While hair loss is more commonly associated with men, there are many causes for hair loss in females – such as female alopecia – as well. If there is excessive hair loss, find out what’s causing it before seeking treatments.
What is the average hair loss?
It is important to remember that a certain amount of hair loss is to be expected. On average, we all shed about 100 hairs a day, and this is true for both males and females. This hair loss won’t affect your hair’s appearance because it’s such a minimal amount and more hairs are growing while others are being shed. If you’re experiencing female hair loss, you will shed hair faster than it’s being replaced, or it will stop being produced altogether.
What are some of the reasons for female hair loss?
The occurrence of female hair loss and female alopecia have steadily increased over the past few decades and is now thought to occur almost as frequently with females as it does with males. Female hair loss, in most cases, is a result of a combination of elements which need to be professionally diagnosed as soon as possible, so that the correct treatment can be sought.
1. Female-pattern baldness
If genetic traits are particularly strong, you may show female-pattern thinning or baldness in your lifetime. Genetically, female-pattern thinning is a recessive trait, meaning you must inherit the gene from both parents to be genetically predisposed. Although this is unusual in most women, female-pattern baldness – or androgenetic alopecia – generally begins with a widening part or overall thinning of the hair. Your scalp might be more visible, however, unlike with male-pattern baldness, the hairline usually does not recede. There are certain hormonal and environmental influences that could trigger this female-pattern baldness.
2. Menopause and female hair loss
Menopause is a natural biological process that all women experience at some point in their lives. During this time, the body goes through numerous physical changes as it adjusts to fluctuating hormone levels. Many women experience unpleasant symptoms during menopause, which include:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Female hair loss tends to be subtler than male hair loss with most women experiencing overall hair thinning rather than noticeable bald spots. The thinning can occur on the front, sides, or top of the head, and the hair might also fall out in large clumps during brushing and showering.
What causes female hair loss during menopause?
When it comes to female hair loss during menopause, research suggests the underlying cause is a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, female hair loss is related to a lowered production of oestrogen and progesterone – two hormones which help hair grow faster and help with hair retention. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones which shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
For women experiencing menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to these vast hormonal changes. However, many other factors can contribute to hair loss during menopause, including:
- Extremely high levels of stress
- Nutrient deficiency
3. Female hair loss during pregnancy or postpartum
Telogen effluvium is the excessive shedding of hair that occurs one to five months after pregnancy. This is not uncommon and is known to affect between 40 and 50 percent of women. Fortunately, like most changes during pregnancy, it is temporary.
Is there abnormal hair loss during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, an increased number of hairs go into the resting phase, which is part of the normal hair loss cycle. This condition is not serious enough to cause bald spots or permanent hair loss, and it should begin to diminish within a few months after delivery. If you feel that you are experiencing unusual hair loss while you are pregnant, this may be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency so it’s worth consulting with a medical professional.
4. Female hair loss and nutrition
It is important to note that female hair loss can be connected to poor nutrition, so make sure you are getting sufficient nutrients if you are dieting. Research now indicates that low levels of Iron, Vitamin D, certain B vitamins and Zinc are linked to hair loss. While typically not the main cause of female hair loss, nutrient deficiencies exacerbate the problem. Fixing your diet or taking supplements can help, but it’s often just one part of a multifaceted solution.
5. Scalp health and female hair loss
Hair loss is usually caused by problems with the natural hair cycle, but it may also be linked to your scalp health.
- Ringworm: one trigger is this fungal infection, usually passed on by towels, brushes or sheets, which can cause scaly and bald patches.
- Psoriasis: an inflammatory skin condition that leads to scaly, itchy plaques – can also cause hair loss.
- Although they don’t necessarily cause hair loss, conditions such as eczema and dermatitis can lead to the hair breaking because they irritate the scalp, prompting scratching.
6. Alopecia areata as a cause for female hair loss
Random bald spots on the scalp (or body) are known as alopecia areata. This is an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicle, causing inflammation and preventing the hair growth cycle. The skin in these patches looks normal, though some patients report a tingling sensation. Alopecia areata affects up to two per cent of males and females, typically aged 15 to 29. The types of alopecia areata include:
- Diffuse alopecia areata: hair is shed all over the scalp, which is why it’s often confused with telogen effluvium, but it’s patchier.
- Alopecia totalis: the whole head is affected by hair loss.
- Alopecia universalis: the whole body experiences hair loss.
What causes alopecia?
These forms of hair loss are thought to have a genetic link, with 20 percent of those affected known to have a family history. It’s also associated with other auto-immune conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis.
7. Thyroid disease and female hair loss
Thyroid disease causes thyroid hormone levels to drop off or rise to unhealthy levels – and one possible result is hair loss in females. The hair follicles follow a natural cycle of hair growth and resting phases. At any given time, most of the hair is growing while only a small portion of it is resting, but when changes in the body throw off that cycle, too much hair rests at one time and not enough grows, resulting in excessive hair loss. There are two main types of thyroid issues:
- Hypothyroidism: an under-active thyroid gland can cause hair loss on the scalp and body.
- Hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid gland can cause the hair on the head to become fine.
For many females, hair loss and hair thinning are a result of a combination of nutritional, medical and genetic causes. The sooner you seek professional hair loss advice from a hair specialist, the sooner your hair loss problem can be diagnosed correctly and treated, making it quicker and easier for your hair to return back to normal.