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Why Is My Hair Thinning? 5 Common Causes of Thinning Hair

hair loss

“Why is my hair thinning?” is a far more common question than you might think. It’s completely normal for both men and women to experience some hair thinning as they age.

On the other hand, hair thinning can also be caused by things that have nothing to do with age. If you’ve noticed that your hair is falling out more rapidly than usual, it may be time to dig deeper into the root of the problem.

Here are a few things you should know about thinning hair:

  • Thinning hair happens gradually, while hair loss is sudden
  • Thinning hair may be a sign of early hereditary hair loss
  • Other common causes of thinning hair include stress, poor diet, medications and harsh hair care routines

Although hair thinning may not be as sudden as true hair loss, it’s a scary prospect, nonetheless. Here are five common causes of thinning hair that might be contributing to your diminishing hairline.


1. Genetics

We don’t mean to make you panic, but your thinning hair could be an early sign of a hereditary condition known as hereditary-pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia. This condition is usually caused by a combination of genetics, age and hormone levels.

Men and women with androgenetic alopecia tend to experience hair loss in different areas of the head. In men, hair loss tends to appear primarily in the front of the head and slowly recedes to the back of the skull, whereas women tend to lose hair all over.

Although there are several ways to stop hair loss from progressing, most of them aren’t reliable or foolproof. If your condition is truly bothering you, you may want to speak with your doctor about potential treatment options.

stressed bald man

2. Stress

Have you been under a lot of pressure at work lately? Going through a painful divorce? Experiencing extreme stress or a traumatic event can result in excessive shedding, which in turn can cause thinning hair.

Excessive hair shedding is known medically as telogen effluvium (TE), a condition where hair follicles are triggered into a premature resting phase (known as telogen phase). While there are several factors that can contribute to TE, stress is one of the biggest contributors to this condition.

Fortunately, hair thinning caused by stress is usually temporary. According to a 2015 review published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, individuals with TE will usually notice excessive hair shedding three to four months after the stressful event that lasts for about six months (see claim: “hair loss from the scalp that occurs around 3 months after a triggering event and is usually self-limiting, lasting for about 6 months.”)

3. Certain Drugs and Medications

There are several sneaky drugs that can potentially contribute to hair thinning, including antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs, immune-suppressing drugs and even certain acne medications. Bet you weren’t expecting that last one, were you?

Indeed, some individuals have reported hair loss supposedly caused by retinoids, which happen to be a common staple in many of our skin care routines. Fortunately, retinoid-induced hair loss seems to be rare, with most reports coming from individuals using prescription-strength retinoids such as Tretinoin.

Take the skin care quiz

4. Poor Diet

Thinning hair can also be the result of eating a poor diet. If your diet lacks the essential nutrients that your body needs to grow healthy hair, your hair may become brittle and thin.

According to a 2013 study published in Dermatologic Clinics, hair loss can be the result of calorie deprivation, as well as being deficient in several nutrient groups that are vital to hair growth (see claim: “A caloric deprivation or deficiency of several components…can lead to structural abnormalities, pigmentation changes, or hair loss…”)

To promote healthy and strong hair follicles, be sure to eat a balanced diet rich in proteins, fatty acids and micronutrients. Micronutrients include minerals such as zinc and vitamins such as vitamin E, both of which are believed to play an important role in hair growth.

guy with manbun

5. Harsh Hair Treatments

Ponytails, man-buns, hair spray and strong-hold gels. What do these hairstyles and hair care products have in common? They’re all incredibly tough on your hair and may result in thinning strands.

Ponytails and man-buns can pull your strands and cause them to break. Similarly, your favorite brand of pomade can cause buildup on your scalp. This buildup can lead to an inflammatory condition called folliculitis, which can cause hair thinning or permanent hair loss.

The bottom line is to be gentle with your hair. Choose soothing hair care products and don’t allow them to build up on the scalp.

In Summation

As you can see, there are several potential answers to the question, “Why is my hair thinning?” If your hair thinning is the result of a hereditary condition, treatment for your thinning hair may be tricky.

However, the other four common causes are largely within your control. No matter what the cause of your thinning hair, it doesn’t hurt to talk with your doctor about potential treatment options.


Malkud, Shashikant. “Telogen Effluvium: A Review.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, vol. 9, no. 9, Sept. 2015, pp. WE01–3. PubMed Central, doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492.

Finner, Andreas M. “Nutrition and Hair: Deficiencies and Supplements.” Dermatologic Clinics, vol. 31, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 167–72. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.det.2012.08.015.

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