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It’s weird how growing up works. One day you’re trying to land that perfect first job and then suddenly you find yourself buying toilet paper in bulk and worrying about your hairline.
Listen, before you start swinging into a full-on tailspin, we’ve got the facts for everything you need to know about female hair loss.
From the root causes of female hair loss to treatments that can help regrow thinning hair, read on to learn how you can sport a full(er) mane again.
First thing you need to know: hair loss doesn’t just affect dudes. Female hair loss is actually really common — a review of studies found that more than half of all females will experience hair thinning at some point in their lifetime.
The same review also showed the prevalence of hair loss increases with age — approximately 12 percent of women aged 20 and 29 years experience hair loss, while over 50 percent of women over the age of 80 do.
If you’re noticing a wider part, patchy spots or overall thinning and diffused hair loss over the scalp, you may be experiencing a type of female hair loss. Whether it may be a nutritional deficiency, a styling issue or plain ol’ genetics, we’ll dive into possible causes and treatments.
If you've been wondering “why am I losing so much hair?”, we have answers. Female hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, from your genetics (thanks, Mom!), to your diet, to how much you’ve been stressing lately. To find the right course of action, it’s important to consider which of these may be affecting you.
We love this consultation quiz that helps you narrow down what might be going on, but the best bet? Talk to your healthcare provider or dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Before that, we’ve got a little more reading that may help you narrow things down.
You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about balancing your hormones recently (hello, hormone balance coaches on TikTok). There’s truth to it — though our hormones play a massive role in your hair health.
In both men and women, the specific hormone believed to be responsible for genetic hair loss is the same: dihydrotestosterone (known as DHT), a hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone.
Just like how your genetics play a role in whether you have blue eyes or brown, they also play a role in how sensitive you may be to DHT. In some people, DHT can affect your hairline by attaching to hair follicles and causing them to shrink.
As these hair follicles get smaller, they can no longer support healthy hair growth, which contributes to hair loss. Basically, just like eating one too many Snickers, too much of anything is not good.
This type of hair loss caused by hormones is typically called androgenic alopecia (also known as androgenetic alopecia), or female-pattern hair loss (FPHL).
Sure, we’ve seen the movies where Diane Keaton is dealing with hot flashes. But hot flashes aren’t the only byproduct of menopause — it can also play a factor in hair loss.
When you go through menopause, your estrogen levels drop. This can potentially trigger hormonal hair loss in women. So if you’re 45+, and seeing marked decreases in overall hair density and diameter, this could be the reason.
Alongside this decline in female hormone production, your sensitivity to male hormones such as DHT (see above) can increase after menopause, which can cause hair loss. Learn more about factors that can cause hair loss in older women in this guide.
Feeling fatigued and experiencing weight fluctuations recently? Noticing hair thinning on top of it?
You may want to have your healthcare provider check your thyroid. Thyroid issues not only cause you to lose hair, but they can also cause your hair to become weak, dry and brittle.
But there’s a silver lining here — hair loss caused by thyroid issues is usually temporary. After you’ve identified and treated the underlying issue, your hair will slowly regrow to its previous thickness and length (hooray!).
Another potential cause of hair loss is an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata. This occurs when your immune system attacks your hair follicles, preventing the hair from growing.
These types of conditions don’t discriminate by age, so even young women are susceptible to these types of hair loss.
And if you think you may be dealing with an underlying medical issue, see your doctor to have them run necessary lab tests.
Spending all your energy in back-to-back draining meetings or dealing with a heartbreak? What about a recent drastic weight loss? These are all types of stressful events that can trigger hair loss.
Hair loss caused by stress is called telogen effluvium. This condition usually results in sudden thinning of your hair across your entire scalp, resulting in more hairs on your pillow, in the shower or on your hairbrush.
Like other forms of temporary hair loss, telogen effluvium affects your hairline by forcing hairs into the telogen phase, the final phase of your hair’s growth cycle. This can create the appearance of thinning, as new hairs aren’t coming in as fast as usual.
Like other non-hormonal forms of hair loss in women, stress-induced hair loss usually isn’t permanent. Through lifestyle changes and the use of medication, it’s usually possible to regrow most or all of the hair you’ve lost as a result of stress.
Love a tight slicked-back ponytail a la Ariana Grande? We do too. But if you’re constantly wearing styles that pull on the hair, you may notice signs of thinning. Be wary of styles that pull and cause stress on your hairline, causing traction alopecia. This type of hair loss is due to injuries, chronic or otherwise, to the scalp or hair follicle.
Hairstyles that can trigger traction alopecia include:
Buns, ponytails, and up-dos that are tightly pulled
Hair extensions or weaves
Now you know some common causes of hair loss in women, but if you’re still wondering if you’re dealing with normal hair shedding or actual hair loss, we got you.
You can learn more about female pattern hair loss in this guide, but here’s a quick drill on what signs of female hair loss can look like, according to the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology:
Diffuse thinning across the scalp
A less dense ponytail
Receding hairline or frontal hair loss and breakage
Hair thinning along the temples and sides of your hair
Once you’ve nailed down what the root cause of your hair loss is, you can consider your game plan to get back to Chia Pet status. Anyone else remember those? Here are the best hair loss treatments for women:
Ah, minoxidil — she’s like the popular girl at school. Everyone knows her and a lot of people love her. Commonly sold under the brand name Rogaine®, minoxidil is a topical or oral medication that stimulates hair growth. It’s believed to work by encouraging your hairs to enter into the anagen stage, or growth phase, of the hair growth cycle.
Learn more about the efficacy of minoxidil in our guide on minoxidil for female hair loss.
While we aren’t saying it’s magic, there’s a lot of science to back up its efficacy. In a 2014 placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that both 2% and 5% versions of minoxidil improved hair thinning.
Hers offers a few different formulations of minoxidil that you can try:
Oral tablet, but note that this isn’t approved by the FDA for women and is prescribed off-label
Topical minoxidil and finasteride spray, which may be especially helpful for women experiencing hair loss after menopause
This once-daily pill helps target hormones that cause excess hair shedding by decreasing testosterone levels in your blood and lessening its effect in your body. Healthcare providers now also prescribe spironolactone off-label to treat female pattern hair loss, or female androgenic alopecia. Taking spironolactone can be especially helpful for women with hormonal issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Remember when we talked about stress and its effect on female hair loss? Reducing stress — along with having a healthy diet, the right hair care and a balanced supplement intake — is also essential for healthy hair growth. If you need help handling stress, consider speaking with a therapist.
Eating a healthy diet is the best way to ensure you have all the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy hair, but you can also check with your doctor to rule out any nutritional deficiencies, like low iron. If necessary, they can recommend a supplement to help ensure a healthy body and head of hair.
Long story short, you’re not the only woman dealing with hair loss. While Drake may not want new friends, we totally welcome new hair. Here’s what you need to remember to get there.
It’s common. Nearly half of all women will experience hair loss at some point in their lives.
Spot the signs. If you’re noticing symptoms like a wider part, bald patches or a thinner ponytail, it’s time to take action.
Consider the factors. Think of what’s been going on in your life. Have you been dealing with a sudden illness? It could be stress-related hair loss. If you’ve been a lifelong fan of slicked-back ponytails, it may be a sign of traction alopecia. Figuring out the root cause will help you find the best treatment for your particular needs. Speak to a healthcare provider if you’re having trouble figuring out what’s going on.
Treat yo’self. Speaking of treatment options, take a cue from Tom Haverford and figure out a solution that works for you. There are many more options available for women's hair loss now than there were a few decades ago. With more science-backed research, you have really strong contenders to treat hair loss.
Ready to make a move? Check out our healthcare provider-recommended hair loss treatments today.
Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.
Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.
Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/
Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false
Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700
Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209
Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/
Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/
Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/
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