Did you know that your scalp is home to approximately 100,000 hair follicles? Or that 85,000 to 95,000 of these follicles should be in the active anagen phase? Meaning, you should have an average of 90,000 strands growing at any given time.
Unfortunately, many things can disrupt the hair growth cycle. When this happens, the result is excessive hair loss.
As you can imagine, age is one of the top factors that can interfere with your hair growth. However, that’s just one possible cause.
So, then, what causes hair loss in women aside from age, and how do these “interruptions” occur, anyway? Is there any way to reverse or treat female hair loss?
We’ll answer all these questions below, so be sure to read on!
1. Heredity (Family History)
Hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is a type of hair loss that runs in the family. You may also know it for its other, more common name: female pattern baldness.
In the US alone, an estimated 30 million women experience female pattern baldness. Although it can start at any age, it tends to become more prominent as one gets older. As such, menopausal and post-menopausal women are more prone to androgenetic alopecia.
In women, pattern baldness usually affects the crown. From there, the hair can continue to “thin out,” exposing more of the scalp on the very top of the head. In men, androgenetic alopecia often begins at the hairline.
Up to now, scientists are still researching a cure for female pattern baldness. However, treatment is available, with topical Minoxidil being the only FDA-approved one. These include the 2% topical Minoxidil solution and the 5% topical Minoxidil foam.
2. Traumatic Experience or High Levels of Stress
Studies found that high levels of emotional stress can contribute to hair loss in women and men. Traumatic or distressing experiences can cause a hair-related condition called “telogen effluvium.” It induces hair loss by pushing healthy, growing hair into an earlier resting phase.
There are three phases related to the hair growth cycle. These include the following:
- Anagen (growth phase)
- Catagen (transitional phase)
- Telogen (resting phase)
Under normal conditions, between 90% and 95% of all hair follicles are in the growth phase. The remaining 5% to 10% are in the telogen phase. Very few are going through the transitional phase at any given time.
However, in people with telogen effluvium, about 30% of all hair follicles go into a sudden rest. As a result, the strands in the affected follicles fall out. Since they’re in the telogen phase, no new hair grows out.
Fortunately, telogen effluvium is a temporary condition, so in time, new hair will grow. Still, it can take several months for the new strands to come out.
Because it’s temporary, there is usually no need for specialized treatment. However, it’s still a good idea to consult your doctor, especially for help in managing your stress. You may have to take some tests to confirm if an underlying condition is affecting your health.
3. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiencies affect an estimated 7.8 million women in the US. The thing is, iron is vital for hair growth, as it helps the body produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin, in turn, supplies hair cells with nutrients and oxygen.
So, in theory, being deficient in iron may cause the hair to become weak and easy to snap. However, scientists say there’s not enough proof to confirm that it does cause hair loss. They do say that treating the deficiency can enhance the effects of hair loss treatments.
Iron deficiency, with or without hair loss, warrants medical consultation. That’s because it can lead to anemia, which, in turn, can result in more severe health problems. For instance, it can raise your risk for heart issues, infections, and even depression.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, extreme fatigue, weakness, and headaches, call your doctor. Your symptoms may be due to iron deficiency. Your physician will likely prescribe iron supplements to help address your deficiency.
4. Vitamin Deficiencies
Deficiencies in vitamins A, B, C, D, E may also result in hair loss. The same goes if your body lacks zinc or selenium. These vitamins and minerals can affect not only the growth but the overall health of your hair.
The best way to confirm if you have vitamin deficiencies is to speak to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend the use of a vitamin supplement that contains no hormones. That’s because hormone-containing products may cause further disturbances in your system.
It’s even more important to talk to your doc first if you’re on any medication before using any supplement. While generally safe, some supplements may interact with prescription drugs. So, to avoid side-effects, get your physician’s green light first.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is quite prevalent in the US, especially in the South, where almost half of women have it. What’s more, medical experts are still at a loss on what exactly causes this condition. However, they know for sure that it results in the ovaries developing a lot of harmless follicles.
While harmless, these follicles don’t undergo proper development. As a result, they usually fail to produce and release mature eggs. This, in turn, can affect your hormone levels, which may include a spike in your androgen levels.
Now, keep in mind that androgens are behind androgenetic male and female hair loss. So, having PCOS may put you at a higher risk of developing female pattern baldness. It can also make you more prone to acne.
There is no cure for PCOS, but medications can help reduce androgen levels. In doing so, they may be able to help slow down the progression of hair loss. Your doctor may also prescribe Minoxidil to help you regrow your lost strands.
6. Thyroid Problems
More than one in 10 people in the US will experience a thyroid problem in their lifetime. However, women are five to eight times likelier to develop such conditions. In fact, experts say that 12.5% of women in the US will battle with a thyroid disorder.
Unfortunately, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can contribute to hair loss in women. In women with thyroid issues, diffuse alopecia and alopecia areata are very common. Female androgenetic alopecia can also occur alongside a thyroid disorder.
Fortunately, all forms of thyroid disorders are treatable with medication. These drugs help restore the thyroid’s proper functioning.
For example, hypothyroidism meds act as a thyroid hormone supplement. In hyperthyroidism, some medications restrict the thyroid from making too many hormones. Others may block the thyroid hormones’ effects on your body.
7. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Scientists say that 5% of all adults have seborrheic dermatitis, which is a type of eczema. It can cause hair loss, as it often affects the scalp and makes it flaky, itchy, and red. These symptoms can also make you scratch your head nonstop, further putting you at risk of hair loss.
Seborrheic dermatitis can also occur if your scalp gets exposed to an allergen or toxin. These can include irritants like fragrances and dyes in hair care products.
If your scalp becomes very itchy after trying a product for the first time, discontinue its use. Otherwise, you may end up shedding hair at a faster rate.
8. Hair Dyes
Many hair coloring products come with harsh ingredients that can cause hair damage. Some can even cause allergic reactions, such as paraphenylenediamine (PPD). According to scientists, many dyes contain this allergen, which can cause contact dermatitis.
Dermatitis, as mentioned above, can be bad enough to cause hair loss.
If your scalp starts to itch and flake like crazy after dying your hair, see a dermatologist as soon as you can. Your scalp may have had a severe reaction to the coloring product. You may have to use a medicated shampoo or cream to treat your dermatitis.
9. “Overdoing” Your Hair
The more you bleach your hair, the more its cuticle opens up and becomes exposed. This, in turn, can make your hair brittle, dry, and inelastic. As a result, your strands become more prone to snapping, which can then cause it to lose thickness and volume.
Pair this up with excessive blow-drying, and you’re setting your hair up for even more damage. Blow-drying can affect your hair follicles, too, leading to even more severe dryness. It may not cause direct hair loss, but it can still cause hair thinning as your strands become easy to snap and split.
Know What Causes Hair Loss So You Can Stop Yours From Disappearing
There you have it, your comprehensive guide on what causes hair loss in women. As there are a lot of possible causes, it’s best to see your doctor if you feel that you’re shedding too many strands. This way, you can determine what’s triggering it, and from there, safely address the root of the problem.
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