15 Causes of Hair Loss in Women

It’s true that men are more likely to lose their hair than women, mostly due to male pattern baldness, but thinning hair and hair loss are also common in women, and no less demoralizing. Causes of hair loss in women can range from the simple and temporary — a vitamin deficiency — to the more complex, like an underlying health condition. Read on to learn the causes of hair loss in women.

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1. Physical Stress

Any kind of physical trauma — surgery, a car accident, or a severe illness, even the flu — can cause temporary hair loss in women. This can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair has a programmed life cycle: a growth phase, rest phase and shedding phase. “When you have a really stressful event, it can shock the hair cycle, (pushing) more hair into the shedding phase,” explains Marc Glashofer, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Hair loss often becomes noticeable three-to-six months after the trauma.

2. Anemia

Almost one in 10 women aged 20 through 49 suffers from anemia due to an iron deficiency (the most common type of anemia), which is an easily fixable cause of hair loss in women. Your doctor will have to do a blood test to determine for sure if you have this type of anemia. A simple iron supplement should correct the problem. In addition to hair loss, other symptoms of anemia include fatigue, headache, dizziness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.

3. Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a phenomenon that occurs after pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress, in which you shed large amounts of hair every day, usually when shampooing, styling, or brushing. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

During telogen effluvium, hair shifts faster than normal from its growing phase into the “resting” phase before moving quickly into the shedding, or telogen, phase. Women with telogen effluvium typically notice hair loss 6 weeks to 3 months after a stressful event. At its peak, you may lose handfuls of hair. In some cases, such as pregnancy or major surgery, you may have to bide your time until the hair loss slows. If medication is the culprit, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching drugs. If it’s stress-related, do your best to reduce anxiety. Try these simple tips for relieving stress and worrying.

4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the medical term for having an underactive thyroid gland. This little gland located in your neck produces hormones that are critical to metabolism as well as growth and development and, when it’s not pumping out enough hormones, can contribute to hair loss. Your doctor can do tests to determine the real cause. Synthetic thyroid medication will take care of the problem. Once your thyroid levels return to normal, so should your hair.

5. Alopecia Areata

Researchers believe that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the body attacks itself. In this case, the body attacks its own hair. This causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. People with alopecia areata are often in excellent health. Most people see their hair re-grow. Dermatologists treat people with this disorder to help the hair re-grow more quickly.

6. Lack of Protein

If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, your body may ration protein by shutting down hair growth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This can happen about two to three months after a drop in protein intake, they say. There are many great sources of protein, including fish, meat, and eggs.

7. Anagen Effluvium

Anagen effluvium occurs after any insult to the hair follicle that impairs its mitotic or metabolic activity. This hair loss is commonly associated with chemotherapy. Since chemotherapy targets your body’s rapidly dividing cancer cells, your body’s other rapidly dividing cells such as hair follicles in the growing (anagen) phase, are also greatly affected. Soon after chemotherapy begins approximately 90 percent or more of the hairs can fall out while still in the anagen phase. The characteristic finding in anagen effluvium is the tapered fracture of the hair shafts. The hair shaft narrows as a result of damage to the matrix. Eventually, the shaft fractures at the site of narrowing and causes the loss of hair.

8. Too Much Vitamin A

Over-consuming vitamin A-containing supplements or medications can trigger hair loss in women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The Daily Value for vitamin A is 5,000 International Units (IU) per day for adults and kids over age 4; supplements can contain 2,500 to 10,000 IU. This is a reversible cause of hair loss and once the excess vitamin A is halted, hair should grow normally.

9. Emotional Stress

Emotional stress is less likely to cause hair loss than physical stress, but it can happen, for instance, in the case of divorce, after the death of a loved one, or while caring for an aging parent. More often, though, emotional stress won’t actually precipitate the hair loss. It will exacerbate a problem that’s already there. As with hair loss due to physical stress, this shedding will eventually abate. While it’s not known if reducing stress can help your hair, it can’t hurt either.

10. Extreme Weight Loss

Crash dieting and losing a lot of weight suddenly or too quickly can adversely affect the growth of your hair. This is because, usually these diets deprive your body of essential nutrients or put a ban on eating certain food groups which then impact your hair growth.

11. Hair Appliances

Not all forms of thinning hair are due to loss of the entire strand of hair. Some forms may actually result from hair damage that causes strands of hair to break. Certain hair appliances that use high heat to help style your hair can lead to damaged hair and breakage, which can look like baldness. Damaging hair appliances include blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other devices that apply heat to your hair. These hot hair appliances cause the most damage to your hair when you use them on wet hair, since they actually boil the water in your hair shaft, leaving your hair brittle.

12. Vitamin B Deficiency

Although relatively uncommon in the U.S., low levels of vitamin B are another correctable cause of hair loss in women. Like anemia, simple supplementation should help the problem. So can dietary changes. Find natural vitamin B in fish, meat, starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. As always, eating a balanced diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein and “good” fats such as avocado and nuts will be good for your hair and your overall health.

13. Menopause

A lot of changes take place in a woman’s body once she hits menopause and one of them can be hair fall. This is because estrogen hormone levels are low in the body. They can make the hair dry and also cause hair loss if due care isn’t taken. It is essential to use mild shampoos and condition your mane as well as eat right.

14. Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a type of mental disorder known as an impulse control disorder. In trichotillomania, people feel compelled to impulsively and repeatedly pull out their own hair, which can result in noticeable hair loss. People with trichotillomania experience a constant urge to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, nose, eyebrows, and other areas of their bodies.

15. Heredity

Female pattern hair loss, called androgenic or androgenetic alopecia, is basically the feminine version of male pattern baldness. The American Academy of Dermatology states that the first sign of hair loss for many women is a widening part. Look at your parents and grandparents to see if hair loss and thinning happened to them to help predict if you will be affected the same way.


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