6 Reasons for Hair Thinning in Women

Vicky Davis

Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 9/17/2021

Seeing too many strands in the shower?

A bit of hair shedding is normal. In fact, on average, a person loses between 50 and 100 hairs per day. 

However, if you start noticing your head of hair looking especially thin, it can be concerning. 

But hair doesn’t just start to thin for no good reason. Generally, if you notice this happening, there’s a cause. 

Read on for some of the most common reasons for female hair loss and thinning along with the hair loss treatments that could help. 

Causes of Hair Thinning in Women

From heredity to stress, there are a number of factors that can cause your hair to thin. These include:

Genetics

The most common type of hair loss is hereditary hair loss and it can start at any age. This is often referred to female pattern hair loss (or female pattern baldness). 

There are some women who notice their hair starting to thin in their teens, though it’s more common later in life. 

It's likely that you have a family history of hair thinning and loss if you are experiencing this. 

Most women who have genetic hair loss first notice overall thinning. Sometimes the hair loss can also manifest as a widening part. 

Androgenic alopecia is the medical name for this condition. Women who notice hair thinning from genetics inherited genes that cause the hair follicles to shrink and stop growing hair.

So, what causes this type of hair loss? It happens when your body has an excessive response to androgens. Androgens are the hormones that promote hair growth and reproductive abilities.

Hormones

Testosterone is usually most connected with men. But this hormone is also in women. Testosterone promotes reproductive and non-reproductive functions in females.

But testosterone can create problems for hair. When it roams free, it can attach to androgen receptors in the hair bulb and the dermal papilla which regulates hair growth. 

This may shrink your hair follicles.

That roaming testosterone may also be converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can then attach to androgen receptors and cause hair loss.

Stress

Emotional stress can be a physical doozy, and can take a toll on your hair and lead to hair loss and thinning. When this happens, it is called telogen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium usually presents as sudden thinning around your entire scalp. Thankfully, this type of hair loss is not permanent.

When this type of hair thinning occurs, it’s forcing hairs into the telogen phase, which is the final phase of your hair’s growth cycle. 

This can cause your hairs to fall out without replacement hairs growing in to replace them.

Generally, you’ll notice hair thinning a few months after a stressful life event occurs.

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Menopause

When you’re in menopause, you’ll produce less estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are connected to hair growth and health.

When you have less of them, there’s more room for testosterone to roam free — which can lead to hair loss and thinning. 

Thyroid Issues

Your thyroid gland impacts the health of your hair follicles. 

Hypothyroidism (when your body produces too little of the thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (when you produce too much of the thyroid hormone) can affect hair growth.

Hypothyroidism can cause delays in hair growth, which means you may lose hair without it replacing itself. Because of this, your hair will appear thinner. 

Hyperthyroidism can cause finer hair to grow, which is more likely to break. This can also give the appearance of less hair overall.

Hair Care Habits

Coloring, relaxing and otherwise chemically treating your hair can all cause damage to your strands. You may notice gradual or sudden hair loss from these types of treatments. 

This is especially true if you do these things frequently. And too much damage can lead to hair thinning.

Tight hairstyles like a ponytail or bun can also be problematic and cause loss of hair. When this happens, it’s called traction alopecia. Essentially, the constant pulling can lead to permanent hair loss. 

Treating Hair Loss

Good news: There are treatment options available to help you handle hair thinning. Here are some of the most common options: 

Minoxidil 

A healthcare provider may suggest you try topical minoxidil to treat hair thinning. 

Minoxidil is sold under the brand name Rogaine® and comes in a 2% solution or 5% foam. It is also FDA-approved for androgenetic alopecia.

When applied, minoxidil sends a signal to your blood vessels to open wide so that more nutrients and oxygen can get to the hair to improve its health. 

It also stretches out the growth period for hair, which means more follicles are created to replace lost hair.

Spironolactone

The acne drug spironolactone is also sometimes prescribed — especially if you’re dealing with genetic hair loss.

Spironolactone prevents testosterone from turning into DHT. 

It also slows down the production of androgens, which will prevent or slow hair loss.

Before taking any type of medication, be sure to tell your healthcare professional about any health conditions you may have. 

Healthy Hair Habits

Your hair may need some TLC. These tips can help turn around hair thinning:

  • Use a conditioner after every shampoo to keep hair hydrated. This way, hair will be less likely to become brittle and break. 

  • Allow your hair to air dry. And when you do use hair tools, set them on the lowest setting to avoid burning strands. 

  • Avoid tight ponytails and buns and choose looser styles.

  • If you color your hair, add more time between touch-ups and avoid doing multiple chemical services (like coloring, relaxing or perming) at once. Instead, wait two weeks between each service. 

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The Reasons Women Experience Hair Thinning

From hereditary hair loss, lifestyle habits to mental health issues, there are a number of reasons hair thinning or loss in women occurs. 

The best way to assess what’s going on and why your scalp hair is thinning is to see a healthcare professional. 

They should be able to discuss your scalp and you figure out why you may be experiencing hair thinning. 

After you figure out why your hair is thinning, you’ll be able to work with a healthcare professional to figure out what hair loss treatments could work for you. 

When you do this, it's only a matter of time before you hopefully notice some healthy hair growth.

15 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Do You Have Hair Loss or Shedding? American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  2. Hair Loss: Who Gets and Causes. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/18-causes
  3. Ho, C., Sood, T., Zito, P. (2020, September). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  4. Islam, R., Bell, R., Green, S., Davis, S. (2019). Effects of testosterone therapy for women: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Systematic Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329173/
  5. Brough, K., Torgerson, R., (2017, March). Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology 3(1): 53-57. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419033/
  6. Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aocd.org/page/telogeneffluviumha#:~:text=A%20telogen%20effluvium%20is%20when,months%20after%20the%20%22shock%22.
  7. Goluch-Koniuszy, Z. (2016, March). Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Menopause Review 15(1): 56-61. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828511/#:~:text=Physiologically%2C%20during%20the%20period%20of,cause%20of%20androgenic%20hair%20loss.
  8. Grymowicz, M., Rudnicka, E., Agnieszka, P., et al. (2020, August). International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21(15): 5342. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7432488/
  9. Van Beek, N., Bodo, E., Kromming, A., et al (2008, November). Thyroid Hormones Directly Alter Human Hair Follicle Functions: Anagen Prolongation and Stimulation of Both Hair Matrix Keratinocyte Proliferation and Hair Pigmentation. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Volume 93, Issue 11, 4381-4388. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/93/11/4381/2627273
  10. Layal, C., Antonio, B., Jacqueline, J., Robin P., (2017, March). Hypothyroidism Lancet. 2017 Sep 23; 390(10101): 1550–1562. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619426/
  11. Hair Loss: Who Gets and Causes. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/18-causes
  12. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., Leerunyakul, K., (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Theory, 13: 2777-2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/#:~:text=Minoxidil%20is%20a%20common%20medication,as%20increasing%20body%20hair%20growth.
  13. Brough, K., Torgerson, R., (2017, March). Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology 3(1): 53-57. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419033/
  14. How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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