While genetics is certainly the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women, it is not the only cause. The hair follicle is an extremely complex structure that needs constant nourishment to stay healthy and unfortunately, there are many factors that can affect the health of the hair follicle. For most women, hair loss is a multifactorial condition, meaning it has multiple factors that could be causing or aggravating the condition. Below are 7 of the leading risk factors for female hair loss.
Genetics certainly play a big role in whether we may or may not experience hair loss. The truth is that if anyone in your family (siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.) has hair loss, it is possible that you have a genetic disposition to hair loss. As many as 30 million women in the United States are affected by this hereditary condition and the loss of hair can occur at any age although the most common age is between 50 and 60 years old.
One of the biggest contributing factors to hair loss is stress. When stress levels are consistently high or you have an extremely stressful event, this can cause a shock to your system. In terms of your hair, this can cause an unusually high number of hairs to move to the telogen phase, which is also known as the resting phase and no more growth occurs. This is what causes increased shedding. Incorporating stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or exercise is extremely important.
The hair follicle is made up of some of the most metabolically active cells in the body, which means it requires proper nutrition to function properly and grow healthy hair. The problem is that many of the nutrients that the hair follicle needs to be healthiest, vital organs of our body also need. When we are deficient in these vitamins and nutrients, the body diverts them to places it feels are more important for survival, and our hair suffers.
You may have heard reports of patients with COVID-19 experiencing hair loss. The truth is that any illness, especially when it includes fever, has been known to cause shedding four to six months after the onset. When you are sick it is a real shock to the body and the stress that it causes to the body is what actually induces hair loss. It takes around 3 for the shedding to occur as the hairs need to transition from the growth (anagen) phase to the resting (telogen) phase, which is when the shedding occurs.
Hormones play a significant role in the health of our hair, both positive and negative. Women experience natural hormonal fluctuations that can impact the health of the hair, but hormonal imbalances can also occur from thyroid disease, birth control, or hormone replacement therapy. Over the last five years, we have seen an increase in the number of women utilizing hormone replacement therapy and some of these therapies can increase hair loss.
Almost everyone will have some degree of hair loss as we age due to the shortening of the hair life cycle that happens over time. Believe it or not, we are constantly losing hairs every day as old hairs fall out and that is normal as new ones grow in. This life cycle for a single hair can be anywhere from two to eight years, but over time it shortens, which is why it is more difficult to grow your hair as long as you did when you were younger. This shortened life cycle also means, the hairs are often not as thick and the density is less. For those experiencing hair loss, they are often seeing fewer new hairs grow in and the hairs that grow in are not as healthy.
Women invest a lot of time into their hair care routine, but unfortunately, these styling techniques are often not the best options for scalp and follicle health. Hairstyles that cause constant pulling, like extensions, tight ponytails, or corn rolls can be quite damaging to the follicles. Permanent chemical straighteners, relaxers, or colors can result in brittle or dry hair. Excessive heat from straighteners or blow dryers can not only dry out the hair but can cause burns on the scalp.
You may not be able to outrun your genes or your age, but you can take steps to give your hair a fighting chance against these risks as there are options to counteract or slow down hair loss caused by all of the risk factors listed above. Take some time to evaluate your risk factors and make sure to schedule a consultation with a hair loss specialist that can customize a treatment plan for you.