Causes of Hair Loss in Women

Causes of Hair Loss in Women

Just when you think your life/health/soul couldn’t be beat down anymore. . .your hair starts to fall out. As women, we are very protective of our hair. It shows your personality, and shelters you from physical and possibly emotional harm. In my life, I’ve had three separate episodes (episodes = MANY months) of hair loss. The first time I experienced clumps of hair falling from my head in the shower, I was devastated. I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and didn’t know what the f*** was going on!

There are so many causes of hair loss in women, and it’s much more common than you’d think. In fact, it’s been reported that up to one in every four women will experience hair loss or thinning at some point. That’s a lot of ladies!

Thankfully, there are ways to slow or reverse hair loss in women. Before you can do that though, you must figure out what the heck is causing your hair loss in the first place!

Causes of Hair Loss in Women

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal disorder characterized by cysts on the ovaries, excess androgens and insulin resistance. PCOS has a lot more to it, but a main symptom for many PCOS cysters is hair loss. This type of hair loss is called androgenic alopecia, and is caused by excess testosterone. The excess gets converted into DHT, a ‘bad’ form of testosterone that at the skin/scalp level causes hair to fall out. Part of the reason that testosterone gets converted into DHT is chronic stress, so self-care is very important for PCOS. Women with PCOS may notice hair loss mostly at the temples, hairline and top of the head, rather than an all-over loss.

The Ultimate PCOS Checklist | The Hormone Diva

Hypothyroidism

Another leading cause of hair loss in women, having an underactive thyroid can cause your hair to fall out. This type of hair loss often happens throughout the whole head, not necessarily leaving patchy areas as in androgenic alopecia. Due to the lengthy life cycle of your hair follicles, you may not notice hair loss until months after seeing thyroid symptoms or being diagnosed hypothyroid. Hair growth actually depends on thyroid hormone, and too little thyroid hormone can cause hair loss- not just on the head but all over the body. Note that hyperthyroidism can also cause thinning of hair.

 

Poor Nutrition

Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and nutritional compounds are essential to our health. We literally ARE what we eat. No joke. So if you’re eating a diet high in processed foods (think boxes, bags and cartons) or lots of fast food (I’m looking at you, McDonalds!) you will absolutely not be getting all the nutrients you need. Even eating vegetables from your supermarket may not give you what you need. Eating organic or locally grown foods, in the whole and natural state will go a long way.

One of the main nutrients missing for women experiencing hair loss is Iron. This mineral helps keep us energized, oxygenated and also prevents hair loss. If you’re unsure of your levels, get your doc to check Ferritin. Grab a supplement if you end up being low.

Stress

Stress can be an evil (but physiologically necessary) beast. I wish I could come up with a new name for it that has a positive spin! Anyways. . .

Chronic stress will help the body in creating all of the imbalances mentioned above and more!! Stress doesn’t allow our bodies to create the right hormones in the right amounts at the right time. So your thyroid takes a hit, your reproductive hormones are out of whack (hello, extra DHT!) and your nutrient status becomes dangerously low. You may go through some kind of emotional or physical trauma (like me losing my grandmother this spring) and not notice hair falling out until after the fact, due to your hair’s lifecycle.

 

Thankfully, most hair loss can be reversed, or at least stopped or slowed down. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to tame my PCOS hair loss. Here’s a great hair treatment I use weekly, and some ideas of what to look for in a hair loss supplement.

 

Be patient – your gorgeous hair will reappear!

Have you experienced hair loss? What helped your hair grow back?

Comments

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  4. A few months ago, I noticed that I would lose a lot more hair when brushing it than I usually do. Seeing this makes me feel really worried that it’s thinning at an alarming rate that will lead to bald spots. I’m hoping that knowing the causes for hair loss in women will help me regrow my hair fast enough so that it will be thicker than it already is. PCOS as a cause for hair loss caught my attention when reading through this post. Since the stress and hormone imbalance in women with PCOS can lead to thinning hair, does that mean that endometriosis can have the same effects? I was recently diagnosed with endometriosis, and I’ve noticed that my hair has been getting thinner ever since. Maybe finding a way to bring balance to my hormones will help with my hairline if I can find a solution.

    1. Hey Judy,

      The biggest reason women with PCOS are losing hair is due to excess androgen hormones, like testosterone. It’s called androgenic alopecia, and often shows up around the crown of the head and hairline, versus just being an all-over thinning. This is generally not a feature of endometriosis.

      However, things like stress, estrogen imbalance and poor thyroid function could be comorbid with endometriosis, but more testing would have to be done to see!

      Some testing might be a good place to start. Let me know if you need anymore assistance!

      Robyn

  5. Dee

    My hair is thin at the temples (seems like the hair is either not growing or growing and then shedding) and thin at my hairline at the top front. It basically almost looks like my hairline is receding. Sometimes I notice that my temples look thinner right before I menstruate and then the hair grows back afterwards. This seems to be the pattern every month. I was diagnosed with PCOS 20 years ago but apparently I do not have it anymore based on my hormone levels and my menstruation cycle is normal. My TSH is also normal but my t3 was low so I am now taking cytomel which seems to be helping my t3 levels. I have been taking cytomel for 8 months. Is it possible that estrogen dominance could be causing my hair thinning or DHT. Do you have any suggestions on what I can test. Thanks!

    1. Hey Dee,

      There’s many reasons for hair loss- including PCOS, thyroid issues, low iron, stress, nutrient (esp protein) deficiency, and yes- estrogen dominance.

      If you’re looking to test for ED, see a functional medicine practitioner or a naturopath who can test based on where you are in your cycle for accurate results.

      If you have many symptoms of ED (PCOS being a big one) then likely you can begin to eat a diet better for balancing estrogen dominance and may see improvements. Hair issues take time so be patient.

  6. PLEASE HELP ME!
    I am a Btech student , studying in south India, vellore.From past 2 years I am suffering from great hair loss. its little wired. i will have hair loss from April-July mid and then Oct to Jan mid. other months, it will be like no hair fall at all. Not more than 10 hair will come out of my head in a day in other months.
    1.5 years back I did my ferritin and thyroid got checked. Both were not good. I took best of my diet , took iron supplements and now ferritin seems to be ok(70 it showed in test). I am not sure about thyroid. there was not much abnormality in it. My TSH was little low. My doctor told me if my iron gets alright, my thyroid will automatically will be normal.
    From then I am doing regular body check ups , sometimes my TSH will be low (being T3 T4 in range) and sometimes TSH will be normal.
    I am losing 150-200 hair per day , which is 15 times more than other months hair fall. and during the head wash count increases to 300 above.
    I dont understand anything why, my hair loss is so wierd. I try to take best diet at hostel.
    We have exams in May and November. My friends say, it because of stress, but truly i dont take any stress. I go to home in December and June. On this point my friend says that I restore the nutrients etc in these months(home going months) and then it takes 2-3 to get those nutrients depleted from my body, because after coming back from home I will not have hair fall for 2-3 months then then suddenly out of nowhere it will start drastically.

    I really dont understand anything. I take really good diet, do exercise, take pretty much care about hair.

    Can somebody please tell me wht’s the reason.?
    I am dying each moment. I will appreciate the replies.

    1. Hey Priya,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling- I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be.

      This is too complex a case for me to comment on what will work over a blog comment. I highly recommend finding a natural healthcare practitioner who’s well versed in these types of issues (like myself) to work privately with you to create change.

      1. I have tried many things.I have great hopes that you will help me.How can I contact you privately as you said ?

  7. Mam, how likely is it that i will be having PCOS. I have periods for 2 days and the gap between the cycles is 32-34 days. Its the same from starting, like from the age i m having periods. I dont have pimple or acne problem. Huge hair loss problem(mentioned above).

  8. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I’m post menopause. I am losing tons of hair. Started at crown, and now sort of thinning all over. I get hands full everytime I wash and brush out my hair, which I am very gentle with. I get thyroid blood tests often and they tell me things look fine. What could it be? I am so depressed and scared! My hair has always been long and thick. Please help! How can I get rid of DHT or testosterone?

    1. Hey Debi!

      DHT may not be the cause of your hair loss if you are hypothyroid. And yes, it’s possible to be hypothyroid and have “normal” labs. I would highly recommend checking out Dr Isabella Wentz online, she’s a thyroid expert and you’ll find tons of info about labs and symptoms.

      Otherwise I would suggest consulting someone well-versed in holistically managing hair loss (a nutritionist like myself or something similar) to really figure out the cause.

      Typically DHT is a cause only in women with PCOS.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to reach out if you need anything else! 🙂

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