Prevent Hair Loss

Hair loss has multiple potential causes, including diet, mineral deficiency, medications, severe stress or illness, pollution, and your genetics. Up to one third of the population suffer from hair loss, and of that third, thousands are women.[1] There are no guarantees that you can prevent hair loss that is genetically programmed, or hair loss caused by factors not within your control; however, you can do the best by your hair to give it the greatest chance of staying in top condition and not leaving your head sooner than it needs to.


Avoiding Damaging your Hair

  1. Limit your use of hair dryers. Heat weakens hair proteins. Constant heating and drying can lead to brittleness and fragility that can cause hair loss that would not have occurred otherwise.[2] Natural drying is best for you hair, so aim to dry it naturally more often than drying it with heat.
    • Other devices that heat your hair, including hot curlers, hot brushes and hair straighteners, can also have this effect.
    • If you do use heated tools be careful, because continually burnt scalps can permanently damage hair follicles![2]
  2. Avoid perms. Perming refers to either chemical straightening or chemical curling, both of which can damage your hair. It works specifically by breaking the inner bonds of your hair, and then reforming them in a different way to straighten or curl your hair. This weakens your hair, making it dull, dry and brittle.[3] Over time dry and brittle hair can contribute to hair loss.
  3. Cut down on dyes and chemicals. Frequent use of hair colouring chemicals increases the chances of serious damage being done to your hair. Never colour your hair more often than every four to six weeks. When it comes to going gray, it's a lot kinder to your hair to let it turn grey than to dye it.
  4. Don't bleach your hair. Bleaching your hair removes your natural pigment when the cuticles are penetrated by chemicals. By doing this you are changing the structure of your hair and making it more susceptible to damage. You are making it weaker, so bleaching coupled with blow drying and styling can really damage your hair.[3]
  5. Don’t pull your hair too tight. Some hairstyles that require tight pulling and elastics or clips can be a cause of hair loss if done on a daily basis. For example, tight ponytails, tight braids, cornrows, and plaits can lead to significant hair loss when done daily.[2] Winding hair tightly onto rollers, especially heated rollers, is also liable to cause more hair loss.[2]
    • The medical name for loss of hair due to hairstyles that are too tight is known as "traction alopecia" and it is completely preventable as a cause in and of itself![4]

Caring Actively for your Hair

  1. Wash hair with mild shampoo. Hair washing helps prevent hair loss as it can keep your hair and scalp clean (preventing the chances of infections that might cause hair loss). You should try not to wash your hair every day, since shampoo can strip hair of its natural oils — aim for every other day at the most. Provided you use a mild shampoo, clean hair will give the impression of more volume than dirty hair, which tends to sit flatter and more parted than clean hair.[5]
  2. Choose a suitable shampoo for your hair type. Getting a good shampoo will really help you to have a healthy head of hair, so take some time to find that matches your hair type.[6] Consider if you have fine, dry, greasy or normal hair and try a few different ones to find what works. If you have dandruff or colour your hair, get a shampoo that is specifically meant for this.[7]
    • Protein-enhanced shampoos and conditioners that boost volume make hair smoother and thicker temporarily because they fill in gaps on the hair shaft, but they don’t repair damaged hair.[2]
  3. Look at the ingredients to find a mild shampoo. Using a mild shampoo can help you maintain a healthy scalp and head of hair. Checking the ingredients in your shampoo can give you a good idea of whether or not it is mild. Avoid anything with sulfate, parabens, and/or sulfonate. Instead look for Isethionate or Glucoside to be the first ingredient after water.[8]
    • Common ingredients that contribute to a mild shampoo include sulfosuccinates, sultaines and amphoacetate.
    • Silicones, polyquaterniums, and “guar” can be good conditioning ingredients.[8]
  4. Use a good hairbrush. How you brush your hair can have a big impact on the condition of your hair. Go for a soft brush made from natural fibres, and don’t brush from the top down, but from the underside out.[9] Be as gentle as you can and don’t pull too hard.
    • It’s best to avoid brushing your hair when it’s wet, use a comb instead.[6]
  5. Try a scalp massage. A scalp massage with a nourishing oil (such as coconut, rosemary, lavender, or almond oil)[10] will increase the blood flow to the surface of the skin on your head and your hair follicles. Rubbing and kneading your scalp warms the skin and boosts circulation so the cells in the follicles get plenty of nutrients which in turn maximise hair growth potential.[10]
    • A scalp massage can also relax you which will help your overall body function.[11]
  6. Test your hair for thinning if you're concerned. Testing whether or not you're suffering from hair loss can be done using what is known as the "tug test". Take a small bunch of hair, about 20–30 hairs, and hold it between your thumb and index finger. Pull slowly but firmly; if more than six hairs come out at the same time, you may have a hair loss problem.[12].
    • This is not a proven test, so be sure to visit your doctor or a trichologist if you think you're losing more hair than normal, remembering that we lose a lot of hairs each day naturally.

Eating Right for Healthy Hair

  1. Have a healthy balanced diet. Nutritional responses to preventing hair loss are simple common sense approaches to keeping you, your hair, and your scalp healthy. A healthy body is more likely to have healthy hair than an unhealthy one. It is possible that hair loss can be slowed by a healthy diet filled with vegetables and fruits.[13] There are some vitamins and minerals (listed in the following steps) that can be especially helpful in promoting healthy hair and thus preventing hair loss.
  2. Consume plenty of iron. Iron is an essential mineral that is known as heme iron in animal food sources and non-heme iron in plant sources. Too little iron can lead to anaemia which disrupts the supply of nutrients to your follicles, potentially increasing hair loss.[14] To avoid this, be sure to make iron-rich foods are regular elements in your diet.
    • Red meat, chicken and fish are good sources of iron.
    • So are green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale.
  3. Eat enough protein. Protein is essential for strong hair. A deficiency in protein can lead to dry and weak hair, and ultimately, hair loss.[15] Adequate protein can help to provide the amino acids that strengthen hair. It is often included in shampoos, but it's protein from your diet that will help improve the condition of your hair and prevent hair loss if you eat it in large enough quantities.
    • Get protein by eating seafood, poultry, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans, pork tenderloin, soy, lean beef, and protein bars.[16]
    • Vegans, dairy-free consumers, and others can get good non-animal protein from tempeh, tofu, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, brown rice, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seitan, beans, and broccoli.[17]
  4. Consume Vitamin C. Foods with plenty of vitamin C help in the good absorption of iron, so try to combine iron-rich foods with those that are high in vitamin C to get the most out of the iron. Vitamin C also help with your body’s production of collagen, which in turn strengthens the capillaries which supply your hair shafts.[14] Good sources of vitamin C include:
    • Citrus fruit, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, baked potatoes and tomatoes.[18]
    • Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are also good sources.
  5. Ensure you get enough Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats keep hair healthy and have a role in preventing hair from becoming dry and brittle.[13] They are found in the cells that line your scalp, and also help keep your hair and scalp hydrated. They are important fats that your body cannot make itself, but have to be obtained through your diet.[15]
    • Include plenty of deep sea fish that contain Omega 3 in your diet, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
    • You can also get these acids through seeds and nuts, particularly flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
  6. Eat foods rich in biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin that is water soluble. It is of particular importance for your hair, as a deficiency can cause your hair to become brittle and could accelerate hair loss.[13] Good sources of biotin include whole grains, liver, egg white, soy flour, walnuts and yeast.
    • Whole grains are also a good source of zinc. A deficit of zinc can contribute to a dry, itchy scalp and hair loss.[15]
  7. Consider taking supplements. Talk with your medical practitioner first, but you might like to consider using supplements to prevent hair loss. The types of supplements to inquire about include biotin, inositol, iron, vitamin C, and saw palmetto.[19] These are not proven to prevent hair loss, but some anecdotal evidence suggests they work.
  8. Know what to avoid eating. As well as knowing what’s good to consume, it’s best to know what to avoid too. The basic rules of a healthy balanced diet always apply, but there are a few particular things that can contribute to hair loss. The artificial sweetener, aspartame, has been cited as a cause of hair thinning and hair loss. Food additives can also have a negative effect.[20]
    • Raw egg whites contain a substance that binds biotin, which prevents its absorption.[13]
  9. Make sure you are getting adequate calories. A low-calorie diet may lead to temporary hair loss. Your body needs minerals and vitamins (like those listed above) to build and maintain your hair. Cutting back on your food intake may remove these essential nutrients. In addition, cutting out too many calories can lead to major stress, causing your hair to stop growing, or go into the resting or hibernation phase.[21][22] Avoid crash diets or you may find yourself shedding hair as you shed the pounds.

Seeking Medical Help for Hair Loss

  1. Know when to visit the doctor. It's important to know when your hair loss could be a symptom of a more serious medical complaint, in which case you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Contact a doctor if you are losing hair in an unusual pattern, or rapidly at an early age, such as in your teen or twenties.[23] Other symptoms to look out for are:
    • Pain and itching with hair loss, or a red, scaly scalp.
    • You have bald spots on your beard or eyebrows.
    • If you are a woman and you are experiencing male pattern baldness, abnormal hair growth on your face and body, or an irregular menstrual cycle. There may be an underlying hormonal disorder responsible for your hair loss.
    • You have been gaining weight, suffering fatigue, muscle weakness, or intolerance to cold temperatures.[23]
  2. Prepare for your appointment. Before you go to your appointment, it's a good idea to think about the symptoms you are experiencing so you can describe them clearly to the doctor. Consider when you first began experiencing hair loss, and whether has been occasional or continuous.[24] Also ask yourself:
    • Have you noticed poor hair growth, breakage or shedding?
    • Has anyone in your immediate family experienced hair loss?
    • Are you taking any medications or supplements?[24]
  3. Know the treatments for men. Hereditary-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss. In men, it is most commonly characterised by a receding hairline that forms a rough "M" shape. Although it is not a disease and is based on your genes, there are treatments that your doctor can prescribe to you.[25] The two medications most commonly used are:
    • Use Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a topical solution that is applied to the scalp to stimulate hair follicles. It comes in 2% and 5% solutions and is applied once daily.
    • Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) is a pill that interferes with the production of a form of testosterone that is linked to baldness.[26] Women of child-bearing age should not touch or handle crushed or broken tablets.
  4. Know the treatments for women. About a third of women experience some hair loss. As many as two thirds of menopausal women experience hair thinning or bald patches. Women rarely suffer a receding hairline, but a thinning at the part line develops into increasing diffuse hair on the top of the head.[27] Some of the most common medications for female pattern hair loss include:
    • Minoxidil (Rogaine) is applied topically and massaged into the scalp. Minoxidil is excreted in breast milk following oral administration, so it should not be used while breastfeeding.
    • Anti-androgens are receptor-blocking drugs which are only very rarely prescribed.
    • Iron supplements are prescribed for some women, especially vegetarians, those with a history of anemia, or those who have heavy menstrual bleeding.[27]


  • Avoid too much exposure of your hair to sunlight.
  • Avoid styling gels and other similar products, as these tend to accelerate hair loss, breakage, and daily wear and tear.
  • Prefer mild shampoo and conditioner over any other type; it is gentler on your hair and will result in better overall condition. Equally, avoid harsh soaps, especially those containing deodorant, as these harm the scalp.
  • Celiac disease can cause hair loss; speak with your doctor if this is a concern.
  • Illnesses (such as thyroid disease) and taking antibiotics can result in hair loss, so keeping yourself in good physical condition enables you to counteract the effect that these have on your hair.
  • Humans lose about 100 hairs daily.[22] Many of the hairs don't actually fall out until you take a shower, have a bath, etc. If you are losing more hair than normal, even without bald patches yet, it can be a cause for worry.
  • Sleep with loosely braided hair rather than keeping it out. You will pull less on the hair as you toss and turn during sleeping.
  • If you've been pregnant, don't panic if you get postpartum alopecia. Hair loss as a result of pregnancy can be frightening but it's a natural result of the hormonal changes wrought by pregnancy that changed your hair quality and even thickness. The loss is a sign of hormone levels returning to normal again.[19] Hair lost due to postpartum alopecia usually regrows within a few months.[4]


  • Hair loss can be a sign of illness or poor health. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns especially if you have a poor diet, a repressed immune system or you're generally unwell.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

  1. Andrew Jose, Love Your Hair, p. 120, (2002), ISBN 0-00-711900-3
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Dr Margaret Stearn, Embarrassing medical problems, p. 23, (2001), ISBN 1-57826-067-1
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 Andrew Jose, Love Your Hair, p. 122, (2002), ISBN 0-00-711900-3
  5. Dr Margaret Stearn, Embarrassing medical problems, p. 25, (2001), ISBN 1-57826-067-1
  6. 6.0 6.1
  8. 8.0 8.1
  10. 10.0 10.1
  12. Dr Margaret Stearn, Embarrassing medical problems, p. 22, (2001), ISBN 1-57826-067-1
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Winnie Yu, What to eat for what ails you, p. 159, (2007), ISBN 978-1-59233-236-6
  14. 14.0 14.1
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2
  19. 19.0 19.1 Winnie Yu, What to eat for what ails you, p. 160, (2007), ISBN 978-1-59233-236-6
  22. 22.0 22.1
  23. 23.0 23.1
  24. 24.0 24.1
  27. 27.0 27.1