Baldness refers to hair loss. The onset of hair loss may be gradual, but can eventually lead to a completely bare scalp. This can occur due to a variety of reasons such as genetics, intake of certain medications or underlying health problems. Baldness can affect men and women. There are various ways of dealing with hair loss. Some individuals may allow baldness to run its course without using any medications or remedies. Others may attempt to conceal it with different hairstyles or by wearing hats. There are also some who may resort to medical treatments and even surgical procedures to treat baldness.

Symptoms of Baldness

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss or baldness. There are various types of alopecia, the most common being androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness. This condition mostly occurs in men, but can also affect some women. It results in permanent hair loss. Another common type of alopecia is alopecia areata, which is temporary, and can result in patches of hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. The different types of permanent baldness are as follows:

  • Androgenetic Alopecia – Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia may begin in the teens or early twenties. The first signs of balding include receding hairline around the tops of the head and temples. It usually continues until there is complete hair loss.
  • Female Pattern Baldness – This is also a type of androgenetic alopecia which leads to thinning of the hair at the sides of the head, crown and front. The hairline mostly stays in intact. Complete baldness is rare in women.
  • Cicatricial Alopecia – Also known as scarring alopecia, this condition is caused by inflammation and scarring of the hair follicles. It may result in patches of hair loss along with itching and pain.
  • The different types of temporary baldness are as follows:

  • Alopecia Areata – This condition is characterized by small, smooth areas of hair loss. It can lead to hair loss on any area of the body with hair such as the beard and eyebrows. In a small percentage of cases it can lead to complete hair loss across the body. Baldness that involves the entire scalp is known as alopecia totalis and that which involves the entire body is called alopecia universalis.
  • Telogen Effluvium – The onset of this type of hair loss is sudden and usually occurs after considerable stress or a major illness. It can cause the hair to fall in handfuls while brushing or washing the hair. It results in thinning across the scalp.
  • Traction Alopecia – This type of baldness occurs when the hair is pulled tightly. Wearing your hair in certain hairstyles or using tight rollers can cause bald patches on the scalp.
  • Anagen Effluvium – This condition leads to hair loss during the anagen or active stage of hair growth. It usually occurs in individuals undergoing chemotherapy. The hair growth is regulated again some weeks after the treatment ends.

It is advisable to consult a doctor if you notice increased or patchy loss of hair. In some cases, hair loss can be indicative of an underlying health complication. There is no known cure for baldness, but there are methods of slowing down the hair fall or concealing it.

Causes of Baldness

The hair goes through constant phases of growth and rest. Hormonal fluctuations can cause some hair follicles to experience shorter phases of growth. The hair follicles may also give rise to thinner hair with shorter hair shafts. The phase of growth, called anagen lasts for about two to three years. The hair is likely to grow by approximately one centimeter during this phase. Then a phase of rest follows, called talogen. This phase may continue for three to four months and at its end, the hair falls off and the growth phase begins again. Hair loss occurs as a natural part of the ageing process. But some individuals experience premature hair loss. Some of the common causes for baldness include:

  • Androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness is characterized by a shorter growth phase. The hair that does grow is much thinner than normal. Also during the growth phases, the hair does not get rooted firmly and this causes it to fall out easily. There is a genetic link to androgenetic alopecia and you are at a higher risk of developing the condition if you have a family history of the baldness. Genetics also influence the age at which hair loss may begin.
  • Cicatricial or scarring alopecia occurs in various skin ailments due to inflammation and scarring of the hair follicles. The exact cause of the inflammation is unknown.
  • Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system starts attacking the hair follicles because it mistakenly perceives them as harmful. Some people may be genetically predisposed to the condition.
  • Telogen effluvium occurs when the normal hair cycle is disrupted. This may happen when there is physical or emotional stress which causes the hair follicles to enter a resting state. As a result the hair falls off. Stressful events such as high fever, surgery or emotional distress can lead to a change in the normal cycle of hair growth.
  • Traction alopecia occurs when the hair is pulled tightly, leading to scarring and damage to the hair roots.
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as inadequate intake of protein or iron can result in hair loss. Those who follow crash diets or suffer from eating disorders may also experience excessive hair loss.
  • Intake of medications to treat arthritis, depression and cardiovascular conditions can trigger hair loss. Women who take birth control pills may also experience increased hair loss.
  • Diseases such as lupus and diabetes can lead to certain side effects such as hair loss.
  • Individuals who undergo cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy usually experience hair loss. The hair is likely to grow back after the treatment stops.
  • Temporary hair loss can occur due to hormonal imbalances. There are hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause. Those with thyroid conditions and women who take birth control pills may also experience hair fall.
  • Excessive use of hair products such as dyes and bleaches can cause the hair to become weak. Over styling the hair can also cause the hair to fall.
  • Infections that affect the scalp such as ringworm and dandruff can lead to hair loss. Once these infections are treated, the hair fall is likely to stop.
  • A mental disorder known as trichotillomania characterized by hair pulling is another cause of hair loss.

Remedies for Baldness

While naturopaths and natural health care enthusiasts claim that there are lot of natural treatments that can not just help treat baldness, but even cure, such claims should be treated with skepticism. Most remedies and natural treatments for baldness are not backed up by scientific evidence and some have even been discredited. Some common home remedies for baldness include:

  • Boil pieces of Indian gooseberry in coconut oil and use to massage the scalp.
  • Fenugreek seeds commonly feature in lists of natural cures for baldness. Grind fenugreek seeds into a paste with a little water and massage into the scalp.
  • Consume a combination of spinach and lettuce juice every day.
  • Mustard oil is one of the most beneficial natural remedies for hair loss. Boil some henna leaves in mustard leaves and use on the scalp and hair.
  • Coconut milk can be massaged into the scalp.
  • Grind black pepper and lime seeds with some water to make a thick paste. Apply this paste to the scalp every day.
  • Combine one teaspoon of cinnamon powder with honey and olive oil and apply to the scalp. Leave it on for about fifteen minutes and then wash.
  • Grind pieces of licorice and mix with milk and a tiny amount of saffron. Apply this to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
  • Regular castor oil scalp massages are known to help in preventing hair loss.
  • Almond is highly beneficial for good health of the hair. Take two to three drops of almond oil and use to massage the scalp. This can be done twice or thrice daily.
  • A paste of henna leaves and beetroot leaves may be applied to the hair to prevent baldness.
  • You can prepare a beneficial hair tonic with southernwood infusion. Dilute one tablespoon of the infusion with one tablespoon of warm water and apply to the scalp twice every week.

Diet for Baldness

The diet for baldness should be high in the B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and sulfur. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and hence should be part of your diet. A healthy and balanced diet is a must for everyone. You need to especially watch your nutrient intake if you are genetically predisposed to baldness. It is also advisable to exercise regularly and manage your stress effectively.

Suggestions for Baldness

Use the following tips for healthy hair growth:

  • Follow a nutritious diet
  • Care for your hair in the right manner. Avoid using heat styling appliances and chemical-based hair products.
  • Avoid excessive styling of the hair.
  • Seek early medical treatment for any illnesses that may be triggering hair loss.


  1. Shereen Timani, Diya Mutasim, Alopecia, In: Editors-in-Chief: S.J. Enna and David B. Bylund, Editor(s)-in-Chief, xPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference, Elsevier, New York, 2007, Pages 1-8, ISBN 9780080552323, 10.1016/B978-008055232-3.60768-8.

Baldness - Frequently asked questions