Female hair loss can be upsetting and confusing and may come on gradually or quite quickly.
Female hair loss can be upsetting and confusing. It may come on gradually or it could come on quite quickly. It might take the form of a general thinning, or it could be a total loss of hair. It doesn’t discriminate on age or ethnicity, it can affect all women both young and old.
There are many different types of hair loss and all are caused by different reasons. Understanding why something is happening can often make you feel like you're regaining some control.
Hair loss can be caused by genetics, stress or medical conditions and their treatments, such as chemotherapy.
A less known cause is childbirth, which causes around 50 percent of women to notice hair loss and a staggering 75 percent to notice thinning. Too much vitamin A, too little iron (anaemia), a lack of protein, alopecia, lupus, physical or emotional stress or a dramatic weight loss are also common causes of hair loss.
Unfortunately, 90% of female hair loss is genetic and can only be treated with medication.
There are two different types of hair loss: genetic and reactive
There's a chance you're genetically predisposed to hair thinning, which means you may see a progressive, gradual reduction in hair volume. If this is the case, certain hair follicles are sensitive to male hormones – and this sensitivity causes follicles to gradually shrink and produce slightly finer and shorter hairs with each passing hair growth cycle.
This means your hair loss is the result of a trigger. Excessive daily hair loss is not reliant on having a genetic predisposition, it occurs as the result of an internal imbalance or upset, such as a nutritional deficiency, severe stress, crash dieting or an illness.
Causes of hair loss
A hormonal imbalance can lead to a multitude of health and beauty issues. If your hormones are off balance it can radiate through your whole body and affect everything from acne to weight gain and of course, hair loss. Hormones play a huge role in regulating the hair growth cycle. Oestrogens (female hormones) are 'hair friendly' and help to keep hairs in their growth phase for the optimal length of time. Androgens (male hormones) are not very hair friendly and can shorten the hair growth cycle.
An excess of androgens (which could be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome) can cause hair loss. The extent of this is often down to genes. If you have a genetic predisposition to follicle sensitivity, a hormonal imbalance can affect your hair more than it would someone who does not have a predisposition.
2. Iron deficiency
One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is an iron deficiency. Iron is essential for producing hair cell protein without it, your strands will suffer. If you notice your hair thinning it is a good idea to get your iron levels checked with a simple blood test.
3. B12 deficiency
soreness of the tongue, weight loss, pale skin, often with a lemon tint, intermittent diarrhoea, menstrual problems, and poor resistance to infections. All symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency.
But, what a lot of women don’t know is it can also take its toll on your hair. Vitamin B12 deficiency often causes hair loss as it can affect the health of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues.
These are only some of the things that may be triggering your hair loss; when you have found out specifically what is causing your hair loss, then what?
How can it be treated?
1. Recognise the problem
Hair loss doesn't usually happen fast, our strands grow in cycles, which means it can take up to 3 months for hair to fall out after a trigger has caused it. If you notice excessive daily hair shedding for longer than 3 months, see your GP, there could be an underlying factor that needs to be addressed.
2. Change up your diet
Get more protein
Hair is made of protein, making adequate daily intake of protein-rich foods essential. Include at least a palm-sized portion of protein at breakfast and lunch (approx. 120g)
They provide our hair with the energy it needs to grow. Snack on healthy carbohydrates (i.e. fresh fruit or whole wheat crackers) if longer than four hours is left between meals; as energy available to hair cells drops after this amount of time.
NB-if you are losing your hair because of something other than diet, like stress or illness, changing what you eat will not remedy it.
3. Avoid miracle cures
“Miracle cures” never do what they say on the tin. Try not to be fooled by ‘wonder’ products, as there is no cure for female hair loss.
Allow yourself time to feel bad and grieve for the loss of your hair. The key is to allow yourself to feel down for a short while, but then to do something proactive to make yourself feel better.
Laura Doyle, mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.