some, like vitamin A or selenium, has proven to contribute to hair loss when taken in excess. While more research is needed, it’s thought that a lack of vitamin D can cause hair loss since it signals pathways of growth and differentiation of hair follicles. There’s a link between vitamin D and certain alopecias like androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata. Besides, having vitamin D deficiency is bad for your health overall, so taking it — especially in winter — can only benefit you.
A lack of vitamin B, specifically biotin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamin B12, can also contribute to hair loss. If you’re not getting enough through food, it’s good to take supplements. Keep in mind though that taking these vitamins doesn’t mean your hair will start magically growing. It means that if you’re deficient in any of these areas, a supplement may help prevent hair loss.
As for iron deficiency causing hair loss, the jury’s still out on that one. This has been debated back and forth for years, and even though there’s no conclusive evidence, in some controlled studies, using an iron supplement has proven to have positive outcomes for hair loss. Consider boosting your vitamin C intake if you suffer from hair loss associated with iron deficiency.
Minimize your stress
Stress-related hair loss can take a few forms. Some people gravitate towards pulling their hair to self-soothe, which is a condition called trichotillomania — different to traction alopecia, which is also caused by pulling of hair, but as a result of styling it too tightly.
Stress also causes the body to release a hormone called cortisol, which in turn causes a surge in another hormone, testosterone. A certain subtype of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone lives in your skin and hair. When there’s too much of it, overstimulation causes hair loss. Stress management techniques like mindfulness or psychotherapy can help you keep calm in tough situations and mitigate the consequences of constant stress.
Additionally, cortisol causes an accelerated breakdown and reduced synthesis of hyaluronan and proteoglycans — proteins that influence cell behaviour — which can also contribute to hair loss.
Stress management techniques like mindfulness or talk therapy can help you keep calm in tough situations and mitigate the consequences of constant stress.
Take a break from colouring and heat styling
Harsh chemicals from hair dyes and heat from blow dryers aren’t good for your hair. In high-shed seasons like summer and fall, go easy on any intensive styling if you’re noticing hair loss. Permanent hair dye contains ammonia, which weakens the hair shaft.
Heat styling depletes your hair’s natural proteins, leaving your hair dry and prone to snapping off. Natural dyes and air drying your hair are two less harmful alternatives.
And while it has been said that certain shampoo ingredients cause hair loss, there’s no research to back that up. Sulphates, formaldehyde, parabens, and more have all been dubbed culprits, and while they can damage your hair, they don’t necessarily cause hair to fall out.
Dermatologists may recommend topical and oral prescription medications that can help hair regrow. In men, minoxidil (Loniten) and finasteride (Propecia) for hair loss have proven effective, and for women, a top choice is minoxidil. So if you’ve been wondering if there’s a prescription for hair loss, there are options. While medication is unlikely to restore your full head of hair, it can promote new growth that may not have otherwise occurred.
Intralesional corticosteroids have a high success rate for those with alopecia areata. These steroid injections for hair loss are injected into bald patches to help stimulate hair growth. The injections are most useful for patchy, stable hair loss, but the results vary. A dermatologist or medical professional would need to assess your scalp and hair to determine if you’re a good candidate for this procedure.
This is the most intense option to regain your hair, but the success rates are pretty good. A hair transplant is a surgical procedure to help regrow hair. This technique involves healthy hair follicles moving from another part of the body to the balding area. Transplants have better outcomes than medications, and although the hair will still thin over time, it does provide growth in the interim.
When do dermatologists recommend treatment for hair loss?
A dermatologist will look at your medical history, scalp, and how much your hair is shedding. Sometimes they may even request bloodwork. If the dermatologist determines what you’re experiencing is hair shedding, they likely won’t recommend treatment since this is often temporary.
But if you have hair loss, treatment is more likely to be in order. And, the earlier hair loss is discovered, the better your chance of success.
How a dermatologist on Maple can help
As we discover more about the origins of seasonal hair loss, taking stock of when you notice increased shedding is a great preventative measure. If you know when to predict hair loss, you can have a plan in place for those months. Whether it’s diet changes or a low-heat hairstyle, you’ll know the time of year when you need to change your routine to maintain lush locks.
Hair loss can be a tough experience, but we can help. You can book an appointment with a Canadian-licensed dermatologist for hair loss on Maple in hours without a referral, and you don’t even have to leave home since all consultations take place online. The dermatologist will look at your medical history, ask questions about your hair, view pictures, and prescribe the appropriate treatment, as deemed necessary.
Don’t wait for the seasons to change — a dermatologist on Maple can help you sort through the available options so you can look and feel your best.
This blog was developed by our team and reviewed by a medical professional.
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