Hair loss can be a traumatizing experience, even when it’s temporary. In this article, I’m going to discuss temporary hair loss. This will include a look at the most common causes, triggers, and signs.
Then, I’ll share some tips that will help you to speed up regrowth and bring your hair back to its natural glory.
The Hair Growth Cycle
Before I dig into the main discussion, you’ll first need to understand how hair grows.
There are three stages in the growth cycle. They are:
- Anagen. The phase of active growth and the longest stage of the cycle, lasting anywhere from 3 – 5 years.
- Catagen. The transitional phase and the shortest in the cycle, lasting only about 10 days.
- Telogen. The resting phase which includes shedding, lasting a few weeks to a few months.
In individuals with healthy scalps, only a small portion of their follicles are in telogen phase at any given time. The majority are in anagen.
When it comes to hair loss conditions, though, the number of follicles in the telogen phase can increase. As such, more hair than the usual 80 – 150 per day is shed. This leads to thinning.
In cases of non-permanent shedding and alopecia, an excess number of follicles in the telogen phase is known as telogen effluvium. All this means is an ‘outflow’ of telogen phase hairs.
Causes and Triggers
Just as permanent hair fall can have a number of different causes, so too can temporary. While this list isn’t extensive, let’s look at the most common reasons for the short term loss of hair.
Stress – both emotional and physical – can trigger a number of changes within the body. Many of these changes are hormonal in nature (such as increased cortisol levels), though some can also be physical.
In the case of stress-induced hair fall, a condition known as telogen effluvium is very common. Essentially, your body’s stress levels push a large number of hair follicles into a premature resting phase.
This means excess thinning and loss, and it can continue until the source of the stress is solved.
Additionally or alternatively, stress can also trigger the development of trichotillomania. This is an anxiety disorder that leads to excessive pulling out of hair (mainly on the scalp, but also eyelashes, eyebrows, and other body parts).
Injury or Trauma
During great periods of physical stress, such as that experienced during an injury or other external trauma, it’s not uncommon for increased shedding to occur.
The most common trigger of this is increased cortisol levels. As stress is put on the body, it’s also reflected in the body.
Illnesses related to hair loss are commonly hormonal in nature and, as such, can be reversed by treating the underlying issue.
Such conditions include lupus, thyroid problems, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Illness isn’t always the main cause of the shedding, though. Instead, the treatments one undergoes can also trigger it.
Hormones seem to be the main theme here, and the same can be said for a number of medications that cause temporary thinning and hair loss.
The medication most commonly associated with alopecia is chemotherapy. However, many more commonplace medications can do the same.
Antidepressants, beta blockers, male and female hormones, and more can lead to hormone-induced telogen effluvium.
Temporary or Permanent?
If you’ve undergone any of the above triggers, you may be encouraged that your hair loss is short-term. However, I urge you to know the difference between temporary and permanent alopecia and keep an eye out for early signs.
What exactly do I mean?
Permanent balding – such as that caused by androgenetic alopecia – has distinct signs of its occurrence. The odds of you experiencing these signs from temporary hair loss are rare, which means they can help you to know when to take your treatment more seriously.
But what are these signs?
Pattern Hair Loss and Receding Hairline
The tell-tale sign of balding in men is the M-shaped hairline (also known as a receding hairline). This is not something that will commonly be seen in short-term cases and is a clear indicator of early balding.
(Learn the difference between hairline recession and hairline maturation here.)
Slow or No Regrowth
After your first wave of shedding, it can take quite a bit of time for regrowth to occur. But how long is too long?
Doctors differ on the exact amount of time, but the important thing is is that regrowth is occurring.
In individuals with androgenetic alopecia, thinning and balding caused by a transient situation may never see that hair again. As the follicles were already compromised, this bit of trauma was the last push those follicles needed.
So, in general, if hair growth is occurring (even if it falls out again during the process), this is a good sign.
However, if you feel that the growth-loss cycle has gone on too long, it doesn’t hurt to see a professional.
Thin, Wispy Hair
Telogen effluvium – the type of alopecia most commonly associated with traumatic situations – leads to excess shedding. In the majority of cases, though, TE won’t affect the integrity of your hair.
Essentially, your hair should feel the same, just thinner in certain areas.
For those with permanent hair loss, though, the integrity of the hair is greatly compromised. This can lead to thin, wispy locks that are lacking texture.
Does balding in the family mean you’re doomed to a hairless future? Absolutely not. Though, it does mean you’re at an increased risk. In fact, those with certain alleles can be seven times more likely to develop hair loss.
For best results, you’ll want to treat your symptoms as soon as they begin. If the symptoms are temporary, however, is that really necessary?
I would recommend that you still take steps to prepare your scalp for healthy hair growth. Here’s how.
(Learn more about early signs of balding here.)
How to Speed Up the Process of Regrowth
Even when hair loss is temporary, it’s still normal to want to speed up the process. So, what methods can you use to boost growth and leave baldness behind?
1. Use Natural and Gentle Hair Products
Including shampoos, conditioners, gels, and sprays, it’s important to use only those products that contain natural and gentle ingredients. This will speed the process of hair growth, as well as maintain the integrity of your hair.
There are a few natural ingredients which have been shown to improve hair quality. These include certain oils (coconut oil and jojoba oil, for example) and proteins (such as keratin and collagen).
It’s more likely that you’ll be looking to purchase an over-the-counter product for the majority of your hair care, though. In that case, there are a few ingredients I’d suggest you avoid. This will help you to narrow your search for gentle hair products more effectively.
The list of ingredients to avoid include:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
The majority of the above ingredients are concerned with the preservation of the shampoo as opposed to the health of your hair and scalp. While they can help to provide a longer shelf life, they can also cause irritation and damage to the scalp.
2. Practice Regular Scalp Stimulation
As your hair follicles cycle through the growth process, it’s important to keep circulation and nutrient delivery going. Fortunately, scalp stimulation enables you to do that easily on a daily basis.
Stimulation of the scalp can be as easy as a five-minute daily massage or as complex as a full-on microneedling session.
The goal for each, however, is the same: improvement of blood flow. Let’s take a look at how to perform each technique, and tips for best practice.
While best performed by another, you can perform scalp massage on yourself at home. All this requires is your fingertips or a head massager.
Using your fingertips, start at the area of thinning and work in a gentle, circular motion. This can seem awkward at first, but you’ll improve as time goes on.
Alternatively (or additionally), you can use a head massager by placing it on the crown and working it up and down slowly and gently. You do want to apply pressure, but too much pressure can cause further hair loss.
I recommend you do this for 5 – 10 minutes every day.
Perhaps not as popular as scalp massage, scalp exercises can be just as effective at stimulating circulation and reducing stress levels.
This is especially great if your hair loss is stress-induced, or if you think stress is slowing the growth.
There are two basic exercises you can perform throughout your day to keep your stress down and your blood flowing to the follicles.
- Raise your eyebrows as high as possible.
- Furrow your eyebrows as as possible.
These techniques are simple, yes. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.
A more “extreme” form of scalp stimulation, microneedling involves intentional wounding of the scalp. These wounds are tiny, however, and should cause no pain.
The idea behind microneedling is that these wounds will trigger inflammation and then remodeling of the scalp. This includes the affected hair follicles, as well.
Microneedling can be performed by a professional, but you can use a dermaroller or dermastamp at home with the same effects. I recommend a once weekly microneedling session. If using a topical growth stimulator, then microneedle before applying the topical.
3. Improve Your Diet
Whether injury, illness, or stress is the cause of your temporary hair loss, a well-balanced diet can do much to improve your scalp’s condition and make it a healthy place for hair to regrow.
When I saw a “well-balanced diet,” I simply mean one that helps you to reach all of your daily recommended vitamin and nutrient values. You can achieve this by including these types of foods into your daily diet:
- Lean meats and beans
- Leafy greens
- Fresh fruits
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
The goal is for the majority of your dietary intake to be healthy and life-sustaining. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy dessert or a burger on occasion. It’s all about achieving a sustainable balance.
If you’re already eating an otherwise balanced diet, but you wonder if nutrient deficiencies are the cause of your temporary hair loss, then I encourage you to request a blood panel from your doctor.
There are various nutrient and mineral deficiencies that may contribute to hair thinning and hair loss. The most common include iron, niacin, biotin, and Vitamin D. If you find that one of these is the issue, then adding more of these nutrients to your diet should be your first step. You can also take a dietary supplement, though absorption through food is more effective in the long-term.
4. Consider an FDA-Approved Treatment
While I encourage you to give the above methods a try first and foremost, it’s understandable that some people want to use a more “conventional” approach. This is where the use of FDA-approved treatments, like Propecia and Rogaine, come in.
Propecia is an oral drug that inhibits the activity of 5-alpha-reductase. This is the enzyme responsible for testosterone’s conversion into the androgen hormone DHT. If you suffer from androgenetic alopecia, this is a common medication to use to reduce DHT levels and prevent hairline recession.
If you suffer from temporary hair loss, though, then Propecia is unlikely to be much help. Instead, you may want to use Rogaine.
Rogaine, known by its generic name of minoxidil, is a topical solution that’s applied directly to the scalp. It has various mechanisms, though it’s most known for its ability to promote blood flow to the area. With increased blood flow, more oxygen and nutrients and flowing to the hair follicles. This can promote hair growth in both temporary and permanent cases of hair loss.
There are side effects to consider for both drugs. It’s also important to remember that hair loss is only treated by these drugs for as long as they’re used. This means as soon as you stop using them you may experience hair loss again. This is why I’d suggest you work on treating the root cause of your hair loss at the same time as you’re using one of these treatments.
Hair loss can be difficult to deal with – whether permanent or non-permanent. However, sufferers of temporary thinning and balding have much they can do to speed the growth process and regain their full head of hair.
If you prefer a gentler approach, then switching your hair care products, adding in scalp stimulation, and improving your diet are just a few steps to take on your hair regrowth journey. This is an excellent approach for many people with temporary causes of hair loss who need a bit of a boost.
If you suffer from permanent types of hair loss, though, then you may want to consider a FDA-approved treatments as well. They don’t cure the problem, but they can give you a head start on regrowth especially if you incorporate them with the other techniques offered above.