Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/29/2022
Every year, tens of millions of women in the United States deal with some form of hair shedding, thinning or hair loss.
Female hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, from hormonal damage to your hair follicles to stress, nutritional deficiencies and medical conditions. If it becomes severe, balding can have a devastating effect on your self-esteem and quality of life.
The good news is that most balding in women is treatable, provided you act quickly and identify the root cause of your hair loss.
Below, we’ve explained how and why balding can occur in women, from female pattern hair loss to forms of temporary hair shedding.
We’ve also covered what you can do to cope with balding in women, as well as the best options for preventing further loss of hair and promoting healthy, sustainable hair growth.
Although most people associate hair loss with men, the reality is that balding is also a common issue for women.
A range of factors can contribute to female baldness, including long-term exposure to androgen hormones, nutritional deficiencies and even certain hairstyles. Some of these factors can cause permanent hair loss, while others may only cause temporary shedding.
Potential causes of female balding include:
Androgenetic alopecia. Widely referred to as female pattern baldness, this type of hair loss is caused by the effects of the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can bind to your hair follicles and cause them to stop producing new hairs.
Female pattern hair loss is the most common type of hair loss in women, with more than 21 million adult women affected in the US alone. It usually causes diffuse hair loss near your part line, which may become wider and more obvious over time.
Stress, illnesses, medications and infections. These issues can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, in which your hair growth cycle is disrupted, causing hairs to fall out en masse and abruptly.
Telogen effluvium usually involves diffuse thinning, which may cause your entire scalp to appear lacking in hair coverage. Unlike female pattern baldness, this form of hair loss is temporary and usually improves once the underlying issue is treated.
Nutritional deficiencies. Some nutritional deficiencies can affect your hair growth cycle and cause you to lose hair. These include iron deficiency, a low protein intake and crash diets that significantly restrict your access to important nutrients.
Tight, damaging hairstyles. If your hairstyle puts pressure on your hair follicles, it may cause a form of hair loss called traction alopecia, or ponytail hair loss.
Traction alopecia develops when your hair follicles become damaged. It’s most common in women of color and may develop if you wear your hair in dreadlocks, cornrows, a tight ponytail or use products that pull on your hair follicles, such as hair extensions.
Fungal skin infections. Some fungal skin infections, such as tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) can affect your hair follicles and result in noticeable hair loss. When severe, fungal skin infections may cause permanent baldness and damage to your skin.
Autoimmune disorders. Certain autoimmune disorders, such as alopecia areata, can cause patchy hair loss. This type of hair loss can vary in severity from small patches of thin or missing hair to total hair loss.
Our guide to the most common causes of sudden hair loss provides more information about the factors that may cause you to lose hair, as well as common signs of hair loss that you might see if you’re affected.
Hair loss can be frustrating and stressful to deal with, especially when you’re unaware of what’s causing your hair to fall out.
However, there are steps that you can take to cope with hair loss. Some of these can make hair loss harder to notice, allowing you to feel more self-confident, while others can help you identify the root cause of your hair loss and access the most appropriate form of treatment.
If you’re starting to lose hair, try using the following techniques to cope and take action:
Identify the cause of your hair loss. Treating hair loss is much easier when you know what’s causing it. Try meeting with your primary care provider or a dermatologist (a type of doctor that specializes in skin and hair) to discuss your symptoms.
Many common forms of hair loss can be diagnosed with a physical examination, a “pull test” or a blood test to check for medical conditions that can contribute to balding.
Try switching to a new hairstyle. Certain hairstyles, such as a messy updo, bangs or a zig-zag part, can help to conceal most patterns of hair loss and give you the appearance of more coverage and volume.
If you’ve recently noticed thinning or spot hair loss, try talking with your stylist about cuts or styling techniques that can reduce its aesthetic impact.
Avoid brushing your hair aggressively or using heat treatments. These can damage your hair and make hair loss worse. If you need to apply heat to your hair, use the lowest setting and limit the amount of time heat is applied directly to your scalp hair.
Cover up while you treat your hair loss. Most forms of female hair loss can be treated with the right habits or medication. While you’re waiting, it’s okay to cover up thin hair or a bald spot with a wig, hair extensions, a scarf or other products.
Don’t feel ashamed if you want to cover up your hair. It’s your choice, and you know your coping options better than anyone else.
Talk to your friends and family. If you feel stressed or worried about hair thinning, slow hair growth or other common problems, don’t feel ashamed or afraid to let your friends or family know.
If you feel anxious as a result of your hair loss, consider taking part in a support group to connect with others and learn coping strategies together.
Most types of hair loss in women are treatable, either by using medication or by making certain changes to your habits and lifestyle. It’s often possible to prevent hair loss from worsening and, in some cases, grow back hair that you’ve previously lost due to hair shedding.
The first step in treating female balding is identifying the type of hair loss you have. You can do this by visiting your primary care provider or scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist in your area.
Your healthcare provider will likely ask you about your hair loss symptoms, as well as your diet, hair care habits and general lifestyle. They may also ask you about:
Your recent emotional and mental wellbeing
Sudden life changes or stressful events you’ve experienced
Any changes you’ve recently made to your hair care routine
Your use of medications, illicit drugs or other substances
Any recent illnesses, including those that cause fever
Make sure to give your healthcare provider as much information as possible. The more you can tell them about your overall health and hair care habits, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to accurately diagnose your form of hair loss.
If your hair loss is caused by a nutritional deficiency, your healthcare provider might recommend making changes to your diet or using one or several dietary supplements.
For hair loss that’s caused by a specific medical condition, treating the condition will usually help to stop shedding and restore your hair. You may need to use medication or medicated shampoo to treat some conditions that can cause hair loss, such as fungal infections.
If you have female pattern hair loss, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication such as minoxidil to improve hair growth and prevent your hair loss from getting worse.
Minoxidil works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen phase of the growth cycle, in which hair grows to its full length. It also stimulates blood flow throughout your scalp, which may help to improve hair growth.
Other options for treating women’s hair loss include prescription medications such as finasteride and spironolactone. These medications work by targeting androgen hormones that can damage your hair follicles and contribute to female pattern alopecia.
If you have advanced hair loss, you may want to consider a hair transplant. This is a procedure that involves surgically moving hair follicles from the parts of your scalp with dense, thick hair to areas with visible hair loss.
Hair transplants for women typically cost thousands of dollars, and involve a short period of recovery after surgery. However, transplants can provide lasting results and may be a treatment option worth considering if your hair doesn’t fully respond to hair loss medications.
Although alopecia in women is less common than in men, it’s still a major issue that affects tens of millions of women every year in the United States alone.
Hair loss is treatable, and it helps to catch it early. If you’ve recently started to notice areas with visible hair loss, gradual thinning or just a few extra hairs in your hair brushes or on your pillow, it’s important to get professional help as soon as you can.
You can do this by talking to your primary care provider, consulting a dermatologist or using our range of hair loss treatments for women.
With the right habits, medication and patience, most forms of baldness in women are treatable, allowing you to prevent further shedding and restore your lost hair.
Interested in learning more about how to get started? Our guide to the best hair loss treatments for women goes into more detail about your options for treating excessive hair loss and keeping your hair dense, strong and full of volume for the future.