Although hair loss is often characterized as more common in males, almost as many women as men experience some degree of thinning hair. Most women notice a change in hair thickness in their fifties and sixties, although hair loss can happen at any age. In this post, we’ll discuss causes of hair loss as well as some solutions to help curb this common condition.
How to Spot Thinning Hair
For men, it can be easier to assess whether one’s hair is thinning, as men tend to lose hair in a common, recognizable pattern. For women, discovering thinning hair can be a bit more challenging, as it happens differently for most women. Here are a few signs:
- Widening of the part
- More scalp visible when hair is pulled back
- Thinner ponytail
- More hair on pillow in the morning than usual
- More hair left in comb or brush bristles than previously noticed
Common Causes of Hair Loss
Most hair loss can be attributed to genes, medical reasons, or stress.
Female Pattern Hair Loss
The most common cause of hair loss in women is referred to as androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss. This is a hereditary condition, and affects approximately 50% of adult women.
Because of the common link to genetics, one way of diagnosing female pattern hair loss is to observe the hair of female relatives. If the women in your family tend to have thinning hair, it’s likely that your own hair loss is hereditary. Doctors can take a closer look at your hair follicles using magnification, and if there are varied hair follicle sizes—some thick, some thin—that’s a further indication of female pattern hair loss.
This condition usually becomes more pronounced in your fifties and sixties, though it can happen any time. In people who do not experience hair loss, their hair sheds and is replaced with a new follicle of the same size. Women who have androgenetic alopecia, however, experience new hairs that are finer and thinner than their previous hair, signifying shrinking follicles (producing thinner hair) that may ultimately stop growing (creating hair loss).
Aside from female pattern hair loss, the most common cause is an underlying medical condition. Doctors can tell the difference between this type of hair loss and female pattern hair loss because hair follicles will be uniform in size. There is a range of different medical conditions that can contribute to hair loss, most commonly:
- Pregnancy and postpartum hair loss
- Thyroid disorder
- Autoimmune diseases
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Skin conditions, such as psoriasis
Extreme stress can also trigger hair loss, whether it is an intense period of anxiety or an external stressor such as a physical trauma. Significant weight loss in a short time may trigger hair loss, as can taking too much vitamin A.
Over styling and processing hair can be a factor in hair loss. Cornrows and other tight braiding styles can cause what is called traction alopecia. Chemical processing, over-brushing and heat styling can also damage hair, ultimately leading to breakage.
Solutions for Hair Loss
Although you can’t change your genes, there are steps you can take to help slow or ultimately stop hair loss.
See a dermatologist. If you’re experiencing hair loss, the most important thing to do is identify the cause. A dermatologist will ultimately be able to provide more insight, and can identify possible treatments.
Take an inside/out approach. Much like taking care of your skin, what you put into your body affects the outside, namely the health of your hair. Talk to your doctor about introducing biotin supplements alongside a diet of healthy proteins like fish and eggs. Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) and B vitamins (like fruits and vegetables). Foods packed with vitamin E (almonds, strawberries) and vitamin C (citrus, broccoli) help promote circulation, which your scalp needs to grow hair. A zinc deficiency can cause hair shedding, so zinc-rich walnuts are a great snack. Staying on top of hydration is also great for your scalp and hair.
Manage your stress. Constant stress and anxiety causes your cortisol levels to spike, which can lead to increased hair shedding, weight gain, and acne. Try your best to keep your stress in check by getting regular sleep, meditating, exercising, or other activities that help you stay centered.
Style thoughtfully. Limit the amount of heat styling you put your hair through, and choose products that are gentle, made from ingredients you can feel good about. Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, and make sure your styling products protect your hair from environmental stressors.
If you feel that you’re experiencing any degree of hair loss, be sure to mention it to your stylist the next time you go in for a cut. He or she might recommend styling your hair in a new way to minimize the visibility. Luckily, thinning hair isn’t a done deal. There are many steps you can take to look–and feel–your most confident, beautiful best.