Hair loss in women is much more common than many realize. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of women will experience significant hair loss at some point in their lives.
But what are the most common causes of hair loss in women? Read on to find out how hair loss affects women, along with what you can do to encourage fuller, thicker locks ASAP.
Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women
The root of female hair loss varies from person to person. To understand why you are losing hair, it is best to see your dermatologist or trichologist for a diagnosis. Review the following common causes of thinning hair to see if any of them sound familiar. Here are common causes for thinning hair in females:
Hereditary Hair Loss
While most people have heard of male pattern baldness, which is often characterized by a receding hairline, there's also a female equivalent. And this type of hereditary hair loss goes by a few different names. It’s called androgenetic alopecia, but you might also see it referred to as female pattern baldness, female pattern hair loss or androgenic alopecia.
This form of hair loss happens when a group of “male hormones” called androgens begin to impact hair texture, thickness and growth cycles. Over time hair follicles shrink, causing strands to become more thin and fine. It is generally a slow hair loss, where eventually, each individual hair follicle will stop growing hair altogether.
Androgenetic alopecia is estimated to affect about 30 million American women.
While most people think of gray hair when it comes to aging, age is another common cause of hair loss in women, with about 55% experiencing age-related hair loss by the age of 70.
Hair loss is also common among menopausal and postmenopausal women who are in a time of life when hereditary female pattern hair loss can become more evident. “The lack of estrogen that comes along with menopause can reduce the quality and quantity of hair growth,” explained Dr. Ravina Bhanot, a medical doctor specializing in women’s health with Zonas Fertility. “The increase in circulating testosterone can result in female pattern baldness, typically around the crown of the head.”
Hormonal changes, genetics and general wear and tear on the follicles can all contribute to age-related hair loss.
Women develop autoimmune diseases twice as often as men, and many autoimmune diseases can impact hair follicles and growth cycles and even cause hair loss.
While medical conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Graves’ disease may contribute to hair loss, three autoimmune conditions that are commonly associated with hair loss are alopecia areata, scalp psoriasis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Alopecia areata is a hair loss condition that most often presents as round, coin-sized, patchy hair loss that looks like bald spots. While it can resolve on its own, chronic AA can result in extensive hair loss all over the body, permanent hair loss and even complete baldness.
Scalp psoriasis is a form of an autoimmune skin condition called psoriasis. Over 50% of people who have psoriasis will experience its spread to their scalp, where it can cause scaly patches of inflamed skin that are uncomfortable and itchy. While psoriasis does not directly cause hair loss, the itch associated with it can cause excessive scratching that damages hair follicles and leads to temporary hair loss.
The autoimmune condition polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) impacts hormones and affects about 15% of women. As with female pattern hair loss, androgens are the biggest contributing factor in PCOS-related hair loss.
Hair loss is a potential side effect of many prescription medications.
Cancer treatment in the form of chemotherapy is known to cause a type of hair loss called anagen effluvium when large amounts of hair are shed rapidly and prematurely. But even common medications that many women use every day, like birth control pills or other forms of hormonal birth control, can impact the way hair grows.
Other medications like antihypertensives, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants and antidepressants could lead to sudden hair loss called telogen effluvium, which triggers follicles to prematurely move into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle followed by shedding.
The good news is that often when the medication is stopped, or when your body gets used to a new medication, you'll experience a reverse hair loss as hair growth returns to normal.
Read More: These Medications That Might Cause Hair Loss
A wide variety of stressors can also suddenly and drastically impact your follicles.
As just covered, medications can produce telogen effluvium by quickly changing the normal balance in the body. But so can major physical or emotional stress like divorce, loss of loved ones, childbirth and illnesses like COVID-19.
“Following a high fever or stress as a result of COVID-19, a chronic infection or viral illness, one may experience noticeable hair loss,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, board-certified dermatologist with Uptown Dermatology. “Many of my patients have been noticing their hair falling out in large clumps. You may notice handfuls of hair coming out when you brush your hair or take a shower. This hair loss or shedding can last from six to nine months before it stops and can take at least three to four months to return to normal."
Doctors aren’t the only ones seeing COVID-related hair loss, either. “Many in the hair industry have noticed that clients who have had COVID-19 are now developing allergies to products and colors that they never had issues with before. And sadly, many are losing hair by the handful,” said Madison Dufour, registered barber and cosmetologist at The Exquisite Find.
Anything that shocks the body can shock your hair follicles. Thankfully, telogen effluvium is typically a form of temporary hair loss and usually resolves on its own over time.
Hair Care and Styling
Another way stress might impact your locks is due to your hair care and styling routines.
Tight hairstyles like buns, ponytails, braids, weaves and extensions can cause repeated stress that can damage hair follicles. Over time, this can lead to a form of hair loss called traction alopecia. Additionally, heat styling and chemical treatments can mess with the balance of your scalp’s microbiome and impact hair growth and appearance.
Thyroid disease is another possible cause of hair loss that is far more common in women than men.
“Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating cellular metabolism, meaning the set of chemical reactions that occur in our cells to maintain normal functions," said Dr. Yasmin Akhunji, a board-certified endocrinologist with Paloma Health. "This includes our hair and skin cells.”
Autoimmune thyroid conditions like Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease impact the thyroid by either making it work too hard (Graves’) or not hard enough (Hashimoto’s) Either way, it results in a hormonal disruption that could trigger an episode of telogen effluvium or have longer-term impacts on the thickness and texture of your hair. “This thyroid hormone imbalance can also result in thin hair or hair loss, including body hair or eyebrows,” said Dr. Akhunji.
Nutrition is the foundation of each strand of hair on your head. Hair follicles use nutrients from our diet—like protein, vitamins B7, A, C and E, and minerals like iron and zinc—to build each strand cell by cell. So it makes sense that what you put in will influence what each hair follicle puts out.
Several nutritional deficiencies have been linked to hair loss, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to support and maintain healthy hair growth. However, our bodies are always striving for balance, and overdoing it on some vitamins and minerals can actually contribute to hair loss.
Take a Holistic Approach to Hair Wellness
Hair loss is complex, and hair health needs to be supported from a variety of different angles. And while addressing the underlying cause is essential for managing thinning hair and hair loss, there are lots of tools at your disposal for supporting your body's natural ability to regrow hair and return to hair health.
Here are a few ways to take a holistic approach to hair health.
“Stress promotes high levels of cortisol, which can cause the body to shut down your nonessential hair follicles in favor of supporting other essential functions,” said Kerry Yates, trichologist and Founder of Colour Collective.
Stress can have major impacts on hair health, so stress management should be part of your hair wellness routine. As an added bonus, stress management is good for your mental and physical health, too.
Another important piece of the hair wellness (and general wellness) puzzle is exercise.
“Exercise boosts your metabolism and also reduces stress,” said Yates. Not only that, but exercise promotes better blood circulation, which is important for getting your hair follicles the oxygen and nutrients they need to function optimally.
“Yoga is a great exercise to relieve stress while also getting healthy,” added Yates.
Support Your Body’s Nutritional Needs
Exercise is great for boosting circulation to our follicles, but also make sure you’re giving your body all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to feed those follicles.
“Taking a hair growth vitamin with biotin will help curb hair breakage and also grow healthy hair from the get-go,” said Dr. Mullans.
Our GRO Biotin Gummies and GRO+ Advanced Hair Gummies can help provide the nutritional support your follicles need to thrive, all in a completely vegan, once-daily gummy that helps boost a healthy diet or fill any gaps.
For an approach that combats hair thinning internally and topically, try the best-selling GRO More Kit, which include GRO Biotin Gummies plus a bottle of GRO Hair Serum, which features clinically proven ingredients that can increase the appearance of hair density by up to 52% and reduce signs of shedding by up to 76% in as soon as four months.
Learn: How VEGAMOUR Works
Add Some TLC To Your Hair Care Routine
“In general, it is best to avoid products with sulfates and parabens, as well as anything that could clog up your follicles,” advised Dr. Mullans. “Do a regular scalp exfoliation to help clear it of debris and buildup for optimal scalp health."
We couldn’t agree more, which is why we’ve developed a full line of carefully formulated hair products that are designed specifically with optimal follicular and scalp health in mind. Our GRO Revitalizing Shampoo & Conditioner are free of sulfates, silicones, parabens, gluten and artificial fragrances but packed with powerful phyto-actives that are clinically proven to boost scalp health. Our GRO Scalp Detoxifying Serum can also be used weekly before shampooing and conditioning to help exfoliate and balance out your scalp’s microbiome. Get all three best-sellers at a discount when you buy the GRO Foundation Kit.
Aside from products, think about how your hair styling routine might be impacting follicles.“Aggressive tension along the hairline or tight ponytails along the crown can cause irreparable follicle damage and prevent proper functioning,” said Yates. “Be nice to your hair, don’t overdo it."
Many women will experience some form of hair thinning or excessive hair loss in their lifetimes. Some of the most common causes of hair loss in women are tied to hormonal changes, autoimmune conditions, genetics, age and medications. The best way to manage thinning hair and treat hair loss is to get to the root of the problem. So if you suspect you’re experiencing increased hair shedding or loss, consult with a doctor who can recommend hair loss treatment options. And while managing the underlying cause is key, be sure to support hair wellness with a holistic approach that cares for both your body and mind.
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