Hair loss, also called alopecia, can occur at any age and have devastating effects on self-esteem.

Hair grows an inch every 4 months and each hair strand lasts 4-6 years before naturally falling out. Normally, women lose 50-100 strands of hair per day and this does not cause concern. Visible signs of excessive hair loss include large clumps seen on a pillow or hair that falls out with the slightest tugging. Not only does hair loss cause psychological stress, but it can be a sign of a more serious illness.

Immune System: Alopecia areata describes hair loss as a result of the immune system attacking the hair follicle. Hair falls out in large clumps, forming distinct, circular areas of hair loss.

Female Hormonal Conditions: Conditions that cause fluctuations in female hormones, including pregnancy, PCOS, ovarian tumours and menopause can cause diffuse hair loss and thinning.

Thyroid disease: Hypothyroidism causes hair to become thin, dry and brittle, leading to more breakage. A common sign of hypothyroidism is thinning of the outer edge of the eyebrow.

Nutritional deficiencies: Inadequate protein and caloric intake, bulimia, and rapid weight loss lead to nutritional deficiencies that decrease hair follicle nourishment. Vegetarians are particularly susceptible because their protein intake may lack certain amino acids—the building blocks of hair.

Stress: Physical and emotional stress can lead to hair loss, known as telogen effluvium. Not only is stress associated with illnesses that cause hair loss, such as hypothyroidism, but it causes hair to enter the resting phase of its growth cycle, causing it to fall out. Although this type of hair loss can occur up to 3 months after a stressful event, the hair loss is temporary and growth resumes.

Because hair loss can be caused by a number of factors, a thorough medical history should be taken to rule out a serious illness. Once the cause is elucidated, there are many natural therapies that can facilitate hair growth.

Biotin is responsible for cell growth and replication. Deficiency of this B vitamin causes hair to be brittle and break. Intestinal bacteria produce biotin in the body, but alcoholism and excessive egg white intake inhibit its absorption.

Hair is composed of 91% protein, formed by long strands of amino acids. The Standard North American Diet is high in carbohydrates and fats, and low in complete sources of protein, contributing to hair thinning. The daily requirement for protein intake is roughly 1.0 g per kg of body weight.

Aromatherapy. A well-designed study on patients with alopecia areata showed significant improvement in hair growth after patients massaged a mixture of essential oils—cedarwood,  rosemary, lavendar and thyme—in grapeseed and jojoba carrier oils into their scalp.