Hair loss in women is not as frequent as in men, but this gives no comfort. The hair is an essential part of a woman’s beauty, it frames the face, enhances features and works as a security blanket where to hide too. And this is valid for all lengths, provided they were a personal choice and not a consequence of excessive shedding. If you fear you might be losing more hair than normal, find out below the most common causes of hair loss in women and what you can do about it.
Causes of hair loss in women
The causes of hair loss in women can be divided into two types: genetic and reactive. The first depends on each person and is related to the balance between male and female hormones.
The second category relates to external factors to the hair that can provoke a reaction and lead to hair loss. Stress, dietary issues, or illness are the main examples of factors in this category.
Women are much less likely to suffer from hair loss than men, due to their different hormone balance. Whereas estrogen supports stronger hair, androgen hormones lead to hair thinning, weakening and consequent loss.
An excess of androgens can be genetic or caused by certain disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Physical stress, trauma, big surgeries and even losing weight can stress the body in such a way that it triggers a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. In this type of hair loss, the follicles are affected and induced to make the hair cycles shorter.
Basically, these follicles go through the growing phase, the rest phase and the shedding phase, but stress can shock the follicles into jumping to the shedding phase faster than intended.
Sudden weight loss
When you go on a diet, you disrupt the normal balance of your body, used to receive certain nutrients in certain quantities every day.
Since hair is not fundamental for the species survival, once your body finds itself with a shortage of nutrients it begins channeling them to other important organs and functions. The hair follicles see their nutrient flow shortened and are more prone to pass into the shedding phase for being unable to maintain the hair shaft for long.
Hair loss in women has hormonal imbalances as one of the main causes. Genetics is a reason, as mentioned before, but these imbalances can also be triggered by the birth-control pill, pregnancy, breastfeeding and hormonal medication.
These causes are normally temporary and it is possible for the hair to recover.
Illness and treatments
Alopecia areata, which causes patches of hair to fall, is a condition directly related to hair loss and it needs to be followed up closely by a doctor. Dandruff, ringworm and other infections of the scalp can also cause excessive shedding.
Depression, high blood pressure, gout, arthritis, and cancer can also trigger hair loss, although, more often than not, the drugs used to treat these conditions are the ones at fault.
Heat styling can dehydrate the hair shafts, making them more prone to breakage. However, it mostly affects the rate of hair shedding due to its impact on the scalp. High temperatures can burn the skin or leave it more fragile and prone to inflammations and infections that affect the hair follicles.
An excessive use of styling products can also have a similar consequence by removing the natural oils from the scalp and clogging the pores and the follicles.
Tight hairstyles, such as ponytails, cornrows or braids, can also damage the follicles, especially if worn often, by causing a type of hair loss called traction alopecia from pulling the hair.
How to stop my hair from falling out and thinning
If genetics is the main cause for your hair loss, there isn’t much you can do. A trichologist could diagnose you and prescribe hormonal treatments, but those are bound to affect your health in other ways too.
As for the other possible causes of hair loss in women, they are usually preventable and temporary. Once you realize what is the reason behind your excessive shedding you can begin looking for a solution to stop the hair loss on its tracks and revert the situation.
Get your blood tested
Dietary-wise, the main causes of hair loss in women are the deficiency of iron, vitamins B12 and D and zinc.
You can easily take a blood test to check your levels of these micronutrients and fix any imbalance by adjusting your diet or taking a supplement.
Change your styling
If you’re experiencing excessive shedding, consider skipping styling creams or serums that put weight on your hair and may clog the pores on your scalp.
Letting your hair down is also important to remove any strain from the follicles and prevent pulling. Taking a rest from flat irons, hot rollers, permanents or other heat styling habits is also fundamental.
Eat more protein and complex carbs
Protein is part of the hair matrix, so increasing the intake of this macronutrient will support the creation of new hair.
As for complex carbs, they infuse the cells with the necessary energy to trigger hair growth.
What are the treatments available?
The aforementioned recommendations can help you stop hair loss and hair thinning, but, if you already have bald patches, they might not be enough (or quick enough, at least) to regenerate the follicles and trigger the creation of new hair strands.
This OTC medication can come in foam or liquid form and needs to be applied on the scalp every day for at least 6 months to produce any results.
It works by increasing the follicle size, thus reducing the chances of blockage preventing hair growth. It can also support the hair to grow thicker and stronger.
Be aware, though, that Minoxidil can increase hair shedding and hair thinning during the first applications. It can also irritate the most sensitive scalps.
These treatments are not regulated by the FDA and they don’t require any prescription. They are available in the form of take-home medical devices, brushes and combs.
The laser works to reduce inflammation in the follicles and scalp, thus removing a possible inhibiting obstacle to hair growth.
Ketoconazole helps to clear the scalp of infections, while also regulating the amount of androgens in the follicles.
The most effective of these shampoos are prescribed and have a 2% concentration. It is also possible to buy them OTC with 1% concentration, although their effect is not as remarkable.
This prescribed treatment involves injecting corticosteroids in the affected areas of the scalp. It is an effective option and can produce results as early as 4 weeks into the treatment.
However, it is not always recommended due to its common side-effects such as skin atrophy or thinning of the scalp.
First, don’t panic if you’re shedding more hair than normal since the stress will worsen that hair loss.
Second, don’t panic because you are not defined by your hair. Yes, it is an undeniable beauty trait and plays a massive role in your image and perception. But losing it is not the end of the world and you can learn to cope with it. You might even find other beautiful features that weren’t able to shine because your mane was stealing the spotlight.
Check out below Vogue’s interview with 9 women who experienced hair loss and find out how they cope with it, the pains they went through and how they feel much more liberated now.