It's true that men are more likely to lose their hair
than women, mostly due to male pattern baldness
(more on that later).
But thinning hair and hair loss are also common in
women, and no less demoralizing. Reasons can
range from the simple and temporary—a vitamin
deficiency—to the more complex, like an underlying
In many cases, there are ways to treat both male
and female hair loss. It all depends on the cause.
Here are some common and not-so-common
reasons why you might be seeing less hair on your
Any kind of physical trauma—surgery, a car
accident, or a severe illness, even the flu—can
cause temporary hair loss. This can trigger a type
of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair has a
programmed life cycle: a growth phase, rest phase
and shedding phase. “When you have a really
stressful event, it can shock the hair cycle,
(pushing) more hair into the shedding phase,”
explains Dr. Marc Glashofer, a dermatologist in New
York City. Hair loss often becomes noticeable
three-to-six months after the trauma.
What to do: The good news is that hair will start
growing back as your body recovers.
Pregnancy is one example of the type of physical
stress that can cause hair loss (that and hormones).
Pregnancy-related hair loss is seen more
commonly after your baby has been delivered
rather than actually during pregnancy. “Giving birth
is pretty traumatic,” says Glashofer.
What to do: If you do experience hair loss, rest
assured that your hair will grow back in a couple of
months. “It’s a normal thing and it will work its way
out,” Glashofer says.
Health.com: Pregnant? Diet Changes to Make Right
Too much vitamin A
Overdoing vitamin A-containing supplements or
medications can trigger hair loss, according to the
American Academy of Dermatology. The Daily Value
for vitamin A is 5,000 International Units (IU) per
day for adults and kids over age 4; supplements
can contain 2,500 to 10,000 IU.
What to do: This is a reversible cause of hair loss
and once the excess vitamin A is halted, hair should
Lack of protein
If you don't get enough protein in your diet, your
body may ration protein by shutting down hair
growth, according to the American Academy of
Dermatology. This can happen about two to three
months after a drop in protein intake, they say.
What to do: There are many great sources of
protein, including fish, meat, and eggs. If you don't
eat meat or animal products, here are the 14 Best
Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources.
Male pattern baldness
About two out of three men experience hair loss by
age 60, and most of the time it's due to male
pattern baldness. This type of hair loss, caused by a
combo of genes and male sex hormones, usually
follows a classic pattern in which the hair recedes
at the temples, leaving an M-shaped hairline.
What to do: There are topical creams like minoxidil
(Rogaine) and oral medications such as finasteride
(Propecia) that can halt hair loss or even cause
some to grow; surgery to transplant or graft hair is
also an option.
Female-pattern hair loss, called androgenic or
androgenetic alopecia, is basically the female
version of male pattern baldness. “If you come
from a family where women started to have hair
loss at a certain age, then you might be more prone
to it,” says Glashofer. Unlike men, women don't
tend to have a receding hairline, instead their part
may widen and they may have noticeable thinning of
What to do: Like men, women may benefit from
minoxidil (Rogaine) to help grow hair, or at least,
maintain the hair you have, Glashofer says. Rogaine
is available over-the-counter and is approved for
women with this type of hair loss.
Just as pregnancy hormone changes can cause
hair loss, so can switching or going off birth-control
pills. This can also cause telogen effluvium, and it
may be more likely if you have a family history of
hair loss. The change in the hormonal balance that
occurs at menopause may also have the same
result. “The androgen (male hormone) receptors on
the scalp becoming activated,” explains Dr. Mark
Hammonds, a dermatologist with Scott & White
Clinic in Round Rock, Texas. “The hair follicles will
miniaturize and then you start to lose more hair.”
What to do: If a new Rx is a problem, switch back or
talk to your doctor about other birth control types.
Stopping oral contraceptives can also sometimes
cause hair loss, but this is temporary, says
Hammonds. Don't make your problem worse with
hair-damaging beauty regimens.
Emotional stress is less likely to cause hair loss
than physical stress, but it can happen, for
instance, in the case of divorce, after the death of a
loved one, or while caring for an aging parent. More
often, though, emotional stress won’t actually
precipitate the hair loss. It will exacerbate a
problem that’s already there, says Glashofer.
What to do: As with hair loss due to physical stress,
this shedding will eventually abate. While it's not
known if reducing stress can help your hair, it can't
hurt either. Take steps to combat stress and
anxiety like getting more exercise, trying talk
therapy, or getting more support if you need it.
Almost one in 10 women aged 20 through 49 suffers
from anemia due to an iron deficiency (the most
common type of anemia), which is an easily fixable
cause of hair loss. You doctor will have to do a
blood test to determine for sure if you have this
type of anemia.
What to do: A simple iron supplement should correct
the problem. In addition to hair loss, other
symptoms of anemia include fatigue, headache,
dizziness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.
Hypothyroidism is the medical term for having an
underactive thyroid gland . This little gland located in
your neck produces hormones that are critical to
metabolism as well as growth and development
and, when it’s not pumping out enough hormones,
can contribute to hair loss. Your doctor can do tests
to determine the real cause
What to do: Synthetic thyroid medication will take
care of the problem. Once your thyroid levels return
to normal, so should your hair.
Vitamin B deficiency
Although relatively uncommon in the U.S., low
levels of vitamin B are another correctable cause of
What to do: Like anemia, simple supplementation
should help the problem. So can dietary changes.
Find natural vitamin B in fish, meat, starchy
vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. As always, eating
a balanced diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables as
well as lean protein and “good” fats such as
avocado and nuts will be good for your hair and
your overall health.
Autoimmune-related hair loss
This is also called alopecia areata and basically is a
result of an overactive immune system. “The body
gets confused,” says Glashofer. “The immune
system sees the hair as foreign and targets it by
What to do: Steroid injections are the first line of
treatment for alopecia areata, which appears as hair
loss in round patches on the head. Other drugs,
including Rogaine, may also be used. The course of
the condition can be unpredictable, with hair
growing back then falling out again.
Other autoimmune diseases such as lupus can also
cause hair loss. Again it’s a case of mistaken
identity: overzealous immune cells attack the hair.
Unfortunately, hair loss of this type is “scarring,”
meaning the hair will not grow back, says
What to do: If the hair loss is mild, you might want
to try a new hairstyle to camouflage the damage.
Short hair, for instance, is stronger than long hair
and may hide bald patches better.
Dramatic weight loss
Sudden weight loss is a form of physical trauma
that can result in thinning hair. This could happen
even if the weight loss is ultimately good for you.
It’s possible that the weight loss itself is stressing
your body or that not eating right can result in
vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Loss of hair along
with noticeable weight loss may also be a sign of an
eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
What to do: "Sudden weight loss seems to shock
the system and you’ll have a six-month period of
hair loss and then it corrects itself,” says
Some of the drugs used to beat back cancer
unfortunately can also cause your hair to fall out.
“Chemotherapy is like a nuclear bomb,” says
Glashofer. “It destroys rapidly dividing cells. That
means cancer cells, but also rapidly dividing cells
What to do: Once chemotherapy is stopped, your
hair will grow back although often it will come back
with a different texture (perhaps curly when before
it was straight) or a different color. Researchers are
working on more targeted drugs to treat cancer,
ones that would bypass this and other side effects.
In the meantime, Here's How to Deal With Thinning
Hair During Chemo.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome ( PCOS) is another
imbalance in male and female sex hormones. An
excess of androgens can lead to ovarian cysts,
weight gain, a higher risk of diabetes, changes in
your menstrual period, infertility , as well as hair
thinning. Because male hormones are
overrepresented in PCOS, women may also
experience more hair on the face and body.
What to do: Treating PCOS can correct the hormone
imbalance and help reverse some of these changes.
Treatments include diet, exercise, and potentially
birth control pills, as well as specific treatment to
address infertility or diabetes risk.
Antidepressants, blood thinners, and more
Certain other classes of medication may also
promote hair loss. More common among them are
certain blood thinners and the blood-pressure
drugs known as beta-blockers. Other drugs that
might cause hair loss include methotrexate (used to
treat rheumatic conditions and some skin
conditions), lithium (for bipolar disorder),
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
including ibuprofen, and possibly antidepressants.
What to do: If your doctor determines that one or
more of your medications is causing hair loss, talk
with him or her about either lowering the dose or
switching to another medicine.
Vigorous styling and hair treatments over the years
can cause your hair to fall out. Examples of extreme
styling include tight braids, hair weaves or corn
rows as well as chemical relaxers to straighten
your hair, hot-oil treatments or any kind of harsh
chemical or high heat. Because these practices can
actually affect the hair root, your hair might not
What to do: In addition to avoiding these styles and
treatments, the American Academy of Dermatology
recommends using conditioner after every
shampoo, letting your hair air dry, limiting the
amount of time the curling iron comes in contact
with your hair and using heat-driven products no
more than once a week.
Health.com: How Bad Is That Beauty Habit?
Trichotillomania, classified as an “impulse control
disorder,” causes people to compulsively pull their
hair out. “It’s sort of like a tic, the person is
constantly playing and pulling their hair,” Glashofer
says. Unfortunately, this constant playing and
pulling can actually strip your head of its natural
protection: hair. Trichotillomania often begins before
the age of 17 and is four times as common in
women as in men.
What to do: Some antidepressants may be effective,
but behavioral modification therapy is another
It’s not uncommon to see hair loss or thinning of the
hair in women as they enter their 50s and 60s, says
Glashofer. Experts aren’t sure why this happens.
What to do: Experts don't recommend that this
condition be treated, says Hammonds. That leaves
women with cosmetic approaches such as scarves,
wigs and hair styled so as to cover up thin spots.
That said, there are also plenty of tricks to prevent
hair breakage and ways to keep your hair looking
shiny and healthy in your 50s and above.
If you take anabolic steroids—the type abused by
some athletes to bulk up muscle—you could lose
your hair, according to the American Academy of
Dermatology. Anabolic steroids can have the same
impact on the body as polycystic ovary disease
(PCOS), as the mechanism is the same, says
What to do: This should improve after going off the
This article originally appeared on Health.com.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
21 reasons why you’re losing your hair
It's true that men are more likely to lose their hair