Reasons for female hair loss – and what women can do about it

Do you ever worry about your hair falling out? A normal amount of shedding involves the loss of around 50-100 hairs per day. This sounds like a lot, but you have around 100,000 hair follicles if your scalp is healthy, so it’s actually nothing to worry about.

However, if you’re losing significantly more than this, there may be an underlying issue. The reason for your hair loss could be genetic, environmental, or medical. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common causes of female hair loss and what you can do if you’re afflicted.

Genetic hair loss

Many of us inherit our hair color, thickness, and texture from our parents. And the team at All Things Hair has found out that we also inherit our mothers’ styles. Their research found that 28.5% of women report that wearing their hair naturally is the go-to hairstyle that they inherited from their mums. 12.7% of women opt for curls, based on their mother’s style, while 11.3% go for a ponytail.

Unfortunately, female pattern baldness is also something that can be passed down from mother to daughter. If your hair is thinning at an alarming rate, talk to your mum about the changes that her hair went through as she grew older. If she suffered thinning around her parting, widening of the parting, or thinning throughout her hair, it could be that the same will happen to you.

Environmental factors

Research into environmental causes of hair loss, in both men and women, still has a long way to go. However, a number of studies have produced some interesting findings. A study of people losing their hair by YouGov, for example, found that people living in the UAE were more likely to suffer from hair loss than those living in other locations. Environmental factors such as weather conditions or desalinated water could potentially be behind the findings, though further research is needed to determine this.

Pollution, radiation, and herbicides can also contribute to excessive hair loss, so be sure to consider environmental factors if you’re trying to identify why you’re shedding hairs at an alarming rate.

Medical reasons for hair loss

There are plenty of physiological reasons for hair loss too. Everything from bulimia to cancer to high blood pressure can cause hair to fall out at a faster rate than normal. As such, if you’re experiencing hair loss and can’t identify either a genetic or an environmental cause, it might be worth investigating any potential medical causes.

Stress tends to be one of the first reasons that leap to mind when the topic of unexplained hair loss comes up. Stress can throw your hormone levels out of whack, which can, in turn, lead to hair loss. It can also cause you to change your eating habits significantly. Do you tend to skip meals when you’re super stressed or do you reach straight for the junk food? Either way, your hair could be bearing the brunt of your stress-induced behavior.

On the subject of food, extreme dieting can also lead to hair loss. Nutritional deficiencies – in particular, a deficit of iron and/or vitamin B12 – can play havoc with your body, including your hair. So if you’re crash dieting, keep a close eye on the levels of vitamins you’re consuming, and remember that vitamin supplements, while better than nothing, should not be considered a worthy substitute for dietary vitamins.

Nor is it just crash dieting that can be the cause of such deficiencies. If you’ve recently become vegetarian or vegan (and the planet will thank you if you have), then be sure to pay careful attention to the amount of iron and B12 in your diet in order to avoid any diet-related hair loss.

There can be other, entirely natural medical causes for hair loss. Pregnancy and childbirth are prime examples of this. Your hormones will be working overtime throughout pregnancy and following the birth of your child. For some women, this leads to hair loss, in much the same way that excessive stress can.

The first trimester of a pregnancy is a time of huge adjustment, as the body diverts resources to the new life growing inside. One impact of this is that more hair than usual can go into the “resting” phase known as telogen. Normally, 5-10% of the hair is in that phase, but that can increase to as much as 30% during pregnancy. This can lead to women finding that their hair thins while they are expecting, but the change is not permanent, and the hair should return to normal within around six months.

Hair loss can also occur after a woman gives birth, usually between two and six months of doing so, but this can also tie in with when she stops breastfeeding. Again, the loss is temporary and should last no more than about six months.

How to slow or prevent hair loss

There are various steps you can take to prevent hair loss, depending on the cause. Minoxidil, for example, is a medication used to treat female pattern baldness (it was actually created to treat high blood pressure but found to stimulate regrowth where hair had been lost). For dietary-related hair loss, vitamin supplements may help, as can a closer focus on the consumption of dietary vitamins. And, of course, pregnancy is something that runs its natural course, including the hair-related aspects of it.

There are plenty of “solutions” out there if you’re experiencing hair loss, from expensive supplements and tonics to Low-Level Light Therapy headsets that promise to prevent further hair loss and stimulate regrowth. Some work and some don’t. Before you hand over a small fortune on a speculative solution, try to pinpoint the precise reason for your hair loss, or at least the likely cause. That way, you can refine how you plan to tackle your specific situation, rather than taking a chance on a ‘miracle cure.’