Losing a few hairs, here and there, is normal. In fact, the average person loses about 50-100 hairs per day. But when you start to pull out clumps of hair in the shower, or you notice new thinning or balding patches, it may be time to look a little deeper. Hair loss can be triggered by a number of factors and may be a sign that something else is going on in the body. Let’s take a look at the most common types of hair loss, what causes hair loss, and how you can use acupuncture and Chinese medicine to maintain a healthy mane.
Why Is My Hair Falling Out? Hair Loss and Its Causes
Not everyone’s experience with losing their hair is the same. While some hair loss is hereditary, other types are caused by medications, stress, or medical conditions.
Common Types of Hair Loss
Androgenetic Alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness, Female Pattern Baldness)
This is the most common type of hair loss in both men and women and tends to be hereditary. For men, it can begin anytime after puberty and tends to leave a ring of hair around the head with the temples and top of the head hairless. In women, hair thins all over the scalp but doesn’t usually leave completely bald areas.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that attacks the hair follicles and prevents new hairs from growing. Hair tends to fall out in small patches around the scalp and hair loss may occur in other areas too (such as the eyebrows or eyelashes).
Tinea capitis, or scalp ringworm, is hair loss caused by a fungal infection. It is the most common cause of hair loss in children. Tinea capitis causes circular bald patches as well as a red, scaly, or itchy scalp. Other signs of an immune reaction (like fever or swollen glands) are common as the body fights the infection. This condition usually goes away with antifungal medications.
This type of hair loss occurs when many hair follicles enter telogen, or the resting phase of growth, without then starting the new growth phase. This causes the hair to fall out and not regenerate as it normally would. It is usually caused by a medical event, like surgery or childbirth, with hair loss starting about 3 months after that event. Telogen effluvium does not typically lead to complete balding, but it’s common to lose several hundred hairs a day. In many cases, hair growth restarts within 6 months.
Anagen effluvium is the scientific name for the drastic hair loss that occurs with certain medical treatments like chemotherapy. The medications “turn off” the hair follicles which leads to a quick loss of hair. After the treatment is over, the hair will grow back naturally.
Common Causes of Hair Loss
Genetics and aging are at the root of most hair loss, but there are some other potential causes.
Imbalances and Deficiencies
The body relies on having the right amount of resources to stay healthy and strong. When resources are limited or out of balance, nourishment that would go to the hair has to be used for more important matters.
- Sex hormone imbalances
- Thyroid imbalance
- Vitamin or mineral deficiency (especially iron)
- Protein deficiency
Major Medical Events
Major changes in your body’s health, or intense treatments, can disrupt hair follicle growth. Usually, hair grows back after the event or treatment has been completed.
- Autoimmune disease
- Thyroid disease
- Extreme weight loss
- High fever
- Infections (like scalp ringworm)
- Diseases that cause scarring of the scalp (like lichen planus or lupus)
Losing hair can be a side effect of certain medications or medical treatments.
- Stopping your oral contraceptives
Stress causes the body to shunt all its resources into your survival. Growing hair isn’t at the top of the list of functions that keep you alive, so your hair follicles may stop growing hair during times of chronic or extreme stress.
- Stress or anxiety
- Emotional shock
- Major life changes (like a death in the family, divorce, moving, job loss)
- Trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder)
- Traction hair loss (hair loss due to tight pulling or styling of the hair)
Hair Loss and Chinese Medicine
Losing your hair is never fun. Thankfully, Chinese medicine’s holistic approach may be able to help restore healthy hair or slow the loss of hair in the future.
Chinese medicine views the hair as an indicator of your health, blood quality, and energy reserves. When you are in good health and have plenty of blood and energy to spare, your body has plenty of excess resources to grow strong, healthy locks.
When you are stressed, worn down, or sick, your hair is not the body’s main priority. As a result, the hair can become dull or dry. If your resources continue to decline, you’ll notice thinning hair, early greying of the hair, or losing hair. Just as we learned above, extreme instances that tax your energy reserves can also lead to changes in the health of your hair.
What does blood have to do with hair loss?
In Chinese medicine, the blood is what nourishes the tissues of the body. From your muscles to your skin to your hair, abundant blood is needed for these tissues to stay healthy and strong. When there is an imbalance in the blood – such as excess heat or a lack of healthy blood – these tissues will suffer. The scalp may become irritated and hair becomes dry, brittle, or may completely fall out.
How We Treat Hair Loss with Chinese Medicine
To understand how Chinese medicine treats hair loss, think of your head like a garden. To grow healthy and strong plants, we need a good fertile foundation. If your garden is lacking the right nutrients to grow, you have to replenish the soil. Pouring fertilizer on may help for a while, but the soil will continue to be depleted until you address the root issue.
Understanding the root of hair loss – or any health issue for that matter – will make a lasting impact on our hair health. Why is your hair falling out? When did it start? What other symptoms are you experiencing? How are your energy levels? Are there underlying imbalances at play?
These questions help us determine why you are losing hair so we can use the corresponding acupuncture treatments, herbal formulas, and even products or supplements to restore health.
Here are some common root causes of hair loss in Chinese medicine and how Wellnest Denver can help:
The most common cause of hair loss in Chinese medicine is blood deficiency. Without enough extra blood to nourish the follicles and grow the hair, hair simply falls out or stops growing. We can use acupuncture to encourage the body to create and circulate more blood to nourish the entire body – including the scalp.
Herbal formulas can be particularly helpful to improve your blood quality and quantity. A famous blood tonic herb called he shou wu has been shown to help regrow hair in those with alopecia.
Qi deficiency, or a lack of energy, is a common cause of early aging and hair loss. The body’s resources are dwindling (often due to stress, lifestyle habits, or illness) and less energy is reserved for hair growth. Acupuncture helps to boost the body’s overall qi and prevent further hair loss.
Blood heat can occur after an infection or whenever there is an excess of heat in the body. This often results in rashes or itchiness and can cause hair loss. Acupuncture and herbal medicine help to cool the blood and restore balance.
Chinese medicine sees hormone imbalances as imbalances between yin and yang, or imbalances between certain organ systems. Acupuncture can help the body better manage hormones to reduce the hormonal shifts that lead to losing hair.
Stress – whether physical or mental – is one of the main causes of hair loss. Acupuncture has been proven to reduce stress and grow the body’s resilience to it over time.
How to Prevent Hair Loss and Grow Healthier Hair
Preventing hair loss is the most effective way to maintain your luscious locks for years to come. Consider including these techniques into your current self-care routine to give your hair some TLC:
- Get regular acupuncture to maintain healthy blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles.
- Use Chinese herbs to support healthy blood.
- Give yourself a daily scalp massage to stimulate the hair follicles and bring healthy blood circulation to the scalp.
- Maintain a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to support a healthy scalp.
- Prevent iron deficiency by eating iron-rich foods or supplementing with natural products like Floradix.
- Supplement with hair-boosting B-vitamins (particularly B-12 and biotin).
- Make a hair-growth essential oil blend to stimulate hair growth.
Restore Beautiful Hair at Wellnest Denver Acupuncture
If the loss of your hair has you down, we’re here to help. Wellnest Denver Acupuncture specializes in helping you restore your body’s natural vitality so you can overcome issues like hair loss naturally. Book a brief consultation to find out how our solutions can put you on the path to better health and natural beauty! We have a lot of tools to help you regrow your hair and boost your confidence.