7 Causes of Hair Loss in Women

  • African American woman on computer at home
    You’re not the only woman losing your hair. Here’s why.
    If your hairbrush seems fuller or your ponytail seems shorter, you’re in good company. More than 50% of women have excessive hair loss, or alopecia. The leading cause is heredity, but other factors can contribute. You’re more likely to have noticeable hair loss if you’ve just had a baby, are over 40, or are experiencing menopause. Extreme stress, medications, and even hair styling can play a role. For many women, knowing why hair loss happens makes it easier to handle.

  • hair loss
    1. Hair Styling
    Some styles are hard on hair. Yours may be pulling on your roots and damaging your hair follicles. This damage can be permanent. Tight ponytails, braids, and hair extensions all tend to pull. The intense heat of blow dryers and flat irons isn’t so hair-healthy, either. Try to limit using them. Cut back on long-lasting styling products and hair brushing, too. You don’t have to make a “forever” change. Just try a new routine to see if it helps.

  • portrait of confident senior woman with hair loss
    2. Female Pattern Hair Loss
    You may have heard of male pattern baldness, the leading cause of hair loss in men. Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is the leading cause of hair loss in women. Both conditions are hereditary. In men, hair loss tends to start with a receding hairline and thinning at the crown. In women, hair loss tends to start at the top of the head. Think of a center part growing wider. During menopause, the loss of estrogen can exacerbate FPHL.

  • concerned woman sitting in chair
    3. Extreme Stress and Physical Shock
    Having a baby causes emotional stress and physical shock uniquely experienced by women. The resulting hair loss is usually temporary. Surgeries, illnesses, dramatic weight loss, and psychological stress can also cause temporary hair loss in women and men. In extreme cases, up to 70% of hair can shed in large clumps. If this happens, don’t panic. But do talk with your doctor. It’s important to identify the underlying cause, which may need to be treated.

  • senior-woman-sitting-outside
    4. Menopause
    For women, there’s no avoiding it. Menopause is a natural process, and hair loss can come with it. During menopause, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone fall, and levels of the male hormone androgen rise. Hair growth slows, and hair follicles shrink. After menopause, up to two-thirds of women have hair thinning or bald spots. If your hair loss makes you self-conscious, ask your doctor about hair loss medication and hair transplantation for women.

  • white pills spilling out of prescription bottle on table
    5. Medications
    Chemotherapy and radiation for cancer may be the first treatments that come to mind as having the potential side effect of hair loss. There are many more, including: beta blockers and calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen; antidepressants; birth control pills; and retinols, commonly used in “anti-aging” creams. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of your current medications, including any supplements, and changes that can be made safely.

  • Throat check
    6. Thyroid Problems
    The thyroid hormone helps develop and maintain hair follicles. When the thyroid doesn’t work properly, temporary hair loss can occur not only on the scalp, but also on other parts of the body, including the eyebrows. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Graves’ disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ask your doctor about the hair loss implications. The good news is that once thyroid levels are well-managed, excessive hair loss usually stops.

  • folic-acid-tablets
    7. Vitamins and Minerals
    Iron deficiency (ID) is the most common mineral deficiency. It can lead to anemia (low volume of red blood cells) and has been shown to cause hair loss. Vegetarians tend to be at higher risk of ID because they don’t get iron from eating meat. Taking too much vitamin A, vitamin E, or selenium can also cause hair loss. Watch out for supplements with high doses, even if they’re advertised for hair health, and ask your doctor’s advice.

Hair Loss in Women | Causes of Hair Loss

About The Author

Evelyn Creekmore has more than 15 years of experience writing online educational health content, including nearly 10 years full-time at WebMD, where she was the director of brand content. She holds an MPH in Applied Public Health Informatics from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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  2. Male pattern baldness. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001177.htm
  3. Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. https://www.aocd.org/page/telogeneffluviumha
  4. Your hair style may be causing hair damage and hair loss. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/your-hair-style-may-be-causing-hair-damage-and-hair-loss
  5. Hair Loss: Who Gets and Causes. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/hair-loss#causes
  6. Hair loss. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926
  7. Menopause and Hair Loss. National Women’s Health Network. https://www.nwhn.org/menopause-hair-loss/
  8. Treating female pattern hair loss. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss
  9. Wrinkle creams: Your guide to younger looking skin. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wrinkles/in-depth/wrinkle-creams/art-20047463
  10. Hair Loss and Thyroid Disorders. British Thyroid Foundation. http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/109-hair-loss-and-thyroid-disorders
  11. A Descriptive Study of Alopecia Patterns and their Relation to Thyroid Dysfunction. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746235/
  12. Is My Thyroid Condition to Blame for My Hair Loss? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-my-thyroid-condition-to-blame-for-my-hair-loss/
  13. Iron Plays a Certain Role in Patterned Hair Loss. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678013/
  14. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
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Last Review Date: 2019 Feb 14
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