A Common And Disturbing Problem – Most women experience varying degrees of hair loss at some point in their lives. Even a mild change in hair texture, pattern, or fullness can be psychologically devastating. Over 30 million women in the US suffer from hair loss. The way you look can have a dramatic effect on the way you feel. If you are reading this then you most likely have cause for concern. Maybe a family member or friend is struggling with hair loss and you want to be proactive or you are looking for answers regarding your own situation. Here are some of the most common causes and things that can be done to stop hair loss in women. I hope you will find the answer and solution you seek in this article.
Causes Of Hair Loss
Female-pattern hair loss is different than what happens with men. While men lose hair in predefined areas, hair loss in women is typically more evenly spread out on the scalp. Hair loss can be difficult to notice at first or may happen quickly. In any event, it should always be taken seriously. Finding the problem can often require a bit of research, detective work, patience, and tenacity. Remember that your solution may involve a combination of factors. If you cannot find a solution that gives you adequate results then consult a qualified healthcare professional, like a dermatologist or hair care specialist. Begin by considering these common causes.
Inheritance – If you have female-pattern hair loss (also called androgenic alopecia) in your family and you are beginning to experience hair thinning then your problem might be, at least in part, genetic. This becomes more common with age and during or after menopause. The earlier you identify and begin to treat this type of hair loss, the more successful you will be.
Stress & Anxiety – Stress and anxiety make everything worse and hair loss is no exception. Poor sleep habits or sleep deprivation can prevent your body from performing the healing and restorative activities that are involved in proper hair health and maintenance. If you pull or twirl your hair constantly in one spot (trichotillomania) then you may develop thinning or baldness in that area.
Diet & Nutrition – Diets that result in rapid weight loss (typically greater than 5 pounds/week) or involve a regimen of generally poor nutrition can result in hair loss. Anorexia and bulimia can cause severe deficiencies of protein, minerals, and vitamins; all of which are necessary for normal hair growth and hair follicle structure. Eat a nutritionally balanced diet and consider adding a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Aging Process – As your body ages your hair may lose its natural oil and become dry, brittle, and thin. Your hair follicles may also become less able to support proper hair structure and growth. Aging can also decrease scalp blood circulation and cause a variety of hair problems. Cigarette smoking and certain medical conditions, like diabetes or peripheral artery disease, can make this worse. Use a high-quality shampoo and conditioner designed to rejuvenate and fortify damaged hair.
Hormonal Changes – Female hormonal changes typically begin at the start of menopause or shortly thereafter. During this time the body produces decreased levels of estrogen with a relative increased effect of testosterone on hair growth (yes, testosterone is normally made in the female body in small amounts). Depending on your particular medical situation, estrogen replacement by a qualified healthcare professional may be indicated. Pregnancy can also cause hormonal changes that can result in temporary hair loss.
Illness & Medical Conditions – Women who are generally ill or significantly underweight can experience hair loss. There are a variety of diseases that can contribute to hair loss including underactive or overactive thyroid, a low iron level, autoimmune disorders, chronic inflammation, fungal infections, and diabetes. If you generally are not feeling well or are experiencing particular concerning symptoms it is important to get a proper medical evaluation, since your hair loss could be a manifestation of a more serious underlying illness. For a more complete list, see Wikipedia’s article on hair loss.
Medications – Medications that treat a variety of conditions can cause hair loss or thinning. Here are some examples of medications used to treat specific problems that are frequent offenders.
- High Cholesterol: Statin medications – Atorvastatin (Lipitor) and Simvastatin (Zocor)
- High Blood Pressure: Beta Blockers – Metoprolol (Lopressor) and Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Ace Inhibitors – Lisinopril (Zestril & Prinivil) and Enalapril (Vasotec)
- Anxiety and Depression (Mood Stabilizers): Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Immunosuppressant Therapy For Autoimmune Disorders (like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupis): Etanercept (Enbrel) and Leflunomide (Arava)
- Cancer Chemotherapy: Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and Cisplatin (Platinol)- Hair loss is usually temporary
Diet To The Rescue
A healthy and nutritionally complete diet is one of the cornerstones of good hair health. I cannot overemphasize the importance of eating a proper meal three times a day. Breakfast should always be well-planned and nutritionally complete since it is typically the longest period between meals. Keep yourself well-hydrated to prevent scalp dryness but check with your healthcare provider for guidance if you have fluid-retention problems. Always incorporate high-quality proteins into your meals, like quinoa, tofu, fish, chicken, and lean meat. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and vegetables are also important.
Consider consuming dietary supplements, especially if your meal planning is not ideal. A high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement is sufficient to promote hair growth in most cases, although it may be necessary to target certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acid supplements if your diet is nutritionally poor. Vitamin C, B12, and D are good choices. Some studies indicate that too much Vitamin A may have a harmful effect on hair growth. Helpful mineral supplements can include iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. L-Lysine and L-Methionine are amino acids that can benefit hair, skin, and nail health.
Be Kind To Your Hair And Scalp
It is important not to traumatize your hair and scalp, especially as you continue to get older. If you have a medical condition that can affect your nutrition or hair growth directly then you may need to pay particular attention to the way you treat your hair. Keeping your hair cut short while you are correcting the problem will make it easier to care for it gently and minimize hair breakage.
Here are some tips that can help you avoid unnecessary hair damage:
- Avoid using too much traction or pulling on your hair. Use a comb with wide teeth. If you must use a hairbrush then do so slowly and gently. If you see a lot of hair stuck in your comb or brush then you are doing something wrong.
- Minimize the use of hairdryers and curling irons and use them on low-heat settings. Frequent use of hair dryers can dry out your hair and make it brittle.
- Prolonged sun exposure can also dry out your hair and scalp. The sun’s heat and ultraviolet radiation can be excessively damaging over time, especially if you have dark hair, which can absorb more of the sunlight’s rays. Always wear a hat that completely covers your head and hair if you plan on being outdoors in opens areas for long periods of time.
- Avoid frequent use of chemical treatments such as bleaching or straightening agents. They can damage the protein structure of your hair and make it easier to break.
- Hard water can dry and damage your hair over time by causing surface deposition of minerals like calcium and barium. It can also make your hair care products less effective. If your water is excessively hard then consider investing in a water softening system, especially if you have well water.
- Always use a high-quality shampoo and conditioner. Consider using a deep conditioning treatment, especially if you are applying heat and chemicals to your hair.
- Essential oils that contain lavender, cedarwood, rosemary, and carrot seed can help speed up hair growth.
- A scalp massage can help remove excess dandruff and improve circulation to your scalp. Ask your hairstylist to incorporate a scalp massage into your routine visits. If you massage your own scalp then do so using a gentle method.
Chill Out, Whenever You Can
Almost all hair loss or thinning is associated somehow with a component of anxiety. The anxiety can be chronic or brought on by the hair loss itself, or both. Anxiety and depression can have a negative effect on your eating habits and lead to poor nutrition, which can further worsen the problem. You should not automatically assume that anxiety and stress are the sole cause of the problem. Be sure to investigate all other possibilities to provide yourself with the best possible solution.
Here are some of the things you can do to improve the situation:
- Always try to put aside a small part of each day for yourself. Use this time to do the things you enjoy most and as an escape from the things that annoy you most. Find a quiet and peaceful environment that is easy to access during a typical day.
- If you have a stressful job or home life, try to take vacations on a regular basis. A “getaway” vacation may be the most therapeutic option if you have a lot of people that typically rely on you as a provider or problem-solving resource.
- Address sleep issues by optimizing your sleep environment. Sleep aids, like an eye mask or a sleep machine, might be helpful. For further information see Natural Ways To Help With Sleep.
- Exercise as much as you can, which is a great way to relieve stress and may improve your quality of sleep.
- Try meditation or relaxation exercises like yoga and tai chi
- Biofeedback is an excellent way to control your breathing and heart rate.
- Join a hair loss support group. This is an excellent way to help you deal with stress and can be a valuable solution resource. There are many good options available, either in-person or on-line. The Alopecia Support Group on Facebook might be a good starting point.
- If you are struggling with the stress of hair loss don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A good starting point might be to find a counselor or psychologist to help you address and control any anxiety and depression that you may be feeling. Remember, everyone needs a little help from time to time.
If you have not had much success with natural hair loss treatments then it may be time to consider taking it to the next level. Start with an approach that will give you instant results, like a hair thickening spray. If your hair loss is more serious then you may need a topical medication like Minoxidil. Before using an over the counter medication like Minoxidil you need to be sure that your hair loss is from female pattern baldness and that you don’t have a more serious underlying problem. One thing to remember with Minoxidil is that you can only maintain hair growth if you continue to use it on a daily basis and even then, results can be variable.
If topical treatments are not giving you adequate results then you can get an evaluation by a dermatologist to try a prescription medication, like Aldactone. Aldactone promotes hair growth by suppressing the production of androgens that are produced by your adrenal glands and ovaries. Be aware that Aldactone may not be a viable option if you have a history of other medical conditions such as a kidney problem.
This short video sums up some of the most important points of female hair loss:
Hair transplantation may be less effective in female pattern baldness than in male pattern baldness. This is because women typically have hair loss that is spread equally throughout the scalp so that it is more difficult to find a thick area of hair to remove and relocate as a transplant. Transplants need to be performed by a fully trained and qualified transplant professional to achieve a viable and long-term result. Check with your local department of health for a list of hair transplant specialists that are properly credentialed, licensed, and in good professional standing.
Hair transplants are expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere from about $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the overall severity of your problem. The cost of a hair transplant is typically an entirely out-of-pocket expense since most insurance companies consider the procedure to be purely cosmetic. An exception might be reconstructive surgery for severe head trauma or congenital deformity. A short term and more cost-effective solution might be to invest in a high-quality wig until you can sort out some of the ways you can improve your hair loss.
Putting It All Together
Dealing with hair loss effectively can be an ongoing commitment. Finding the best solution requires a methodical approach to the problem. Start by identifying the most likely causes and follow a process of elimination until you you begin to see positive results. Paying close attention to your diet and nutrition is one of the most basic things you can do to promote healthy hair growth. Anxiety and depression may be a factor that needs to be addressed as part of the problem. Always pay careful attention to avoiding things that can damage your hair and retard hair growth. If you suspect you may have an underlying medical condition that is causing or worsening your hair loss then seek the help of a qualified healthcare provider.
Tell Us What You Think
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section, or if I can help you with anything.
- Do you have any suggestions for dealing with hair loss or thinning?
- Are you currently using a particular hair care product and how is it working for you?
- Any stories to share based on previous experience?