As women age, there are many changes that occur within the body. However, one of the most common changes is hair loss. Keep reading to learn more about female hair loss and how to treat it!
Losing hair while shampooing or combing is something that we all experience. In fact, losing up to 125 hairs per day is considered normal . However, maybe you have noticed that the clumps are much larger than they used to be. Perhaps you are even starting to notice thinning on the top of your head to the point that you can now see your scalp. You may be suffering with female hair loss! You are not alone, as over 30 million women in the United States struggle with this . However, there is no need to fear, as there are ways to reduce it.
How does hair grow?
In order to figure out what is going on when it comes to hair loss, it is important to understand how our hair grows. Our hair grows in three cycles: the anagen stage, the catagen stage, and the telogen stage. During the anagen stage the hair is actively growing. The hair can remain like this for two to eight years. During the catagen stage, the hair stops growing and prepares to shed. During the telogen stage, the hair is shed from the follicle and the follicle stays dormant for about three months. After this period, a new hair will begin to grow .
Possible causes of hair loss
The tricky thing about hair loss is that there are many possible causes. Some of the most common ones are:
- Wearing hairstyles that tug on the hair
- Thyroid problems
- Hormonal imbalances
- Inflammatory conditions
- Nutritional deficiencies 
A clear cause of hair loss in women is imbalances in thyroid hormone levels. When a woman has either excess hormones (hyperthyroidism) or is lacking hormones (hypothyroidism), hair loss can occur . Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, rapid heart rate, trouble sleeping, and anxiety . Conversely, symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, feeling cold, slow heart rate, and constipation . If an imbalance of thyroid hormones is detected, restoring the balance can help reduce hair loss.
Another hormonal imbalance that can lead to hair loss is polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. Women with this condition have a hormonal imbalance that includes an excess of male hormones, also known as androgens. While women with excess androgens may grow extra hair on their face or body, they may have thinning hair on the scalp .
If you are experiencing significant hair loss, visit a doctor to ensure that you do not have an underlying medical condition. If your hair loss is indeed due to a medical condition, it is important to follow treatment by your healthcare provider to reduce your hair loss.
Nutritional deficiencies and hair loss
Hair loss can sometimes be due to nutritional deficiencies. Some that have been proven to contribute to hair loss are:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Amino Acids and Proteins
Alopecia areata (AA) is a type of hair loss that results from the immune system attacking the hair follicles . There are a few studies that have shown an association between AA and low vitamin D levels, which is why it’s important to have your vitamin levels checked. . If you are low in vitamin D, supplementation may help to reduce hair loss!
An important mineral that must be discussed when talking about hair loss is iron. Iron deficiency is both the world’s most common nutrition deficiency as well as a known cause of hair loss . There seems to be a correlation between people who have hair loss and low iron stores. This may be because iron is a necessary part if an enzyme called ribonucleotide reductase that is a part of cell growth . Other research has shown that hair follicle cells are sensitive to diminishing levels of iron in the body and have a hard time growing new cells when iron stores in the body are low . There also is evidence showing that iron supplementation can restore hair growth in a mouse model . Those who may be at risk for iron deficiency are premenopausal women, post-menopausal women, vegans and vegetarians, those with malabsorption disorders, and those who use H2 blockers, antidepressants, or cholesterol lowering medications .
If you suspect that you may be deficient in any vitamin or mineral, it is extremely important to have your levels checked by a healthcare provider so that they may prescribe the correct supplement and dosage. Vitamin and mineral toxicity can occur if taking supplements without supervision, and in some cases can even lead to more hair loss.
Luckily, there are many different treatment options you can try to reduce female hair loss. If a nutrient deficiency, hormonal imbalance, or underlying medical condition is detected, working with a healthcare provider to correct the deficiency, imbalance, or treating the medical condition can provide a solution to the hair loss.
There are two popular medical treatment options that exist.
- Minoxidil: This is a medication that is applied topically. It allows the hair to stay in the anagen growth phase for longer periods of time .
- 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor: This helps to improve hair loss by increasing the levels of enzymes that promote hair growth. .
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment: This is a new method that doctors are beginning to use. The doctor with separate a patient’s platelets from their blood sample and will inject them into the areas of the scalp where the hair is thinning. The PRP contains growth factors that can stimulate hair growth .
If taking medication or undergoing a PRP treatment does not sound like a great option for you, there are many natural remedies available as well. Some of them include:
- Onion juice. In a small study done, people with alopecia areata put onion juice on their scalp twice a day for 2 weeks and 74% of them had new hair growth compared to the group who only applied water to their scalp .
- Saw palmetto. Saw palmetto comes from the fruit of a palm tree. A few studies have shown that it can prevent the hormone testosterone from breaking down, preventing hair loss .
- Aromatherapy. For over 100 years sandalwood, lavender, rosemary, and thyme essential oils have been a common remedy for hair loss .
- Melatonin. A study done with a melatonin cream applied topically saw less hair loss in one month .
- Pumpkin seed oil. A study done with men who took pumpkin seed oil for 6 months saw a 40% increase in hair growth. It is possible that pumpkin seed oil can stop testosterone from turning into DHT, which can cause hair loss . Keep in mind that this method was only test on men, so further research is needed to see its effects on women!
- Green tea. Green tea extract contains EGCG that can help with hair growth. In a study done with balding rats, a difference in hair growth was seen after 6 months of use . Caution is advised with this method as green tea supplements can cause illness.
If you notice that your hair is thinning and you do not know what to do, here are some steps to take to prevent any further hair loss:
- Reduce stress levels by meditating, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Avoid wearing hair in tight styles like braids or ponytails that can tug on the scalp.
- Avoid using heat or other damaging chemicals on your hair.
If you would like to get to the root cause of your female hair loss, book a FREE discovery call with Cindy Kennedy, FNP-BC. She can provide in-depth lab work and DUTCH hormone testing to uncover what is causing your hair loss and go over various treatment options with you.
For other health and wellness content, check out these other blogs:
- Hair loss in women: Causes, treatment & prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16921-hair-loss-in-women.
- Bilodeau, K. (2020, March 27).Thinning hair in women: Why it happens and what helps. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/thinning-hair-in-women-why-it-happens-and-what-helps-2020032719267.
- OnHealth. (2019, September 24).Women’s hair loss: Causes, treatments, and solutions. OnHealth. https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/hair_loss_women.
- Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2018). The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: A review.Dermatology and Therapy,9(1), 51–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
- Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and HAIR LOSS: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use.Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0701a01
- MediLexicon International. (n.d.).Iron deficiency hair loss: Symptoms, treatment, and regrowth. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321668.
- WebMD. (n.d.).Alternative treatments for hair loss. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/ss/slideshow-alternative-treatments-for-hair-loss.