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October 5, 2020 • read
How dermatologists can help with seasonal hair loss
Each season comes with unique health challenges. In autumn and winter, harsh winds and cold temperatures create perfect conditions for dry skin. Springtime brings blooming flowers — nice to look at, but one whiff can send allergy sufferers 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, and that’s 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.
How much hair loss is normal?
If a small amount of hair ends up in your brush when you’re combing it each day, 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 head 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, lack of new hair growth can leave bald areas on your head or body. This condition is known as androgenic alopecia. In men, it’s also called male pattern baldness. This condition commonly affects the hairline and crown. Male pattern baldness happens in about 50% of Canadian men by age 70. Contrary to popular belief, significant hair loss and balding happens to women too. Female pattern baldness happens to 40% of women by age 50. Hair thinning in women usually happens near the crown of the head.
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 a combination of genetics and hormonal changes as you age.
Why does seasonal hair loss 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 year. Researchers speculate that the trend is tied to human evolution. It once made sense for us 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 modern day.
What you can do about hair loss
Eat hair-friendly foods
Foods that are high in protein 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 the production of healthy hair cells. Try introducing more eggs or fish into your diet to boost your body’s protein levels.
Minimize your stress
Stress related hair loss can take a few forms. Some people gravitate towards tugging on their hair to self-soothe, which is a condition called trichotillomania.
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, the 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.
Take a break from colouring and heat styling
Harsh chemicals from hair dyes and heat from blowdryers 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.
Dermatologists may recommend topical and oral medications that promote hair growth. In men, Finasteride and minoxidil have proven effective, and for women a top choice is minoxidil. Medication is unlikely to restore your full head of hair, but it can promote new growth that may not have otherwise occurred.
A hair transplant is a surgical technique where healthy hair follicles are moved from another part of the body to the area that’s balding. Transplants have more success than medications, and although the hair will still thin over time, it does provide growth in the interim.
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 the 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. If you’re looking for help with preventing seasonal hair loss, book an appointment with one of our dermatologists. They’ll help you sort through options available to help you look and feel your best.