Female Hair Loss 101

Although hair loss is often considered primarily a concern for men, hair loss in women is more common than many of us believe. In fact, women make up 40% of hair loss sufferers in the United States.

In most cultures, long, flowing hair is traditionally been associated with femininity. Because of this, losing hair can be especially emotionally devastating for females. Even worse, we often suffer in silence because of shame and lack of knowledge about treatment choices.

As with all conditions, however, being well-informed is key. Did you know that there are multiple causes of female hair loss? Keep reading to learn about some of them, as well as tips on how to stop hair loss in women.

1. Stress

Most of us know that stress is terrible for the body. Not all of us know, however, that extreme stress is actually one of the most common female hair loss types. Both physical and emotional stress can lead to this symptom.

Hair has a programmed life cycle of growth, rest, and shedding. Any sort of trauma can shock this cycle and push it into the shedding phrase. Hair loss may not appear for up to six months after the trauma.

Emotionally traumatic events, like a divorce of death of loved one, affect the body similarly. In these cases, however, the emotional event often exacerbates a problem that is already dormant. The good news about this type of hair loss in women will usually stop once the trauma is over. The bad news is that trauma is rarely “over” and can require years of emotional unwinding through therapy, meditation, and other self-care practices.

Read more about stress and hair loss on this blog here.

Consider a hair loss treatment with nutritional resources as well as ingredients targeted at stress in women. As one example, I have had great luck taking Nutrafol.

2. Medication Side Effects

Even though we take medicine to solve problems, some medicines may actually cause different ones. This is all too common with the side effect of hair loss.

Drugs used for depression, heart problems, cancer, high blood pressure, and arthritis may all lead to hair loss. Take the time to read through the symptoms of your specific medications, and if hair loss is listed as a symptom, consider speaking with your physician about alternative treatments.

Excessive Vitamin A is actually a known cause of female hair loss. Despite the benefits of the vitamin, overdoing your intake can lead to baldness. Fortunately, this is reversible. Once the excess Vitamin A is halted, hair should return to normal.

Chemotherapy is commonly known to cause hair loss, and many readers of this blog who have experienced chemotherapy-related hair loss find recovery in my protocol for hair growth.

Another common medication that causes hair loss is medication to treat thyroid disorders. You can read more about my experience with that here.

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3. Contraceptives

One of the most common female hair loss types stems from a medication many of us take on a daily basis – birth control.

The pill suppresses ovulation by affecting the body’s supply of estrogen and progestin. For women that are hypersensitive to hormonal changes, this can lead to hair loss while on the pill. More commonly, the woman will experience hair loss several weeks or months after she stops taking the pill.

For the most part, oral contraceptives are safe for women. Low androgen index pills are the best. However, if you have a family history of hair loss, you should think about using another non-hormonal birth control option, such as a diaphragm, or meticulous tracking of your ovulation cycle.

4. DHT Excess

For many years, scientists believed that testosterone was the cause of baldness. New research shows, however, that the real culprit is DHT, a derivative of the hormone testosterone. To put it simply, DHT seeks to kill hair follicles by binding to receptors in the scalp. This, in turn, causes baldness.

Excessive DHT affects both men and women. While it’s true that DHT shows up in larger quantities in men, even a small amount can cause a problem. Hormones work best when in balance, so if female hormones are outnumbered by excessive DHT hormones, hair loss can occur.

Before blaming DHT for your falling strands, make sure to rule out other causes of female hair loss, as explored in this list.

Luckily, there are many effective DHT blocking shampoos and serums to choose from. Read more about a great DHT blocking shampoo here, and an awesome DHT blocking serum here.

Known potent DTH blockers include Saw Palmetto, Rosemary, and amazingly, caffeine. Many shampoos and serums are now engineered to include caffeine.

5. Hormonal Shifts

As mentioned in regards to birth control, changes in hormones can wreak havoc on your hair. One of the biggest hormonal changes for women is the cycle of pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery from childbirth. As hormones shift during the pregnancy, many women actually experience thicker hair than normal. Postpartum, however, much of that hair starts to fall out- this is one of the most common hair loss causes for women.

Hair can revert normal in a few months after the body has had a chance to bring hormone levels back to normal. It’s no guarantee, however, and hair loss treatments recommended here can help the body normalize and combat hair loss.

6. Genetics

Unfortunately, if you come from a family where women begin to lose their hair at a certain age, the same thing may happen to you. The condition is called androgenic alopecia, the female version of male pattern baldness. Female hair loss is less likely to present as a receding hairline and more likely to appear as a widening part and overall thinning of hair.

Androgenic alopecia can be treated with low level laser therapy. The cause is not excessive DHT, so DHT blockers are not the proper treatment.

7. Lack of Protein and Iron

How to stop hair loss in women? Commit to eating a diet designed to keep hair strong and healthy.

One of the most common dietary deficiencies for women is protein. If your diet doesn’t include enough protein, the body begins rationing it, shutting down hair growth. This also happens when the body is lacking in iron, which is true for 1 in 10 women between the ages of 20 and 49.

To combat this, make sure to prioritize protein. Meat, fish, and eggs are all great sources. If you’re anemic, or iron-deficient, a diet rich in meats and leafy greens will help. Alternatively, you can invest in a simple iron supplement.

8. Hairstyles & Hair Styling techniques

If you consistently pull your hair tight into the same hairstyle, this could be the cause of your hair loss. Known as traction alopecia, this occurs when the same hair follicles are constantly stressed.

Pigtails and cornrows are known stressors and causes of traction alopecia. If you continue to style your hair in same way, scalp scarring could occur and hair loss could be permanent.

The solution is simple – switch up your hairstyle. Try to let hair grow naturally as it recovers.

Avoid hot oil treatments, perms, and blow-outs as well, as they can lead to inflammation of the hair follicle. If you MUST blow dry, get a high quality blow dryer with a diffuser, which takes some of the stress and impact off of the follicles.

So, What’s the Treatment?

With so many causes for hair loss in women, it’s hard to pinpoint just one treatment technique that will work for all.

But, there’s only one path that leads to healthy, long-lasting results:

Natural.

There are dozens of hair loss treatments on the market, ranging from prescription (Propecia) to over-the-counter (Rogaine and Nizoral).

And what do they all have in common?

Chemicals!

The unnatural approach of the above-mentioned products may provide you with short-term results, but they won’t treat the real problem.

This is why I recommend you use only natural products – those without chemicals or preservatives. They can treat the underlying cause of hair loss, while also giving you the visible results you want.

Are you ready to begin?

Check out Grogenix line of hair loss treatment products, including Caffeine Shampoo and Scalp Elixir.

The preservative-free products will provide results without the irritation common with chemical-laden ones.

WHEW! That was a long rundown of female hair loss causes. As you can see, there are many contributing factors. Rarely does hair loss occur with just one of these in isolation.

If your hair has just started to fallout, there is hope. Take steps to treat and reinvigorate your follicles, be patient, and be persistent!

Questions, thoughts, comments, observations, or ideas? As always, I love to hear about your experiences and welcome all feedback. Thanks for reading!

30 thoughts on “Female Hair Loss 101

  1. Wow, this is a great article, but scary at the same time. I was aware that stress, genetics, hairstyles and medication side effects could cause you to lose your hair but now I have to worry about other things. I will have to make sure I keep my iron and protein in check. I really love your site not only do you give us great reviews on products useful for our situations but you provide us information to help us understand why we may be having these problems. Thank you so much!

    • Thanks for the great feedback, Melissa! I definitely didn’t mean to inspire anxiety about all the risks for hair loss!!! BUt yeah, sadly, a lot goes into the picture. Knowledge is power!

  2. Blown away. This post was written for ME because my life is so incredibly stressful that it is no surprise that I am experiencing hair loss. In addition to my financial stress, my dad passed away about a year ago, and I am still recovering from that. Plus, to add insult to injury, I take levothyroxine for my thyroid issues, and my doc doesn’t think that the naturally desicated hormone is the right thing to take, so she took me off. I tried Biotin, but that didn’t help and I noticed that my fingernails are splitting and very thin. Not sure what the answer is at this point, but your post makes me see that I am not alone, and that perhaps there are some solutions I have not otherwise considered. Thanks…!

    • I am glad that the post spoke to you and so sorry to hear about everything you’ve been doing through with your grief, and that blasted thyroid. There are lots of solutions, I encourage you to poke around and check out my Protocol page. I also didn’t have much luck taking any treatments in isolation, but in combination I’ve been able to come out of some nasty stress and levothyroxine related hair loss!

      • Have you found a doctor to prescribe Armour? The Synthroid has made my already thinning hair very brittle but only naturopaths (that don’t take insurance) are the ones open to prescribing it.

        • Hi Sarah – an endocrinologist told me to not take Armour because there is simply no way to regulate how much hormone is in each individual dessicated pig gland. So the dosing is wildly inconsistent. I’ve stuck with synthroid and levo since hearing this advice. You’re right, only naturopaths will prescribe it…

          • Ahh so we’re in the same boat. Thanks for getting back to me. I hate that it’s changed my hair 🙁 Have you notice any change in your appetite since you started taking it?

          • I started taking it when I was 11, and I’m 36 now! Thyroid meds are finicky. What I do notice is if I forget to take them or run out, the depression and lethargy kicks in quickly. Not something to mess around with, for sure. there are a ton of strategies you can use to thicken and regrow, let me know if you have any specific questions. I recommend you read my Protocol page for starters!!

  3. I had no idea that stress literally causes hair loss. Not sure how that was linked in a way, but man our bodies can be so weird at times. This was some great insight. Thank you.

  4. I had no idea that hair loss may not appear for up to six months after a trauma… This comes as a surprise but sure helps understand a lot.
    Also, I appreciate the information on how important it is to keep protein and iron levels. I’m going to tell my daughters to pay special attention to their diets and the intake of meat, fish, and eggs.
    Thanks!

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your feedback! It’s kinda crazy how trauma can have lingering effects on our bodies and minds!!

  5. oof it doesn’t seem like the most satisfying way to lose hair, especially through stress. Which I imagine would cause some women more stress because their hairs falling out!

    I imagine some products would also cause some damage, would there be any particular hair products to watch out for?

    • Hi Jeremy, thanks so much for reading! I tend to avoid all hair products which contain sulfates, because they are particularly irritating to me. Others avoid products that involve dyes and artificial fragrances and alcohol.

  6. Hi Penelope, this is excellent information to get out there. I think lots of women don’t really want to admit to themselves that their hair is changing as they age. This site provides wonderful information to demystify all of this, and hopefully give women some confidence to learn more and take some action. I was unaware that iron and protein had an impact on hair loss, so that’s something I’m going to check. It’s great to know there are ways that hair loss can be managed and reduced with the right knowledge and persistence. Thanks for your site.

    • Thanks for the great feedback! I’m right there with you, I think a lot of women are not on alert over the possibility of hair loss, let alone steps they can take to keep it at bay. I’m glad you got something from the post!

  7. Right when I can pinpoint my hair loss, it makes me wonder if it could be a combination of factors. I know my prescription is the largest culprit, but looks like it could be excess DHT, hormones, and even a lack of iron. Your articles are always such a great resource for me. Thanks to your website, I am seeing all kinds of new hairs coming in! Yay!

    • I am SO happy to hear that you’re seeing results from the protocol! Thanks for the feedback, and keep checking back with updates!!

  8. This is a superb and informative post every woman should read. I agree with the reasons of hair fall you have mentioned. a couple of my friends using contraceptive pills experience a lot of hair fall. I really like all the information you have shared, when we talk about hair fall and remedies and treatments, the first name came into my mind is Penelope. I am a regular reader of your articles.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mary! I agree, contraception makes our lives so complicated. Why can’t they just invent the male birth control pill, huh??!

  9. Hi Penelope,
    That is one helpful article.
    I recently started to lose hair and was wondering why. Now I am thinking of it and I believe a couple of factors might be the cause.
    Recently I was going through a lot of stress, so this might be the big one. Not sure how I can mitigate it, but I will have to for my well-being.
    Another one is dieting. I recently switched diets and I think my body must be adjusting still. I will try to add more supplements and see if it helps.
    I have never known that contraceptives might play a big role in hair loss. On the other hand, most of them change women hormonal balance (almost like in menopause), then it does make sense.
    Thank you again for a very valuable post.

    • Hi Anna, thanks so much for your feedback and sharing your experience with hair loss. Sometimes we have to act like a detective, combing back through our pasts for any changes, and now that you can see all of them laid out, usually multiple factors are involved!! Luckily, there are solutions!

  10. It’s scary realizing that there is multiple reasons why i might be losing hair 🙁 where to even start?
    Well one thing for sure is that thanks to your tips and a few products i tried I have seen a lot of improvement, thank you Penelope!
    Is it true that high ponytail can cause major hair loss? A friend of mine that loved styling her hair up told me she noticed increased hair loss, even some bald spots…

    • Hi Anne! If the high ponytail is tight, it can put a lot of stress on the “weight bearing” follicles, and yes, lead to hair loss. I try to keep my buns and ponytails loose and at the nape of my neck, or loosly clipped on the lower part of my scalp. Otherwise, it’s just too risky to undo all my growth progress….

  11. The role of contraceptives in hair loss cannot be over-emphasized. I wasn’t even remotely aware of it until recently. The do a number of our hormones for sure. I see you also mention hormonal shifts as a cause. They probably go hand in hand to give a double dose of possible hair loss.
    This is essential info for all contraceptive users because our bodies react differently to the exact same drugs. Best thing to do is to know and understand one’s body. That way you can catch any change in time, and nip it in the bud before it becomes a monster.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Yemi! It’s crazy how disruptive our hormonal shifts and hormonal medications can be…and our heads pay the price!!

  12. I will definitely be sharing this on facebook because so many people will benefit from reading this excellent information.
    I was aware that stress could affect hair loss but i had no idea about contraception or hairstyles!
    The other day I had my hair in a ponytail all day and when i took it out i could feel that my scalp was hurting so this makes so much sense,
    I def need to switch it up now and again with my hair styles and i will thanks to this post 🙂
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Colleen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I agree with you, it’s kinda crazy just how many things cause hair loss. I’m sorry to hear of the discomfort but kinda glad to get the proof of the tight ponytail causing damage! 🙂

  13. Excellent information on reasons for hair loss. The dreaded stress has gotten to my hair numerous times. It’s great to know that your site offers so many remedies for thinning hair. So many things can wreak havoc on our hair and bodies…

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your feedback, Tammy! I know, stress is a monster that wreaks so much damage in our lives…we all need to be sleeping on lavender pillows and getting daily massages!!

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