Most Common Causes of Female Hair Loss
The causes of female hair loss can be incredibly varied. And for those of us suffering with losing our locks, it can be very distressing to sift through all the scary information online to find out exactly what’s going on on top. So, we’re here to help, with this list of the most common reasons for hair loss in women.
Whether you’re just starting to notice thinning hair, you have been suffering for a while, or you want to prevent losing your hair to start with, read through Nanogen’s list of the most common causes of hair loss in women and get clued up on the facts. So what are the reasons for hair thinning?
- Causes and reasons of hair loss in women: Genetic
- Causes of hair loss in women: Medical
- Causes of hair loss in women: Lifestyle
- Is female hair loss reversible?
- What is the best treatment for female hair loss?
- Common questions about the causes of hair loss in women
Causes and reasons of hair loss in women: Genetic
For a lot of female hair loss sufferers, it’s genetic. In fact, the most common of all causes of hair loss in women is Androgenetic Alopecia, a.k.a. female pattern baldness. You may have heard of male pattern baldness, but women can also experience hereditary thinning and hair loss with age too.
However, there are some big differences between male and female counterparts. While many men start losing their hair around the hairline and crown (resulting in a receding hairline and a bald patch), female pattern baldness rears its head by slowing down the hair’s growing phase, shrinking the follicles and leading to thin, fine hair across the whole head, starting at the parting.
Treatment: Treating female pattern baldness can vary depending on the severity of hair loss. In the early stages of hair loss, daily application of a hair regrowth serum along with root boosting styling products can be very effective. As hair loss progresses, there are various hair loss treatments for women to explore.
Also known as spot baldness, alopecia areata is an unusual cause of hair loss in women that manifests itself in small patches. It’s occasionally associated with other medical problems that can cause hair loss in women, and more often than not the bald areas regrow their hair spontaneously.
The condition is thought to be an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own hair follicles and stops growth. And although no one is quite sure, there is evidence to suggest that it’s hereditary.
Treatment: Most cases of alopecia areata regrow hair in their own time, however, the longer the patches remain, the less likely it is to clear itself up. Because of the unpredictability of the condition, no treatments can guarantee success, although steroids and topical sensitizers have been successful in around 50% of cases.
Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder where eating gluten causes damage in the small intestine. The disease can be a cause of hair loss in women due to nutritional deficiencies. It can also cause alopecia areata in some cases too. Even if a celiac doesn’t experience hair loss, their hair can often become brittle and lifeless.
Treatment: To get the right nutrients for hair growth, supplements are often are good option. They are packed with things like vitamin C, iron, selenium and biotin that are all important for hair growth and health.
Causes of hair loss in women: Medical
Anaemia is a deficiency of either iron or Vitamin B12 and develops when your blood lacks enough red blood cells and often results in fatigue, shortness of breath and can cause hair loss in women. The condition essentially sends your body into ‘survival mode’ and channels all the oxygen to support vital organs, limiting the oxygen going to the functions that maintain healthy hair.
Treatment: Most anemia hair loss is temporary, but the best way to treat it is to tackle the anemia itself. Many anaemics take iron supplements which help to regulate the oxygen levels and improve hair growth.
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be causes of hair loss in women, due to the misregulation of energy in the body. While hypo- leads to not enough of the thyroid hormone being produced, hyper- causes too much. Both cases are causes of hair loss in women.
Treatment: Thankfully, hair loss related to these conditions is easily sorted out with the treatment of the condition itself, which includes regular medication or in some cases, surgery.
Too much vitamin A
A lot of hair and nail supplements contain vitamin A and its essential for hair growth. However, too much of it can have negative effects on our hair as the follicles ramp up production and cause the hair to reach the end of the anagen phase too quickly and fall out. The body is often unable to make new hair quickly enough to keep up, which is one of the biggest causes of hair loss in women.
Treatment: Drastically reduce your vitamin A intake (usually ‘too much’ is twice your daily recommended amount). Once your nutrients have leveled out, your hair should grow back properly.
Lack of protein
Protein is so important for hair growth, as our hair is made of it! A lack of it can be one of the reasons of hair loss in women, and can also cause hair to become dry and brittle and generally unhealthy.
Treatment: Up your protein intake! Foods like salmon, eggs, and chicken are super high in protein and will help your hair recover fairly quickly.
Chemotherapy is one of the well-known causes of hair loss and can be devastating for cancer sufferers. It’s a common misconception that cancer causes hair loss, but in reality, it’s the treatment that’s to blame. Chemo drugs are incredibly powerful for attacking cancer cells, but they also harm other growing cells in your body, including your hair follicles.
Treatment: Thankfully, most hair loss caused by chemotherapy is temporary and hair usually grows back three to six months after treatment ends.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
PCOS has a number of symptoms including excess facial hair, weight gain, and fatigue, but it can also cause hair loss in women with a genetic predisposition. The condition produces excess male hormones (androgens), which can result in decreased hair growth on your scalp for those with genetically sensitive hair follicles.
Treatment: Although treating PCOS can be complicated, for most sufferers experiencing hair loss a simple anti-androgen drug should solve the issue, along with topical anti-androgen medication.
Trichotillomania is a mental disorder that is characterised by irresistible urges to pull out hair. It's not hard to imagine that it’s a major cause of hair loss in women, as the person often cannot help themselves even if they try to stop.
Treatment: Treatment for trichotillomania involves various forms of therapy, including habit reversal training and cognitive therapy.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, and one of the most common symptoms of it is hair loss. Losing your hair unexpectedly may be an early sign of the disease and it can also cause ‘lupus hair’ where the hairline breaks off and creates a ragged appearance.
Treatment: While most cases of lupus-related hair loss grow back after treatment of the disease, some ar permanent, as scarring is left in patches on the scalp. In these cases, concealments like hair fibres will be the best option.
Dandruff and scalp psoriasis
Skin conditions on the scalp can commonly cause hair loss in women, including dandruff and scalp psoriasis. Both cause itchy, inflamed skin on the scalp that can lead to intense and prolonged scratching. This scratching can damage the hair follicle and cause breakage to the strands, resulting in increased fall out.
Treatment: Treating and soothing the scalp conditions with medicated shampoos and topical treatments is the best bet for eliminating the itch and reducing fall out.
This rare, inflammatory condition results in patchy, permanent hair loss on the scalp and can affect men and women of all ages. Although the exact cause of lichen planopilaris is still unknown, it is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women that leaves scarring on the scalp.
Treatment: Since the condition is progressive, early treatment only serves to slow down the progress and alleviate the symptoms. Anti-inflammatories are prescribed to prevent further hair loss and minimise discomfort of the scalp.
Although there are other STDs that are causes of hair loss in women, syphilis is by far the most common. Hair loss occurs in the later stages of the disease and manifests in either patchy hair loss or diffuse thinning across the head. As the condition progresses, it causes rashes on the skin and scalp, damaging hair follicles and causing hair loss.
Treatment: Once the STD is treated, the damaged follicles should recover as normal.
Yet another autoimmune disease that causes hair loss in women! Scleroderma results in the hardening and thickening of connective tissue and creates excess collagen in the skin, which strangles the hair follicle and causes hair loss.
Treatment: Although treating scleroderma can be incredibly complex, once treated the hair follicles should recover.
Ringworm is instantly recognisable by ring-shaped rashes on the body. The fungal infection can be a reason of hair loss in women, although it can often be misdiagnosed as dandruff or impetigo.
Treatment: A trip to the doctor will be the best way to treat the infection, usually through anti-fungal medication. Hair will start to regrow once the ringworm is gone.
Medications that are the causes of hair loss in women
- Anticoagulants (or blood thinners)
- Gout medications
- Beta blockers
- Anti inflammatories
- Birth control
- Parkinson’s disease treatments
- Weight loss drugs
Causes of female hair loss: Lifestyle
This one is a cause of hair loss in women that we can actively prevent! Traction alopecia is a result of external stresses that we put on our hair: think overuse of extensions, weaves, tight ponytails, and braids. Yep, those beautifully long extensions can cause untold havoc on our locks! Anything that pulls the hair can damage the root and lead to scarring and permanent hair loss.
Treatment: The best way to prevent traction alopecia? Avoid clip in extensions, styles like cornrows, and elastic hair bands. And step away from the Croydon Facelift!
Stress can be one of the major reasons of hair loss in women. Extreme and prolonged stress can cause an increase in the production of adrenaline which eventually raises your body’s testosterone level. This can have a major impact on hair loss.
Treatment: Slow down, take a break and try to relax. The best way to combat stress is taking time for yourself and removing yourself from a stressful situation. Try and open up to friends and family, get out and exercise regularly and remember to keep everything in perspective.
Perhaps one of the most common causes of hair loss amongst mothers, postpartum alopecia occurs two to four months after giving birth. When you’re pregnant your body goes through a lot of hormonal changes, and that also affects your hair too. During pregnancy, these hormones increase the amount of time that the hair remains in the growth phase, resulting in thicker looking hair. After pregnancy, the temporarily retained hair sheds as its anagen phase comes to an end.
Treatment: Postpartum hair loss is usually only temporary, and although it may seem as though you’re losing a lot of hair, it is just the excess. No treatment is needed unless the hair loss is prolonged.
Rapid weight loss and dieting can be an important cause of hair loss in women, mainly due to the restriction of those dreaded calories. The drop in nutrients entering the body causes telogen effluvium, where the hair follicles stop growing prematurely before shedding.
Treatment: Thankfully, hair loss during dieting is temporary and once a healthy diet is resumed, the hair will grow back.
Most women enjoy styling and taking pride in their hair, and for a lot of us making our hair look good is a key part of our confidence. But did you know that over styling with heated tools can be a major reason of hair loss in women? The intense heat from straighteners, hair dryers, and curling irons is so damaging to our hair, causing breakage, dehydration and generally unhappy hair. Styling products like dry shampoo and hairspray can also have a damaging effect on our hair as they can build up and suffocate the follicles, restricting their growth.
Treatment: Put down the tongs! Try and limit your use of heat tools, as well as clogging sprays and stylers. Whenever you do use heated tools, make sure to douse your hair in the best heat protection spray for your hair type.
While steroids occur naturally in the body, man-made anabolic steroids are often used illegally to stimulate muscle growth as they are similar to testosterone. The excessive use of these steroids can speed up the hair loss process, particularly if you are prone to androgenetic alopecia. It is generally considered that they increase the production of DHT which is a cause of hair loss in women.
Treatment: The best treatment for this kind of hair loss is to stop taking the steroids, particularly as continued use can lead to permanent baldness.
The contraceptive pill can be a big cause of hair loss in women since the use of the medication is so widespread. Although it is rare, women who are particularly sensitive to the hormones in the pill or have a history of hormone-related hair loss can suffer. Birth control pills can cause the hair to move from the growing anagen phase to the resting and fall out phase too soon, which is called telogen effluvium. If baldness runs in the family then they can speed up the hair loss process.
Treatment: For some women experiencing extreme hair loss from the pill, a different type of contraceptive may be advisable. The hair will then return to a normal growth cycle.
What is the best hair loss treatment for women?
The treatment and prevention of hair loss largely depend on the cause of the condition. There are, however, certain instances of hair loss that can easily be prevented such as traction alopecia, rapid weight loss and overstyling.
Is female hair loss reversible?
Again, whether the hair loss is reversible depends on the cause of the condition. In many cases when the cause is removed, be it medication, stress or the traction, the hair will return back to its usual growth cycle.
Common questions about the causes of hair loss in women
What causes hair loss in females?
There are a huge variety of causes of hair loss in women, including female pattern baldness, certain lifestyle choices and a number of medications.
What vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Vitamin C, D, and Biotin are all important for healthy hair growth. A deficiency in any of these can cause hair loss and thinning hair.
NOTE: We sometimes receive questions like ‘can celiac disease cause hair loss?’ and ‘is there an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss?’ - please be sure to visit your GP and get medical help if your hair loss concerns you.