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Female hair loss: what to look out for

Female hair loss: what to look out for

We shed hair every day, and it’s rarely noticeable, unless we start to lose more of it than normal. It can damage a lot of people's confidence when this happens. Often, it’s completely natural. Hair loss happens as our hair gets thinner with age.

However, when women lose hair it can be linked to certain health conditions. We’re going to outline some conditions on this page. There are lots of conditions related to female hair thinning that may not be cause for concern.

Daniel Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Reviewer
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What causes hair loss in women?

The causes of thinning hair in women can vary. Your hair loss can be so minimal that you hardly even notice it. In this case, it’s unlikely that you’ll try to find out what caused it, especially if it quickly returns to normal.

If your hair loss is concerning you, then researching what causes thinning hair in women can be really helpful. Sometimes having a little more information on a subject can help us to feel more confidently about it. Below are some of the most common causes of female hair loss:

PCOS is a condition that causes a woman’s body to produce more androgens than it should. An androgen is basically a male hormone. It can cause hair loss and hair thinning when it is overproduced in women. PCOS can also cause weight gain, acne, and extra facial and body hair.

Your thyroid is a gland in the front of your neck. It secretes thyroid hormones which are needed to support your body’s function. It’s thought that too much or too little of this hormone can lead to hair loss in women. When the thyroid secretes too many hormones, the result is hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid. The thyroid can also be underactive and fail to secrete enough thyroid hormones. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Thankfully it’s easily diagnosed and treatments are available to help relieve symptoms.

Alopecia is the medical term for baldness. You can identify it by round patches of hair loss around the scalp and areas of the body. Your missing hair will usually grow back within six months to one year. Depending on the severity of your alopecia, you might not even notice. Less than 5% of people lose all of the hair on their head. If you lose all of your hair due to alopecia, then this becomes a different condition known as alopecia totalis.

Having a child can be one of the most amazing experiences in the world, but it can sometimes cause unexpected effects on your health. You might attribute this hair loss to the stress of having a newborn baby in the house, but it can actually be due to hormonal changes. When you give birth it can lead to your estrogen levels dropping. Since hormonal changes are linked to hair loss, the change in estrogen levels can lead to your hair falling out. You’ll usually see these effects around four months after childbirth.

The good news is that your hair should go back to normal after one to two years. Using over the counter hair and conditioner treatment can help but you may just need to give it some time.

Emotional stress can cause hair loss in both men and women. Hair loss as a result of stress is referred to as ‘telogen effluvium’. High stress levels can push your hair follicles into a resting phase. After a few months these hairs might begin to fall out when you complete simple tasks like brushing or washing your hair.

Stress can have serious health implications and you should always speak to a doctor if you feel like you’re getting too stressed.

Certain medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. Like with stress, they can affect your hair follicles and force them into a resting phase. Birth control tablets and antidepressants are known for having this effect sometimes. If you feel like your medication is causing hair loss then it’s worth speaking with your clinician. It’s likely that there’s another type of treatment you can use to help you with your condition, while keeping your head full of hair.

Hair loss has been associated with not getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Because of this it’s important that you try and include a variety of different fruits and vegetables in your diet, as these can help provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals to keep your hair nice and healthy. Another thing you can do to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins is to take supplements. Most vitamin supplements can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or your local supermarket. (We do, however, ask that you speak to your clinician before you start taking any over-the-counter supplements.)

Certain dyes and hairstyles can have a negative effect on your hair follicles. The chemicals in strong hair dyes can damage hair follicles and wear them down over time. Eventually, they’ll cause your hair to thin and fall out.

Another way that hairstyles can damage your hair is through traction alopecia. Traction alopecia happens when your hair is placed under a lot of tension. This is common in hairstyles like ponytails and cornrows. Wearing hats, scarves and bandanas on your head can have a similar effect. You can avoid this by letting your hair hang loose. We understand that this isn’t always convenient, but regularly letting your hair down will help to keep it nice and healthy.

Smoking is known to cause various health conditions. Over the years many clinical trials have been carried out to test the effects of smoking on people’s physical appearance. Results have shown that people who regularly smoke tend to look older than they are.

Smoking affects your hair’s follicular growth cycle and pigmentation. In other words, it causes your hair to thin and fall out. Quitting smoking can be hard. If you feel that you need assistance with this then you can contact your clinician for help.

How to stop hair loss in women

Can female hair loss be reversed? It depends. It’s hard to treat hair loss, or any condition if you don’t know what’s causing it. We’ve outlined a few reasons above, but it could still be linked to another medical issue. Speak with your clinician about your lifestyle and symptoms. They’ll be able to give you a better idea of the cause. If it’s something as simple as a lifestyle change, then you might be able to reverse the effects quite quickly.

What hair loss treatments for women are available?

There are plenty of hair loss products for women on the market. However, you should be careful when picking one. Certain treatments that work for men can have adverse effects on women, and vice versa.

One of the most well known male hair treatments is Finasteride. It’s shown to have highly positive effects on hair growth, but it can come with some negative effects. It typically takes a higher dose for women to notice a positive impact on their hair. There aren’t many clinical trials available for Finasteride being used as a hair loss product for women. The full effects that Finasteride can have on women aren’t fully known. There have been some reports of Finasteride causing reduced sex drive, irregular menstruation, acne, headache, dizziness, folliculitis, and increased body hair growth.

For alternative forms of hair loss solutions for women, contact your clinician. They’ll be able to help you find a treatment that’s both safe and effective.

What are the best supplements for hair loss in females

Like all parts of your body, your hair needs the right nutrients to stay healthy and grow. Hair loss and hair thinning has been linked to the deficiency of natural supplements, like vitamins.

The main deficiencies have been linked to vitamins A, B, C, D and E. If you feel that you’re deficient in any of these vitamins, then it should be quite an easy fix. You can buy many vitamin tablets over the counter, or try to include more of them in your daily diet. Iron, zinc and protein have also been linked to a healthy head of hair. For protein, you’re better off including more white meats in your diet. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, then you can find protein in foods such as tofu, nuts, and peas.

How to prevent hair loss in women

Some of the causes of hair loss mentioned above may be outside of your control. Alopecia and hormonal changes during pregnancy are hard to prevent.

However, there are certain steps that you can take before seeking medical attention. A healthy balanced diet is a big one. It will help you to get more of the nutrients that your hair needs to look full and shiny. It’ll also help you to stay healthy all-round. Stopping smoking is another thing you can do that’ll be beneficial to both your hair and body.

Finally, consider the way that you style your hair. You might be quite happy with your style, but it's worth looking at whether or not it’s causing your hair harm. Be mindful of the chemicals that you’re using on it and try to avoid any prolonged periods where it’s held under a lot of tension.care-icon

If you’re concerned about your hair loss, and would like to speak with an expert, our clinicians are on hand to help. We might also be able to point you towards some treatments or supplements that can help you out.

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When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

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