Dr Clare Morrison

Article by Dr Clare Morrison

What causes hair loss? – fact vs. myth

Hair loss is a normal part of life. Most people lose 50-100 hairs a day, but this often goes unnoticed as new hair grows at the same time.

While losing hair is normal and nothing to be worried about, it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition.(1)

Losing hair can be of concern if:(1)

  • It is sudden
  • You develop bald patches
  • You lose hair in clumps
  • Your head burns and itches
  • You are worried about your hair loss

What is hair loss?

Hair loss happens when the hair follicle – the cells surrounding the hair root – is destroyed, or when the cycle of hair growth and loss is disturbed. It can be temporary or permanent and can affect either just the scalp or the entire body.(2)

Temporary hair loss can be caused by:(1)

  • An illness
  • Stress
  • Cancer treatment
  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency

Other factors that relate to hair loss include:(2)

  • Family history
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medications and supplements
  • Certain hairstyles and treatments

Inherited hair loss, such as male-pattern and female-pattern baldness, usually occur gradually with ageing and in predictable patterns. Male-pattern hair loss is the most common type in men, affecting around 50% of males aged 50 and above. Bald spots and a receding hairline are typical in men, whereas a widespread thinning of hair is typical in women.(3)

Causes of hair loss in women

Although losing hair is more common in men, women can also experience it as a result of hormonal changes. Changes in hormones can happen due to pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.(2) It is common for women to lose more hair than usual up to three months after giving birth.(1)

Common myths debunked:

  • MYTH: losing hair every day is bad for you

o FACT: losing hair every day is normal, but different people lose different amounts. So how much hair loss in normal? It is typical to lose between 50-100 hairs daily(1)

  • MYTH: It is inherited from a single parent/grandparent

o FACT: It can be inherited from either or both parents, as both parents’ genes contribute3

  • MYTH: sex or masturbation causes hair loss

o FACT: there is no scientific evidence that sex or masturbation cause hair loss

  • MYTH: you only experience hair loss when you’re old

o FACT: although hair loss is more common as we age, it can happen at any age(1)

  • MYTH: wearing hats or wigs and some hairstyles can cause hair loss

o FACT: there is no scientific evidence that wearing hats or wigs contributes. However, hairstyles that repeatedly pull on hair such as cornrows or tight ponytails can pull hair out by the root – this is called traction alopecia(2)

How to stop/prevent hair loss

Hair loss is a normal part of ageing and does not need treatment most of the time. If caused by an underlying condition, treatment for that condition will be needed. Hair loss usually stops after recovery. If hair loss is caused by a certain medication, your doctor may tell you to stop using it for at least three months.(2)

Although there is currently no cure for permanent and inherited forms like male and female pattern baldness, medications are available to treat these conditions.(3)

What hair loss treatments are available in the UK?

Regaine® (minoxidil) and Propecia® (finasteride) are medications for the treatment of pattern baldness, but they are not available on the NHS.1 Regaine® (minoxidil) is an over the counter medication approved for men and women, while Propecia® (finasteride) is a prescription drug approved for men and available in both branded and generic forms.

What’s the difference between Propecia® and finasteride?

Propecia® is a branded product made by a company called Merck Sharp & Dohme. Finasteride is the active ingredient in this product. Finasteride is also available as an unbranded product (also called a generic medication).

What can MedExpress do for you?

At MedExpress – an online UK registered pharmacy and doctor service, we offer quick and easy online assessments which can give you access to prescription medicines not available over the counter. We also offer medications that are currently not available on the NHS.



  1. NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hair-loss/[Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
  1. Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926[Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
  1. British Association of Dermatologists – Patient Information Leaflets (PILs). Male Pattern Baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia). [online] Available at: http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/hair-loss—male-pattern/?showmore=1&returnlink=http%3a%2f%2fwww.bad.org.uk%2ffor-thepublic%2fpatient-informationleaflets%3fgroup%3d00016001000200010002%26range%3dF-J#.XGA8uy2cbjA [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].
Dr Clare Morrison
Dr Clare Morrison
Experienced General Practitioner in Hampshire since 1995, with particular interest in Nutrition, Obesity and Smoking Cessation.
Originally published April 23 2019, updated July 08 2019