Hair Loss in Women: The Causes and Solutions

close up of young woman parting hair to show hair loss

Female hair loss is a common problem that many women face. In fact, 40% of women will experience some degree of female hair loss by age 50. While hair loss in women can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, hormones, genetics, and diet, there are ways to address it. In this guide, we will discuss the common causes of female hair loss and how to address them.

Female Pattern Hair Loss is Common

Did you know that female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is extremely common? In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 12% of women start developing detectable FPHL by age 29. By age 50 that number jumps to 40%!

There are a number of reasons for this, including genetics, hormones, and age. But whatever the cause, it can be frustrating and embarrassing for women who lose their hair.

Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help restore lost hair. And with a little bit of patience and perseverance, many women can find a solution that works for them.

Emotional Impact of Hair Loss

Female hair loss can also have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health. Many women feel like they are not as attractive when they start to lose their hair. This can lead to low self-esteem and even depression. Clinical research has shown that the psychological and emotional impact of some patients experiencing hair loss can be similar to patients sufferings from severe chronic or life threatening diseases.

 

The severe emotional and psychological impact that hair loss in women can cause is often made worse by other related issues. In 2005, a survey of women who were experiencing female pattern baldness showed that 40% of the women interviewed reported marital problems related to their hair loss and 63% reported career-related issues related to their hair loss.

 

It’s no secret that hair loss is often a more difficult experience for women than it is for men. For one, it’s more socially acceptable for a man to be bald. And while there are medical treatments available for both sexes, the options tend to be more limited and less effective for women.

 

If you are struggling with the emotional impact of hair loss, it is important to seek help from a therapist or counselor who can help you manage these feelings.

Female Pattern Hair Loss Caused by Stress

woman with a distressed facial expression and messy hair

Female hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the most common causes is stress. When you are under a lot of stress, your body goes into survival mode and starts to shut down non-essential functions, like hair growth. Clinical studies have shown that when people are under stress, their body will produce hair growth-inhibiting and catagen-inducing pro-inflammatory effects which are damaging to the health of hair follicles.

 

One type of stress related hair loss is called Telogen Effluvium – a condition during which stressful events or life situations can cause rapid hair falls and even patchy hair loss. Telogen Effluvium or “TE” is the most common cause of non-scarring diffuse alopecia. While the patchy hair loss that women can experience from TE may only be temporary, it can also have long lasting effects. Even temporary hair loss is likely to cause a significant amount of emotional and phycological stress to many women.

 

Unfortunately the stress related to hair loss in women can often become a viscous cycle. Since it has been shown that stress can lead to hair loss and also that hair loss can lead to emotional stress, it is easy to see how hair loss in women can create a feedback loop of more stress and more thinning hair. For this reason it may be important to take a holistic approach when managing hair loss by identifying ways to deal with the root cause of the issue while simultaneously managing the stress associated with thinning hair.

How Diet Can Affect Hair Loss in Women

laughing woman with curly black hair eating salad

Another common cause of female hair loss is diet. If you are not eating a balanced diet, your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to support healthy hair. Eating a healthy diet that is high in protein and other essential nutrients can help promote healthy growing hair. In addition, getting enough vitamin C, iron, and omega-three fatty acids can also help keep your hair healthy.

 

If you think your diet may be causing your hair loss, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you create a plan that meets your nutritional needs and ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to help hair grow naturally.

Hormone-Related Hair Loss

Hormonal imbalances can also cause female hair loss. When your hormones are out of balance, it can throw off your whole body, including your hair follicle growth cycle. If you think hormones may be the cause of your hair loss, speak to your doctor about getting a blood test to check your hormone levels. There are treatments available to help balance your hormones and stop hair loss.

Birth Control Pills and Hair Loss in Women

birth control pills on pink surface

It’s no secret that birth control pills have a long list of potential side effects. But many women don’t know that one of the lesser-known side effects is hair loss. Most contraceptive pills rely on modulating a woman’s hormones in order to temporarily prevent fertility. Unfortunately, this change in hormone levels can also have a negative impact on the hair growth cycle.

 

There are countless anecdotal reports of women who begin to lose hair after they begin taking oral contraceptives for birth control. Similarly, many women with previously healthy hair, seem to experience hair loss once they stop taking pills for birth control. In both instances it seems that the hormonal changes related to oral contraceptives can result in an undesirable increase in hair falls and hair follicle miniaturization.

Genetics and Hair Loss

Unfortunately, sometimes hair loss can be hereditary. If you have a family history of hereditary hair loss, you may be more likely to experience it yourself. There is not much you can do to prevent hereditary hair loss, but there are treatments that can help slow down the process and give you some regrowth.

Female Pattern Baldness vs. Male Pattern Baldness

woman brushing man's hair as they face eachother

Male pattern baldness is typically characterized by a receding hairline and round bald patches on the top of the head. In contrast, female pattern baldness usually causes thinning hair all over the scalp, rather than in specific areas.

 

One of the most significant differences between male and female hair loss is that it is generally considered much more socially acceptable for men to lose hair. For this reason, most women who experience female pattern hair loss are likely to experience significant emotional stress as a result of their condition. While hair loss can affect self esteem for men and women, women tend to be more significantly impacted.

Alopecia Areata

close up of patchy hair loss from Alopecia Areata​

Alopecia Areata is a condition that causes people to lose hair in patches. It can be caused by stress, hormones, genetics, or diet. Alopecia Areata can also be caused by a stressful event such as a traumatic experience. Alopecia Areata is different from other types of alopecia because it causes the hair to fall out in patches. While other types of alopecia cause the hair to thin gradually until it is eventually lost, patients with Alopecia Areata often experience patchy hair loss.

Androgenic Alopecia

Androgenic Alopecia (Sometimes referred to as Androgenetic Alopecia or AGA) is the most common type of hair loss in women and is caused by an excessive response to androgens, which are sex hormones like testosterone. Specifically, this condition causes an over-production of DHT, a hormone that can bind to hair follicles and cause them to shrink.

 

For Men, Androgenetic Alopecia typically results in symptoms commonly referred to as male pattern baldness – with men generally experiencing a receding hairline, losing hair along the front of their hairline. For women, Androgenetic Alopecia typically manifests as diffuse hair loss all over the scalp, often with a larger visible part.

Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that is caused by tight hair styles. According to John Hopkins Medicine This type of hair loss affects Black women in the United States more commonly than women with other ethnic backgrounds. Traction alopecia can be caused by tight hairstyles, including braids, weaves, and ponytails. The constant traction on the hair follicles can cause the hair to become weak and eventually fall out.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects women and is often associated with hair loss. Women with PCOS have a hormone imbalance that can cause their body to produce too much testosterone. This can lead to hair loss, acne, and irregular periods. There is no cure for PCOS, but there are treatments that can help control the symptoms. If you think you may have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

Lasers for Hair Loss

There are a number of medical devices and at home devices that claim to use LED or laser light to help hair grow. Incredibly, many of these devices are supported by clinical evidence that shows therapeutic light can be an effective hair loss treatment for women and men.

 

These light therapy devices work by stimulating cellular metabolism through a process known as photobiomodulation. One of the beneficial results of this treatment is that some patients experiencing noticeable hair loss may see a reduction in their symptoms and, in some cases, even regrow hair that has fallen out.

PRP Injections for Women's Hair

close up woman receiving injection into her hair part

Platelet rich plasma injections have been shown to stimulate hair growth in women suffering from hair loss. The injections contain high levels of platelets, which are specialized cells responsible for cell growth and regeneration. When injected into the scalp, PRP as a hair loss treatment has been clinically shown to reduce hair thinning and even reverse female pattern baldness in some patients.

Medications for Hair Loss in Women

woman's hand holding three pills

There are a number of different FDA approved medications that can be used to treat hair loss in both men and women. The four most common are minoxidil, finasteride, dutasteride, and ketoconazole. Minoxidil is a topical medication that is available over the counter and can be used by both men and women. It helps to promote new hair growth and slows down hair loss. Finasteride is a prescription medication that is only available for men. It helps to stop the production of DHT, which is a hormone that contributes to hair loss. Dutasteride is a prescription medication that is only available for men. It helps to block the production of DHT and also helps to shrink enlarged prostate glands. Ketoconazole is an oral medication that is available by prescription only. It helps to slow down the rate of hair loss, treat seborrheic dermatitis, and kill fungus on the scalp.

Hair Transplants for Women

close up of patient's bloody head receiving hair transplants

There are a few different types of hair transplant surgery, but the two most common procedures are follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplant (FUT). FUE involves taking individual hair follicles from the donor area of the scalp and moving them to the recipient area. For FUT, a strip of skin containing Hair is removed from the donor area and then transplanted to the balding or thinning areas. While these types of hair transplantation are common, they are not always successful – with success varying based on the patient’s condition, the medical devices used, and the skill of the surgeon.

 

There are a few less common methods of hair restoration surgery, such as the scalp reduction procedure and tissue expansion procedure. With the former, the surgeon removes a section of bald scalp and replaces it with donor skin that houses hair follicles. The latter is achieved by balloon insertion under skin in the target area; as the balloon is inflated, it stretches surrounding skin to create more space for existing hair.

Supplements for Female Pattern Baldness

wooden spoon on neutral background holding a few types of supplements

Hair loss can frequently be treated with vitamin and nutritional supplementation. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper cell function, and if they aren’t consumed in sufficient quantities, hair thinning can result. Supplementation is quite affordable and simple to obtain, so it should always be an upper priority while trying to prevent or reverse hair loss.

 

A study published in 2018 found that hair loss can be linked to a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12. However, this is not the only evidence out there- many other studies have discovered thinning hair is related to deficiencies in different vitamins. It’s known that good nutrition may help support the development of healthy hair. Many dermatologists claim that providing patients with hair vitamins or iron supplements yields tangible improvements. If you’re noticing balding, it’s worth seeing whether you’re getting enough of the essential hair vitamins and minerals.

 

We put together this definitive guide on vitamins for female hair loss to help point you in the right direction.

Is Hair Loss in Women Permanent?

Often when a woman experiencing hair shedding it is not a sign of permanent hair loss. One of the most common causes of gradual thinning or sudden hair loss is hair follicle miniaturization. This is the process by which the hair follicles reduce the amount of time they spend in their anagen phase – which is when the hair follicles are growing. As a result, women can be left with more small, barely visible hair follicles instead of the large long hairs that most of us want to see. Although it is perhaps not fully understood what causes these hair follicles to shrink, it is largely attributed to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that is formed from testosterone and has been shown to disrupt the hair growth cycle.

 

Fortunately, hair miniaturization is not permanent hair loss. There are many therapeutic options that have been clinically shown to reverse female pattern baldness caused by hair miniaturization, ranging from topical medications, to injections, to dietary changes.

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bearded middle aged man looking in mirror at his receding hairline

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