A man worried about his temporary hair loss

Temporary Hair Loss: Causes, Signs (& Ways to Speed Up Recovery!)

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:

  1. Anagen. The phase of active growth and the longest stage of the cycle, lasting anywhere from 3 – 5 years.
  2. Catagen. The transitional phase and the shortest in the cycle, lasting only about 10 days.
  3. 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 – 100 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

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.

Trichotillomania – the pulling of hair caused by anxiety – is a common cause of temporary thinning and balding in those with stress.

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 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.

Illness

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.

Medications

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.

A man with a horseshoe hair loss pattern

(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.

Genetic Predisposition

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.

Apple cider vinegar shampoos gently cleanse the scalp
Apple cider vinegar is a gentle and easily accessible cleanser for the hair.

Essentially, you want to keep your hair care products as simple as possible. That’s why I recommend an apple cider vinegar rinse or homemade shampoo to begin.

There are many different recipes you can try, but ones with ingredients that stimulate blood circulation will be your best bet. Here’s one that can be used for dandruff, but is also good for all hair types.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Steep the rosemary bunch in boiling water, and allow the water to cool completely. Dispose of the rosemary, and pour the infused water into the container of your choice. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.

To apply, lather into wet hair and massage gently. Allow to absorb for 1 – 3 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.

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.

Scalp Massage

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.

Scalp Exercises

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.

  1. Raise your eyebrows as high as possible.
  2. Furrow your eyebrows as as possible.

These techniques are simple, yes. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.

Microneedling

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 do this 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.

The most effective step to take is to reduce (or completely eliminate) all sources of acidity in your diet. For example, red meats, dairy, and alcohol. In addition, you can add in more alkaline foods, such as almonds, coconut, broccoli, and other greens.

If you aren’t ready for the big jump, small changes are better than none. One small change I made prior to transitioning fully to an alkaline diet is the addition of a morning smoothie. Actually, I’ve continued this practice ever since the start and it’s been one of the easiest changes I’ve ever made.

Conclusion

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.

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