Can Hair Loss Be Caused by Exercise?
Can exercise cause your hair to fall out?
The short answer: there are numerous potential causes for hair loss, but exercise is way down the list.
Apparently, the person asking Dr. Gupta the question had experienced hair loss after embarking upon a weight lifting regimen. Could there be a connection?
The dots people generally connect to arrive at the theoretical link between strenuous exercise and hair loss is that exercise can increase testosterone levels, which in turn can increase the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can shrink hair follicles in genetically susceptible individuals.
But it is probably not that simple. It is normal to lose up to about 100 hairs a day as part of the normal hair growth cycle. Hairs will grow for a few years, then rest for a few months, shed and regrow. The extended hair growth cycles make it unlikely that this effect would be seen soon after starting an exercise program.
So how do we figure out for sure if exercise might be somehow contributing to the hair loss a person is experiencing? Before jumping to conclusions, we suggest consulting with a hair restoration specialist who can help identify the cause of your hair loss. If this seemed like a sudden occurrence, the hair restoration specialist will want to investigate the possibility of a “telogen effluvium.” This is when some stress causes hair roots to be pushed prematurely into the resting state.
This type of shock to the system can cause as many as 70 percent of the scalp hairs to fall out in large numbers over the ensuing 60 days. Common causes of telogen effluvium include high fever, childbirth, severe infections, severe chronic illness, severe psychological stress, major surgery or illnesses, over or under active thyroid gland, crash diets with inadequate protein and a variety of medications.
Your hair restoration specialist will probably want examine the following potential contributors to hair loss:
Genetics. Does hair loss run in your family? If you are genetically predisposed to experiencing hair loss, the exercise probably has nothing to do with what you are experiencing.
Diet. Have you been on any crash diets to lose weight? Exercising often is combined with a strict diet. And diet can play a significant role in hair growth.
Medications. Are you currently on any medications? There are many drugs that are known to cause hair loss such as retinoids, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants, and NSAIDS (including ibuprofen), birth control pills, acne treatments and anti-depressants.
Supplements or Steroids. Have you taken anabolic steroids or supplements designed to increase testosterone levels? Some people involved in weight lifting have been known to use performance enhancing supplements, some of which are rich in amino acids and various ingredients that can elevate testosterone levels. This could cause an acceleration of normal male pattern hair loss if they are genetically predisposed. Additionally, supplements containing too much vitamin A could contribute to hair loss.
Scalp Problems. Is your scalp severely itchy, flakey or crusty? This could suggest that the hair loss could be caused by scalp irritation, dermatitis, or scalp psoriasis.
Birth Control. Have you recently switched birth control pills or stopped taking them entirely ? Even a switch from brand name to generic control pills may cause hair to fall out in some people.
Pregnancy. Are you pregnant or currently going through menopause? Have you recently given birth to a child? Post partum hair loss can be fairly common.
Hair Care. Have you been over-processing your hair with dyes, perms or relaxers?
Ultimately, it is highly unlikely that an exercise program can contribute to hair loss. Instead, it is more likely that an individual’s hair has been thinning over time and it is just now becoming noticable.
The bottom line is that exercise is important to good health and longevity. We recommend that you keep working out while paying close attention to your diet to ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs. Do not let unfounded fears about hair loss cause you to scale down the amount of exercise you do.