From ‘What are the causes?’ to ‘Does diet affect hair loss?’ here are the answers you’ve been looking for

If you’re experiencing hair loss, then chances are you’ve got some questions about it. We’ve gathered together the most searched for questions on Google to tell you all you need to know about hair loss causes, treatments and facts. 

What are the causes of hair loss?

Hair loss can be caused by a range of factors and also depends on the type of hair loss you may have. Permanent types, such as male and female pattern hair loss, usually run in the family (more on that later).

However, some types are temporary and can be caused by things like:

• An illness
• Stress or trauma
• Sudden weight loss
• An iron deficiency
• Cancer treatments, including some chemotherapy drugs
• Hormonal changes, such as during or after pregnancy

Am I losing more hair than I should be?

Did you know we can lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day without even noticing? That’s right. It’s normal to lose hair, it happens to everyone. 

If you have male or female pattern hair loss then signs often begin to show as you get older, though in some cases it can start in younger people, particularly in male teenagers. 

In male pattern hair loss, it’s common to experience:

• A receding hairline which can look like either a central recession or v-shaped recession at both sides of the forehead
• Pronounced hair loss at the top of the crown
• General hair thinning
• Hair that becomes lighter in colour
• A slow progression of hair loss over the years

Some men may only experience partial hair loss, while others may become completely bald.

In female pattern hair loss, it’s common to experience:

• Hair that gets lighter in colour and thinner in diameter
• A general thinning of the hair which is often more pronounced over the crown

There's no receding hairline and it's very rare for a woman to lose her hair completely.

Pattern hair loss doesn’t affect your general health, but it can be distressing to come to terms with losing your hair, so you should speak to your GP if it’s worrying you.

In some cases, hair loss can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. You’re likely to be losing more hair than normal and should see a GP if:

• You have sudden hair loss
• You develop bald patches
• You're losing hair in clumps
• Your head also itches and burns

Is hair loss hereditary?

As mentioned before, male and female pattern hair loss often runs in the family and is thought to be hereditary. In other words, if your parents, grandparents or a close relative experienced pattern hair loss, then it’s more likely you may too. 

Both parents can pass on genes that cause this type of hair loss, regardless of gender, but it’s worth noting that age and hormones also come into play.

Male pattern hair loss can start as early as teenage years and get more pronounced as the years go by. It affects approximately 50 percent of men over the age of 50.* The male hormone, testosterone, gets converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and causes the hair follicles to shrink in size. It’s thought that hair follicles in the scalp are extra sensitive to DHT in those who are genetically predisposed to male pattern hair loss. 

Female pattern hair loss usually starts after menopause, affecting those in their 50s or 60s, though can start earlier in some people. It’s estimated that around 40% of women aged 70 years or over experience it.** 

Is hair loss permanent?

Many types of hair loss are actually temporary, such as those caused by stress, illness or cancer treatments. Once the underlying cause has been resolved or the medical treatment completed, hair should usually grow back.

If your hair loss is caused by cancer treatment, you may find it helpful to look at the advice and resources for coping with hair loss provided by our partners, Macmillan. We also have specially trained Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists and Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors to support you during this time.† 

In the case of male and female pattern hair loss, there isn’t a cure and this type of hair loss is permanent. However, there are some treatment options, which we discuss in more detail below, that may help with the effects of hair loss. 

How does washing hair affect hair loss?

Some people believe washing your hair too often can cause hair loss when, in fact, there’s no evidence to suggest this is true. How often you need to wash your hair depends on your hair type and how quickly it becomes oily. Some people may find they need to wash it every day whereas others can go much longer in between washes. 

A simple rule of thumb to follow is, if it doesn’t feel greasy or dirty, then don’t wash it. Some days you might find a dry shampoo does the job of keeping it looking fresh or clean. On other days, it may be obvious it needs a full wash to cleanse the scalp and remove excess oil and build-up of products, all of which will help keep your hair healthy. 

Does diet affect hair loss?

Boots’ nutritionist, Vicky Pennington, states that “a poor diet or a long period of illness may mean that energy, protein and other nutrients are in limited supply and your hair doesn’t get what it needs to grow. Hair is one of the fastest growing cells in your body, but during illness it isn’t a priority for your body to grow hair and the effect of this is sometimes only seen a few months after your illness.”

Generally, your hair will improve as you get better, but Vicky advises there are things you can do to make sure you have the right nutrients to support your hair: 

• Eating a varied, balanced and healthy diet will help give your hair what it needs to grow well 
• Including plenty of protein in your diet helps with recovery and healing
• B vitamins including folic acid, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), biotin (B7) and niacin (B3) are important for hair health, as are selenium and zinc, which you can get by eating a healthy diet with a wide variety of different foods
• Drinking enough water is also important for hair to grow well

Vicky explains that “having more iron-rich foods or a supplement may help, as iron supports cell division, along with a good intake of vitamin C which helps our bodies absorb iron.” The following foods are rich in iron:

• Liver (avoid during pregnancy)
• Red meat
• Beans (such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas)
• Nuts
• Dried fruit (such as dried apricots, prunes and raisins)
• Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
• Dark green leafy vegetables (such as watercress and curly kale)

What are the treatments for hair loss?

Most hair loss is either temporary and will grow back or it’s a normal part of ageing, so doesn’t require treatment. However, there are options available if hair loss is causing you emotional distress, but many aren’t offered on the NHS so involve paying privately.

Treatment for male pattern hair loss

The main treatments for male pattern hair loss are finasteride (which works to help stop the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone) and minoxidil^ (which is an over-the-counter treatment applied to the scalp to help increase blood flow to the hair follicles and help stimulate hair growth).

We offer finasteride treatment for male pattern hair loss through the Boots Online Doctor Hair Loss Treatment service.± Complete a short online consultation and our clinicians can assess whether the treatment is suitable for you. Charges apply.

Treatment for female pattern hair loss

Minoxidil can be used to treat female pattern hair loss, but women shouldn’t use finasteride. 

Both finasteride and minoxidil only work for as long as they’re being used and aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone. 

Other treatments

There are several other treatment options for hair loss, but they may not be available on the NHS, so speak to your GP to discuss the options further:

• Steroid injections given into bald patches
• Steroid creams applied to bald patches
• Immunotherapy which involves applying chemicals to bald patches
• Light treatment which involves shining ultraviolet light on bald patches
• Tattoos that are used to look like short hair or eyebrows
• Hair transplant surgery where hair is removed from the back of the head and moved to thinning patches
• Scalp reduction surgery where sections of scalp with hair are stretched and stitched together
• Artificial hair transplant which involves surgery to implant artificial hair

Rather than going through treatment, which can be expensive in many cases, some people choose to use products that can disguise the look of thinning hair, such as concealers or hair fibres.

Other options are synthetic or real-hair wigs. Some wigs are available on the NHS but may involve a cost. 

If you’re finding it difficult to cope with hair loss, the most important thing is to share your feelings with trusted friends and family members or make an appointment with your GP who may suggest talking therapies or support groups, like those found at Alopecia UK


Hair loss in women

If you are going through this transition or are concerned about losing hair, read on for everything you need to know

Hair loss in men

Let us answer all your hair loss questions & tackle any concerns

*Alopecia UK


†Subject to advisor availability

^Always read the label

±Access to treatment is subject to a consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Charges apply