Aging & Thinning Hair

Overview

Everyone’s hair becomes thinner with age. If a person’s hair is thinning at an unusually fast rate, this may signal a health problem, and a physician should be contacted. Good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle with rest and exercise, and using mild hair care treatments can keep a person’s remaining hair healthy.

Young Hair

People complain about their pets shedding hair, but the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that humans are as bad as their pets. The average human sheds about 100 hairs daily out of an estimated 100,000 hairs on the scalp.

Hair Loss

By age 30, 25 percent of all men have begun going bald. By age 60, two-thirds of all men experience some balding. The cause is usually genetic.

Women, except for special circumstances such temporary loss of hair during pregnancy or an illness, usually start experiencing hair thinning during menopause. Hair loss due to pregnancy, an illness or menopause may stop within six months to two years, and hair growth then returns to normal.

Other women experience a female version of male genetic baldness when they reach menopause, as discussed in the National Library of Medicine’s essay, “Female pattern baldness.” Their hair distribution remains the same, but their hair thins all the way across the scalp.

Contact Physician

While hair loss is normal, any noticeable hair loss should be reported to a physician. Hair loss may be a symptom of an illness, such as a thyroid disorder, a nutritionally deficient diet, or a signal that a person is under extreme emotional stress. An illustrated guide to many of the conditions that must be ruled out before hair loss can be considered normal appears in a July 2003 “American Family Physician” article by Dr. Karyn Springer and several colleagues, “Common Hair Loss Disorders.”

Preserving Hair

Once any medical conditions causing hair loss have been ruled out or treated, consideration should be given to keeping one’s remaining hair as healthy as possible. Failure to eat a healthy diet frequently shows up in unhealthy hair. Consulting a registered dietitian (RD) is recommended by the American Dietetic Association for advice about improving one’s meals can definitely help one’s hair.

Hair loss may reflect hair exposure to harsh chemicals, dyes, extreme heat and other hair styling techniques. A licensed hair stylist can advise on hair coloring and styling methods that will be easier on a person’s hair.

No Miracles

Since losing hair is a sensitive personal issue, many people turn to ‘miracle’ hair loss cures–overly high doses of vitamins, having hair pieces surgically sutured to their scalps and other dangerous or ineffective treatments.

The American Hair Loss Association offers many sound suggestions for dealing with hair loss. For example, the association notes that hair can safely be transplanted from part of one’s own scalp to another part of one’s scalp, and that that hair from an identical twin can safely be transplanted to one’s own head. The association warns that hair transplants from unrelated donors can result in a lifetime on anti-rejection medications.