Severe hair loss is usually associated with men, but did you know that around half of the women population experience it as well? One of the most typical causes of hair loss in women is female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), a form of androgenic/androgenetic alopecia (AGA). It affects an estimated 30 million women in the US.
This article discusses the different types of hair loss, who may be susceptible, and the most common causes among women.
Types of hair loss
The average person loses between 50 and 100 strands of hair daily as part of a healthy hair growth cycle. However, if you’re losing over 125 hair strands per day, it can be a sign of a health condition.
The three common types of hair loss among women are the following:
- FPHL/AGA: Marked by thinning hair on the top and sides of the head, this is the most common cause of severe hair loss in women.
- Telogen effluvium: The telogen (or resting) phase is the final hair growth cycle. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hair follicles reach the telogen phase suddenly, causing a significant amount of hair to fall out.
- Alopecia areata: This autoimmune disorder causes a person’s immune system to attack their hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
Hair loss in women can occur gradually, so it can take time before you notice it. The most common signs include the following:
- Having smaller and thinner ponytails
- Noticing frequent hair breakage when combing and brushing
- Seeing more hair than usual on hairbrushes, floors, and pillows
- Spotting patches of thinning hair, particularly on the top of the head
If you’re experiencing the symptoms above, consult a healthcare professional.
Common causes of hair loss in women
Varying factors may cause hair loss in women. The most common ones are hormonal, medical, nutritional, and lifestyle, which the following sections will discuss.
- Hormonal changes and imbalances
Hormonal imbalances may significantly impact hair growth. For example, FPHL may stem from a dihydrotestosterone (DHT) imbalance, which causes follicles to shrink. It disrupts the hair cycle, as the smaller follicles can’t support hair growth.
Apart from imbalances, hormonal changes may also cause hair loss. The following groups of women may experience significant hormonal changes:
- Women who recently gave birth
- Women who are over 40
- Women who are menopausal
The decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels in the groups above increases the effects of the male hormone androgen, slowing hair growth and increasing hair loss.
- Medical conditions and medications
Toxic substances in treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy usually result in sudden hair loss. While hair growth may recover from such, permanent hair loss may happen when the hair follicles are significantly damaged.
In addition, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism may cause hair loss in women. While PCOS’ influence on hair loss is known—as it causes higher testosterone levels—the exact mechanisms of how both thyroid conditions may cause hair loss aren’t fully understood.
Meanwhile, the following medications and supplements may lead to hair loss:
- Gout medicines
- Blood pressure medications
- Birth control pills
- Vitamin A supplements
If you suspect your medications and prescription drugs may cause hair loss, consult your healthcare provider.
- Nutritional deficiencies
Restrictive diets and rapid weight loss may lead to hair loss. In addition, the following deficiencies can contribute to hair loss in women:
- Iron deficiency: Iron contributes to the health of red blood cells and collagen production, a protein hair strands need. The healthier a person’s blood is, the more it can maintain hair growth.
- Protein deficiency: Protein is critical for providing the amino acids, particularly to create keratin, required for hair growth. As such, protein deficiency can cause hair loss and adversely affect hair loss treatments.
- Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is critical in regulating the hair growth cycle; the cycle has three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Vitamin D prolongs anagen, the stage when hair grows, and shortens telogen, the stage when hair falls.
While nutritional deficiencies impact hair structure and growth, it’s highly recommended to consult a healthcare professional before changing your diet and taking dietary supplements to aid hair loss.
- Stress and lifestyle factors
Whether emotional or physical, extreme stress may shock the body enough to cause telogen effluvium. Women often may experience extreme stress after the following events:
- Surgery and serious illnesses
- Loss or death of a loved one
- Traumatic experience
- Depression and other mental health conditions
Meanwhile, something as innocuous as your hairstyle may also lead to hair loss. For example, tight braids may damage hair follicles over time, leading to traction alopecia.
As you can see, varying factors can lead to hair loss among women. Fortunately, several treatments and supplements have been developed to address this condition. If you’re starting to be alarmed by the rate of your shedding, consult a healthcare professional so they can assess the cause and find the best course of action.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.