Hair loss in women: what are the triggers?

Hair loss is a natural part of life. In fact, dermatologists report that people lose an average of 50 - 100 strands of hair each day. The hair fall indicates that the body is growing new, healthy hair strands to replace shed ones. However, once hair begins falling out in more significant amounts than usual, it can cause extreme distress and concern.

It can be challenging to determine the cause of hair loss - especially in women - since there is a wide range of triggers that can lead to hair fall, thinning, and bald spots. Female pattern baldness, known as androgenetic alopecia, is a hereditary ailment that is the primary cause of hair loss. Other medical conditions like traction alopecia or telogen effluvium (temporary hair shedding) can be easily managed and even reversed if caught early enough. Some hair loss may result suddenly, whereas others become progressively worse and more prominent overtime to make things even more complex.

If you notice that your ponytail is looking thinner or there are some increasingly thinning spots around the scalp, here are common reasons for hair loss in women and ways you can overcome it.

What are common triggers of female hair loss?

For women, thyroid imbalances (hyper and hypothyroidism) and other hormone-driven conditions are common causes of hair loss that can be managed with the help of a medical professional. Menopause, birth control pills, and anemia may also result in hormone fluctuations that can cause hair fall.

Genetics

When thinking about genetic hair loss, often people’s minds go straight to male pattern baldness, but all genders are susceptible to hereditary hair loss. If you’re genetically predisposed to hair thinning, you have genes that cause your hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop growing new hair strands. You may see a gradual reduction in hair volume over time for women, often starting with overall thinning and a widening part.

Childbirth

Your hair grows through three major stages as it grows:

  • The growth phase (anagen phase)
  • The transition phase (catagen phase)
  • The resting phase (telogen phase)

Most women find their hair cycle during pregnancy enters a rapid growth phase that may last significantly longer than normal. There are surges of hormones - like estrogen - that put the body into a “grow-centric” mode that delays the normal hair shedding phase.

Once the estrogen levels return to normal post-delivery, hair reverts to its normal growth cycles and begins to shed the thick, excess hair accumulated over the last ten or so months. Some women face mild shedding, while others experience a more intense shedding process that lasts months.

Luckily, postpartum hair loss is a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, which is temporary and often resolves independently.

Common causes of hair loss:

Internal

External

Genetic (DHT)

Exposure to chemical fumes

Hypo or hyperthyroidism

Exposure to Dust, Pollution

Vit. A, C, E, D deficiencies

Exposure to excess heat or cold

Diabetes, Gout

Hard water areas

Seborrheic scalp

Smoking, active and passive

Prolonged illness

Alcohol

Iron, calcium deficiency

Blow drying

Crash Dieting

Overuse of Hair Products

Poor fluid intake

Pressurized Airline Cabins

High Protein Diet

Mining areas, Construction work

Fat-free Diet

Stressful lifestyle

Deranged of liver and kidney function

Lack of sleep

Post Pregnancy Hair loss

Over drying the Scalp

Nutritional deficiencies

Healthy, thick, luscious hair is a product of a well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet. Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals like Niacin (B3), iron, zinc, and biotin have been linked to several types of hair loss.

To effectively treat a nutritional deficiency, you should start by reaching out to your doctor for a blood test to diagnose your condition accurately. From there, you may begin treating your deficiency with supplements or other methods.

Scalp conditions

Scalp conditions are often exasperated when the skin around the scalp is inflamed and itchy since it is more tempting to scratch and pick at. Unfortunately, this can cause hair to break, fall out, and become damaged. Dandruff is one of the easier conditions to treat since many over-the-counter products are effective in combating it.

Other conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis may take more time and effort to treat, so it’s important to contact your dermatologist if you think you are dealing with a more severe issue.

Excessive physical or emotional stress

When the body is in a state of elevated, regular stress, you may experience a temporary pause in hair growth since your body reserves resources to help you get through the period of stress. Often day-to-day stresses do not cause this type of hair loss; it’s life-altering situations like a death in the family, sickness, a significant career change, or financial troubles that will trigger hair fall.

Typically, this hair loss is temporary, and the growth phase will return to normal once things have become less stressful.

Autoimmune diseases

Alopecia areata is an example of a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Hair can be lost anywhere on the body, including the scalp, ears, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

Unhealthy hair styling

Excessive use of heat styling tools, like curling irons, straighteners, hairdryers, and crimpers, can make hair very dry, resulting in strands prone to breakage. When used regularly, these tools may lead to hair loss and excessive damage.

Traction alopecia is another hair loss condition that’s caused by repeated stress and tension on the scalp. This condition can develop if you often wear hair in a tight ponytail, braids, bun, or chemical treatments. Traction alopecia can be reversed if cared for early enough, but hair loss may become permanent if not intervened soon enough.

How to stop and potential reverse hair loss

Hair loss doesn’t happen overnight. Our hair grows in cycles, meaning it could take between 2 - 4 months for the hair to fall out after a triggering event. The first step to overcoming hair loss is recognizing the problem. If you notice excessive daily hair shedding for longer than four months, you should see a trichologist, dermatologist, or general practitioner to help identify any underlying factors that may need to be addressed.

woman hair regrowth

Improve your diet

One of the first steps you should take if you’re noticing hair loss is to look at your diet and nutritional choices. Hair is composed of proteins, so it’s crucial to make sure you include enough protein in your daily meals to keep it strong and healthy. Complex carbohydrates are another vital component in hair growth and recovery. They provide our hair follicles with the energy needed to grow! Healthy carbs like fruits, whole grains, and seeds are great options to snack on throughout the day.

Being a “non-essential tissue,” the hair’s nutritional needs are unique compared to other body parts. Therefore, supplementation can be helpful when trying to boost your levels of hair-loving minerals, vitamins, and herbs such as saw palmetto, selenium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, and vitamin C. For best results, they should be taken alongside a healthy whole food diet.

Incorporate daily head massages

Studies have shown that scalp massages help hair grow thicker and stronger by improving blood flow to the hair follicle, allowing oxygen and essential nutrients to easily reach the scalp, nurturing it back to health, and promoting quicker growth. One study showed that daily scalp massages averaged 4 minutes a day, resulting in thicker hair and decreased hair loss.

To properly massage the scalp, begin by rubbing the sides of your head behind the ears and moving upwards towards the center top portion of your scalp. Use all ten fingers and massage in a steady, circular motion. Gently massage back towards the rear of the head, down below the ears, and extend the movement along the underneath sides of the jawline. Massage back up to the hairline at the back of your neck.

Use hair regrowth treatments.

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medical treatment option to promote hair regrowth. It’s safe to use for both men and women and is highly effective. Minoxidil stimulates hair growth and may increase the hair cycle, causing hair shafts to thicken and reduce the appearance of widening parts or patchiness.

Minoxidil comes in two solutions: 2% and 5%. While it may seem the obvious choice to reach for the stronger solution, that is not always necessary! Studies have shown that 2% minoxidil was just as effective for females with androgenetic alopecia. Minoxidil has little to no side effects, so It is generally safe for all women.

Mix up your daily hairstyle

While we all know how damaging excessive heat styling can be on strands, everyday hairstyles that can cause significant damage are often overlooked. Certain hair accessories like rubber elastics, tight pins, and clips can cause breakage when used to hold hair tightly into place. Taut ponytails, braids, and buns can cause extreme tension on the scalp causing hair to break off and appear thin along the hairline.

Minimize the usage of hair damaging accessories and don’t continuously wear tight hairstyles. When selecting accessories for your licks, use clips with rubber padding, hairpins with balled ends, and fabric or “ouch-less” hair ties instead of rubber.

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