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Hair loss: Overview

Start treatment early

Treatment for hair loss tends to be most effective when started early.

man examining hairline in mirror

What is hair loss?

One of the most common disorders that dermatologists diagnose and treat, the medical term for hair loss is alopecia.

Is hair loss contagious?

No, you cannot catch hair loss.

Some people catch a contagious disease, which can lead to hair loss. For example, if you catch the fungus that causes ringworm, the fungus could grow on your scalp. Left untreated, scalp ringworm can lead to hair loss.

Why is my hair falling out?

We lose our hair for many (with emphasis on many) reasons. Ringworm is one. A more common cause is hereditary hair loss.

If you recently had an operation, high fever, or chemotherapy for cancer, it’s natural to shed lots of hair. A few months after giving birth, most women shed noticeable amounts of hair.

Your hair care or too-tight hairstyle could also be causing your hair loss. Some people who are otherwise healthy develop alopecia areata, a disease that can cause hair loss anywhere on their body. These are some the many reasons we see our hair fall out.

With so many causes, it can be challenging to figure out why your hair is falling out. If you want to do something about it, though, knowing the cause is important. In many cases, hair loss can be successfully treated, or action taken to prevent further hair loss. The key to getting results is knowing the true cause of your hair loss.

Board-certified dermatologists successfully diagnose the cause of hair loss for many people.

Do I need to see a dermatologist about hair loss?

These doctors specialize in treating the skin, hair, and nails. They have the expertise and tools to help them get to the root cause of a person’s hair loss.

The sooner you find the cause, the better your outcome. The less hair you lose, the more successful treatment (or prevention) tends to be.

Are hair loss shampoos and at-home treatments effective?

Some products are effective. Minoxidil (Rogaine®) can safely and effectively treat a few causes of hair loss. People who have hereditary hair loss can have some regrowth with this product. Using an at-home laser can also be part of an effective treatment plan for someone who has hereditary hair loss.

Again, the key to getting results is to know the cause.

Is it normal to lose some hair?

Yes, it’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day. That’s because our bodies continually grow new hair and shed old hair. This shedding is not a sign of hair loss.

A receding hairline, bald spot, or overall thinning is a sign of hair loss. Hair loss can also show up in some surprising ways. You can find out about the diverse ways that hair loss can begin at: Hair loss: Signs and symptoms.

Getty Images

American Academy of Dermatology. “Dermatologists can help women win the fight against common forms of hair loss.” News release issued March 4, 2010. Last accessed May 23, 2019.

Sperling LC. “Alopecias.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 987-1004.