Surprising Reasons Why Women Lose Their Hair (And How You Can Prevent It)

Published August 20th, 2020 by Dr. Betsy Hoida, PharmD, BCPS
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Updated Date: Apr 26th, 2021

Female Alopecia | Patterns of Hair Loss | Why is it Falling Out | How can I Treat

Hair. We all have it. Hair grows almost everywhere on our bodies. It does not grow on places without hair follicles, like the palms of our hands, the soles of our feet, our eyelids, and lips

The average adult head has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to 100 strands a day. As people age, the rate of hair growth decreases. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent. For many women, more hair in their sink or brush than usual can be a sign of an imbalance somewhere else in their bodies.

It’s More Common Than You Think: Female Alopecia

Alopecia, or hair loss, is typically thought of as a male associated disease. According to the American Hair Loss Association, women make up forty percent of American hair loss sufferers. Experiencing hair loss can be extremely stressful. 

For many women, hair loss can cause severe emotional damage as hair loss is more acceptable in the male population.  Women may feel less feminine and have lower self-image than their male counterparts. Why?

Well, for many of us-our hairstyle defines who we are. There are also deeply engrained societal views of women’s hair. Youth, beauty, and vitality are associated with a mane of luminous locks. 

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Patterns of Hair Loss: Men vs. Women

Hair loss in women can be temporary or long-lasting. In females, the areas of the scalp follow a different hair loss pattern, known as “female pattern hair loss” (FPHL), compared to males. 

FPHL starts for most women during midlife (generally her 40s, 50s, or 60s) and is progressive. It usually begins with a widening of your part and receding of your temple hair. Eventually, these areas progress to widespread, overall thinning.

Reasons Why Your Hair May Be Falling Out 

So, what’s a gal to do? Fortunately, there is hope for hair loss. Easy tweaks by changing your diet or decreasing your stress level may be all it takes to improve your mane. 

The other thing to focus on is “root” (pun intended) cause analysis. Hair loss is usually a sign of a deeper internal imbalance. Your hair will remain on your head, growing as it should, until conditions like a hormonal imbalance, medication change, or vitamin deficiency tell it to stop that growth.

Let’s dig deeper into what some of these conditions could be.

Certain medications such as chemotherapy, birth control pills, anti-convulsant (epilepsy) therapy, and steroids have all been associated with hair loss.

Hormonal changes that occur during the transition to menopause (perimenopause).  Increases in the hormone androgen coupled with lower levels of the hormone estrogen are responsible for hair loss known as androgenic alopecia

Pregnancy causes a surge of hormones that, for some results in thicker, fuller tresses. Beware that this is temporary. After delivery, the drop in hormones causes rapid hair loss. Fortunately, hair loss is also temporary. Most women return their baseline pregnancy hair health in several months.  

Genetics, unfortunately, play a critical role in your hair loss. This type of hair loss is not temporary and progresses with age.

Thyroid disorders: Both hyperthyroidism (Grave’s Disease) and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s) are autoimmune disorders that can cause hair loss. 

Low iron levels are known as iron deficiency anemia, often associated with heavy periods that can cause hair to thin and fall out. 

Dramatic weight loss can cause temporary hair loss. Also, people who have problems with the absorption of nutrients, such as in Celiac disease, can cause issues with hair loss.

Stress increases levels of cortisol, which then cause hair loss. It can be a vicious cycle, as increased levels of hair loss can cause more stress. 

How You Can Improve Your Hair Health

The more quickly you respond to treating hair loss, the better. Treating the underlying cause often leads to much-improved hair health. You can do this in several ways, including:

  • Adding more nutrients to your diet, such as biotin, protein, or zinc.
    • Biotin rich foods include cooked eggs, avocados, and salmon. 
    • Before starting any supplements, make sure you consult your primary healthcare provider first as they are not appropriate for all individuals. 
    • Mentioning your hair loss to your primary care provider. He or she can point you in the direction of further lab testing if necessary.
    • Taking a breather. One of the simplest ways you can improve your hair health, but is not always easy, is decreasing levels of stress in your life. This may include lifestyle habits, such as meditation or yoga, that you can slowly add to your daily routine. Or even just taking downtime where you practice self-care can make a huge difference.

In conclusion, hair loss in women can cause devastating effects on image and self-esteem. Fortunately, digging further into the reason behind hair loss can lead to healthy hair solutions to manage this condition.

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