If you think your hair is thinning, although you do not have any real baldness, it is important to check that this is actually the case. Try the tug test and remember that it is normal to lose 50–100 hairs a day. Sometimes, thinning of the hair can be entirely in the mind, as a symptom of depression.
Thinning of hair all over the scalp (rather than patchy baldness) can be due to various causes. In the case of mental or physical stress, it often occurs 2–3 months after the event. This is because at the time of the stress many follicles enter telogen (the resting phase) prematurely and are then shed together at the end of telogen a few months later. In this situation, the hair loss usually recovers completely.
If you believe your hair is thinning, do not assume it is due to stress. See your family doctor, who will be able to rule out the common causes (such as thyroid deficiency and iron deficiency). Many drugs – not just those listed below – can cause hair loss, and the doctor will be able to check if this is a possibility. There may be several months’ delay between starting the medication and the hair loss being noticeable.
Some skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis of the scalp, can cause thinning of the hair. Usually the hair grows again once the skin problem is treated.
Often no cause can be found. In some of these cases the hair will recover in time, but in others it remains thin.
It is important to keep thinning hair as healthy as possible (see looking after your hair for general recommendations). If there is no curable cause and the thinning is distressing, it may be worth trying minoxidil lotion. Bear in mind that minoxidil lotion will take several months to show any effect and works in only a proportion of cases.
Some drugs that may cause hair thinning
- Lipid-lowering drugs (statins, clofibrate, bezafibrate)
- Anticancer drugs
- ACE inhibitors for blood pressure or heart failure (ramipril, captopril, enalapril, lisinopril)
- Calcium antagonists for blood pressure (amlodipine)
- Blood-thinning drugs (warfarin)
- Drugs for gout (allopurinol)
- Antimalarials (chloroquine)
- Drugs for epilepsy (valproate sodium, vigabatrin)
- Drugs for Parkinson’s disease (for example, pramipexole, bromocriptine)
- Anti-thyroid drugs (carbimazole, propylthiouracil)
- Anti-acne drugs (isotretinoin)
- Mood-stabilizing drugs (lithium, valproic acid)
First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Ahmed Kazmi
Last updated: October 2020