This past winter, DMDM Hydantoin was a trending topic on Tiktok. If you didn’t know, DMDM hydantoin is a chemical found in shampoos, conditioners and even other care products; the danger with this chemical is that it is a formaldehyde releaser. Chemicals that are formaldehyde releasers release small amounts of formaldehyde after coming into contact with water. While these small amounts shouldn’t do anything, some research has shown that they have been associated with hair loss. The correlation between using products that contain DMDM hydantoin and hair loss is so great that there is a class-action lawsuit against Tresemme for keeping this chemical in their products even after finding out that it can cause or contribute to hair loss. After learning about DMDM hydantoin and the class-action lawsuit against Tresemme, I began to wonder what other things can cause hair loss.
Being a college student, I am no stranger when it comes to stress. When I found out that stress can cause hair loss, it made sense as to why I seem to lose more hair around finals season. The type of hair loss associated with stress is called telogen effluvium. As adults, we each have around 100,000 follicles of hair on our heads. They each go through cycles of growing and resting. Most hair typically stays in the growing part of the cycle at any given time, and this part of the cycle is called the anagen phase. From there, the hair transitions to the catagen phase (transition between growing and resting), then eventually the telogen phase (resting part of the cycle) and then eventually it falls out. From what I understand from this article by Dr. Neera Nathan, when people experience telogen effluvium, there is a shift of a lot of hair going into the telogen phase, which leads to the hair prematurely falling out. This type of hair loss is abrupt and temporary, only caused by extreme stress.
- Extreme Caloric Deficit
Whenever the topic of weight loss comes up, people focus a lot on caloric deficiency. Caloric deficiency is essentially when you purposely consume less calories than you usually do (but enough that you don’t feel lethargic) to help lose weight and to lose it faster. This may help you lose weight, but if you take it too far, it can become very unhealthy and lead to hair loss. When your body isn’t receiving the amount of nutrition it needs, it can trigger telogen effluvium, since this lack of nutrition can cause the body physical stress.
One of the most common reasons we lose hair is simply because it’s hereditary. According to a Harvard Medical School article, everyone experiences hair thinning as they grow older, but about 40% of people experience more than just the normal thinning. This type of hair loss typically starts in peoples’ 20s and 30s, but it can sometimes occur later. This, unfortunately, is permanent hair loss, meaning that the hair will probably never grow back. According to research, testosterone can cause the normal cycle of hair growth to change, “resulting in shorter, thinner or ‘miniaturized’ hair.” This eventually leads hair in certain parts of the head to stop growing entirely, so when it falls out, there’s nothing to replace it.
Taking care of yourself, whether that be eating enough, taking time to de-stress or buying a better shampoo, can be hard or feel unnecessary. But I think it’s worth the investment. Even if you couldn’t care less about hair loss, how you treat yourself can overall affect how you feel, not just how you look. Hair loss needs to be destigmatized because it’s a natural part of our lives and it’s okay if it happens — everyone experiences it to an extent. Also, if you’re worried about your hair-care products containing DMDM hydantoin, here is a list of all products containing this chemical.