Let’s talk hair loss—yes, it’s an unequivocal bummer, but it’s also something that affects around half of us. Although hair loss is often characterized as more common in men versus women, the fact is, almost as many women experience some degree of hair loss or thinning hair. Most women notice a change in hair thickness in their fifties and sixties—although hair loss and thinning can happen at any age. Here, we’ll discuss common causes of hair loss, along with tried-and-true solutions to help curb hair loss, promote hair growth, and nurse damaged hair back to health again.
How can you tell if your hair is thinning?
For men, it can be easier to assess the onset of baldness or whether their 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 everyone. Here are a few signs to be aware of:
• Seeing more of your scalp when your hair is pulled back or in an updo
• Thinner-feeling ponytail
• More hair left on pillow in the morning than usual
• More hair left in comb or brush bristles than previously noticed
What are some of the common causes of hair loss?
Most hair loss can be attributed to genes, medical reasons, side effects of stress, or damage from styling.
Genetics, or Female Pattern Hair Loss
The most common cause of hair loss in women is referred to as androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata, or female pattern hair loss. These are hereditary conditions which affect approximately 50% of adult women.
Because of the common link to genetics, one way of diagnosing female pattern hair loss is to look to your female relatives. If the women in your family tend to have thinning hair or alopecia, it’s likely that your own hair loss is at least in part 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 can indicate female pattern hair loss. What does this look like at the scalp level? Hair follicles that were once producing healthy hairs start producing thinner, less-dense hairs with more fragile hair shafts.
Hair loss usually becomes more pronounced in your fifties and sixties, though it can happen any time. For 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).
Medical Conditions Related to 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:
1. Pregnancy and postpartum hair loss
2. Thyroid disorder
4. Autoimmune diseases
5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
6. Skin conditions, such as psoriasis
Extreme stress can also trigger hair loss, whether from an intense period of anxiety, or an external stressor like physical trauma. Significant weight loss in a short time may also trigger hair loss, and so can taking too much vitamin A.
Overstyling hair and overprocessing hair treatments can be a factor in hair loss and hair breakage. If braided overly tightly, some tight braiding styles can in some cases cause what is called traction alopecia. Chemical processing, over-brushing, excessive blow-drying or heat styling can also damage hair at the cuticle (protective outer) layer and lead to hair breakage.
Does coloring your hair cause hair loss?
While regular use of hair dye won’t inhibit hair growth, if you are already experiencing hair loss, it may further damage your hair—depending on the ingredients in your hair dye. Hair dye can physically weaken the hair shaft, resulting in an uptick in hair loss that is caused by breakage. So, check out what’s in the box—hair color that contains harsh chemicals like ammonia or hydrogen peroxide will loosen thinning hairs and can cause hair loss. If you’re lightening your hair with a peroxide-based hair dye, breakage at the hair shaft can also occur. So make sure you’re dyeing your hair using ammonia-free hair color
with ingredients that love your hair back.
What are some of the best solutions for hair loss?
Although you can’t change a genetic predisposition for alopecia or hereditary hair loss, and stressful situations can of course arise at any time, there are tried-and-true steps you can take to boost hair growth, help slow or ultimately stop hair loss...and most importantly, regrow those hair follicles and get them healthy again. Let’s get to it! Here are our best tips...
1. 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 into potential side effects, and can identify possible treatments for healthy hair growth.
2. Take a natural, inside/out approach. Much like taking care of your skin, what you put into your body affects the outside, namely healthy hair growth. Talk to your doctor about introducing biotin supplements alongside a diet featuring healthy proteins and good fats like fish, avocados, 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 build hair fibers to help stop the appearance of thinning hair. A zinc deficiency can cause hair shedding, so zinc-rich walnuts are a great snack. Drinking lots of water can also help with scalp and hair health.
3. Manage your stress. We know, this is much easier said than done. But for your mental health as well as your scalp health, try to do the best you can to keep daily stress in check. Get plenty of sleep, meditate, exercise, take a hot bath, or try any other activities that help you stay centered.
Style with care. Limit the amount of heat styling you put your hair through, as that can create more damage and put a stop to hair growth. Also, choose ammonia-free hair dyes, products that are gentle on your scalp, and hair care free of ingredients that could cause further hair loss. Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
, and make sure your styling products protect your hair from environmental stressors. Extra TLC for those hair follicles is the name of the game, people!
5. Ask a professional. Here’s one of our very best tips to get hair that instantly feels thicker and fuller. If you feel like you’re experiencing any degree of hair loss or hair thinning, speak up to your stylist the next time you go in for a cut. They’ll likely recommend styling your hair in a new, different way to minimize the visibility of thinning hair follicles. Lots of cuts or styles can help create the illusion of thicker locks, and a trim always cuts down on hair breakage.
Do you have any tips or tricks for hair loss that we didn’t include here? We also love the idea of sleeping on a silk pillowcase to prevent breakage of hair fibers, or treating your hair to a gentle scalp massage once a week. We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments...