Dry, brittle hair, scalp issues, or worse yet…hair loss is something no one wishes to experience. When it comes to hair thinning, whether its due to seasonal change, COVID, or another issue (which can include things such as hormonal imbalance or even your hair care products), it can take time, TLC, and patience before you see a full head of hair again. Results will likely be faster if you get to the root of what’s causing your hair loss, which is why it’s important to rule out an autoimmune disease.
If you haven’t yet zeroed in on what’s leading to changes in your hair, read on for more information on the most common autoimmune diseases linked to hair loss and other hair conditions so you can get your hair back on track.
10 Autoimmune Diseases That Can Cause Hair Loss
With a change in seasons, it’s not unheard of to experience some hair thinning. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but August and September are prime months for hair fall, so your hair may look and feel a little thinner heading into the holiday season.
And you are not alone. A report published by The Hair Society in 2015 stated that approximately 50% of women and 60% of men will experience hair loss at some point in their lifetime. That might sound a bit scary, but hair loss can be slight or significant. And before you get too freaked out by the number of strands in your hair brush or shower drain, consider that the average human head sheds around 100 hairs per day.
Another thing to think about…is your hair actually thinner or is it limp? Limp hair can be due to dry, less humid air (winter, we’re looking at you), overly moisturizing hair care products, or product buildup. Worried about buildup? Check out our article on silicones in hair products to avoid this common mistake.
While there are ways to visibly increase hair growth and amp up the volume while awaiting your thick mane’s return, it may benefit you to learn more about autoimmune diseases if you are battling chronic hair loss. Whether you’ve been diagnosed by your doctor with one of the health issues below or not, here’s more information to potentially help you identify the source of your thinning locks with the help of your doctor.
1. Thyroid Disease
Immune system disorders of this type are caused by hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormones) or hyperthyroidism (the overproduction of thyroid hormones). Thinning hair is a symptom of both types of thyroid disease. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can be tiredness, weight gain, dry skin, and muscle aches, among others, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (or Graves’ Disease) can be weight loss, feeling of anxiety or irritability, tremors, and rapid or irregular heartbeat, to name a few. The hormones disrupted in both of these autoimmune diseases are thyroid hormones T3 and T4 and this disruption sometimes leads to hair loss on the head, body, eyelashes, and eyebrows, as stated on Endocrine Web. Hair loss can be in clumps or affect the entire scalp more evenly. You might also notice other hair side effects. With hyperthyroidism your hair might feel finer textured than usual and feel brittle. Those with hypothyroidism can experience dry, coarser feeling hair. The American Academy of Dermatology also reports dry, itchy scalp and dandruff as other possible side effects of thyroid disease. Working with your doctor to treat your thyroid disease is the best way to address this type of hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease that can cause hair loss on the scalp, face, and body. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), alopecia affects over 6 million people across the nation. Hair loss can affect the whole scalp, can be partial, or may even be limited to small patches. While hair loss associated with alopecia can be extreme, the hair follicle remains alive, which means the hair can regrow. Some alopecia sufferers report a sensation of itching, tingling, or burning on the skin just before losing their hair. There are medical treatments available for alopecia, but often the affected areas of hair loss will grow back on their own, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
3. Rheumatoid Arthritis
While you might not think of arthritis as affecting the immune system, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. RA affects the joints, as well as other parts of the body, and can lead to hair loss. Most experts appear to believe that RA itself isn’t so much the cause of thinning hair as the medications taken for RA and stress due to RA flare-ups. Some people with RA also experience scalp inflammation which can trigger hair loss, and an itching or burning sensation on the skin. RA is a disease that is addressed by a medical professional.
4. Ulcerative Colitis
This chronic autoimmune disease of the large intestine causes inflammation and sores in the colon. The World Journal of Gastroenterology stated in a study published in 2015 that hair loss is common in inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis. In this study, 66% of patients had diffuse (covering a wide area) hair loss on the scalp, while 34% reported patchy hair loss. Of these, 66% reported their hair loss was at the time of a flare-up. Other symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be diarrhea, pain, and weight loss. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about this disease.
5. Telogen Effluvium
A cause of excessive hair loss, usually after someone experiences a shock or trauma, research published by Skin Appendage Disorders journal stated that there may be an autoimmune or inflammatory type of telogen effluvium associated with Hashimoto’s disease. This disease can cause hair loss, slow hair growth, and overall hair thinning. Other symptoms of Hashimoto’s are dry skin, joint stiffness, brittle nails, and swelling of the thyroid, states Mayo Clinic. Call your doctor if you are concerned about Hashimoto’s disease.
This chronic disease usually presents as inflammation and pain in the body, often on the face and scalp. Some people experience loss of hair on their head and body. Hair can also become brittle in those with lupus, and according to the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology journal, hair often becomes fragile and may look dry and coarse near the front hairline. Talk with your doctor about options for addressing hair concerns with lupus.
7. Lichen Planus
As stated by Mayo Clinic, lichen planus looks like rash-like bumps on the skin that won’t go away. This condition can cause sudden hair loss and often includes redness, scaliness, and itching, as stated by Skin Appendage Disorders journal. You might also notice some swelling on the scalp in affected areas. Talk to your doctor for help improving this disease.
8. Psoriasis and Eczema
While psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, eczema is not. But both can be present when dealing with immune system issues. Those with alopecia, lupus, RA, and ulcerative colitis can experience eczema and psoriasis. One of the most common symptoms of psoriasis is a rash on the skin, which can include the scalp, and often looks like red patches or dryness and can feel itchy or sore. Eczema on the scalp can also be red and scaly and is sometimes mistaken for dandruff.
Shampoo/Treatments for psoriasis & eczema
Best Ways to Care For Hair Loss From Autoimmune Disease Side Effects
There is good news, here. Addressing side effects of an autoimmune disorder usually also helps to improve the look of hair growth. It can take months for your hair to fully regrow back to its original thickness. In the meantime, there are ways to effectively make your thin hair look thicker, fuller, and healthier.
First, make sure you are using the best hair care for your thinning hair. Hair can feel more delicate due to stress and inflammation, so use shampoos and conditioners designed to be gentle on delicate strands. 100% Pure Grow More Shampoo and Conditioner are formulated to be gentle on hair and scalp and minimize shedding while coaxing the appearance of healthy hair regrowth. Makes hair feel stronger and nourished. Get the set!
Next, add a feeling of strength to your fragile strands. Oway Vivifying Remedy for Sensitive Scalps is designed to stimulate the appearance of healthy hair growth. This beauty contains coffee seed extract, a natural ingredient that has been shown to lend an anti inflammatory sensation to stressed skin.
For thinning locks, it’s hard to beat a volumizing mousse. Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam is a lightweight styling product perfect for thin, fragile hair. An easy way to create a look of fullness in limp locks.
If you are experiencing aggressive hair loss, you likely want to invest in a JuliArt Echo System for Hair Loss. This multi-step system uses NcPA, a patented plant-based technology from Japan made from soybeans (no minoxidol here), which has shown immense results. JuliArt divides their echo systems based on scalp condition - oily scalp vs dry scalp. Not sure which you have? If your scalp or hair feel greasy within 2-3 days, then you should go with the Oily Scalp Echo System. If you rarely see any oil, then go for the Dry Scalp Echo System.
Combat hair loss with the best system
With most of the autoimmune diseases listed here, time will benefit the look and feel of your hair. Be sure to include anti inflammatory foods in your diet and avoid inflammatory foods (sugar, alcohol, etc). Also, drink plenty of water, get enough rest, and employ stress reducing practices in your lifestyle. Meditation is wonderful for your hair!
Liz Thompson is a freelance writer, copywriter, and green beauty expert who puts words together for organic + natural beauty and health + wellness professionals.
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