Hair Loss Triggers In Women

Many women with female pattern hair loss suffer in silence, changing  their hairstyle to hide thinning or bald patches.  But the sooner one seeks care, the better the chances of successfully treating it, said Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

Despite the general perception that hair loss is strictly a male disease, women make up a significant  percentage of American hair loss sufferers.  As many as 5% of women under 30 and 60% of those older than 70 are affected.

Hair is tied to self-image.  It’s an expression of style and personality. Research also suggests hair and self-image are closely intertwined. If an occasional “bad hair day” can make a girl feel low,  hair loss in women can be absolutely devastating for her self image and emotional well-being.

Unfortunately, the medical community  pays much less attention to the issue of women’s hair loss. The physicians do not seem to realize that the psychological impact caused by hair loss and feeling unattractive can be equally as devastating as any serious disease.  It can take an emotional toll that directly affects physical health.  The American Hair Loss Association however recognizes that hair loss in women is a serious life altering condition that can no longer be ignored.

An  estimated eight million women in the UK and a staggering twenty one million in US are affected.  Female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in women.  Many women are affected  by female pattern hair loss {FPHL}.   About 40% of women by age 50 show signs of hair loss and by age 80 , over 50% are resigned to hair thinning or hair loss.  Female pattern baldness may occur in the following patterns;

  • Hair thins mainly on the top and crown of the scalp. It usually starts with a widening through the center hair part.
  • The front hairline remains unaffected except for normal recession, which happens to everyone as time passes.
  • The hair loss rarely progresses to total or near total baldness, as it may in men.
  • Itching or skin sores on the scalp are generally not seen.

Hair experts think that female pattern baldness also known in men,  as androgenetic alopecia, is caused by genetics and aging including hormonal changes of menopause.  Hair loss or thinning may be more prominent  along the center of the scalp, but a receding hairline is rarely seen in women. This type of hair loss can start as early as the late teens.  The earlier it starts, the more severe the hair loss tends to be.


Many women are unaware that their thyroid is one of the culprits contributing to hair loss.  The thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland at the front of your neck responsible for producing hormones that regulate a multitude of processes throughout the body.  If the gland makes too much or too little thyroid hormone,  hair growth cycle may be upset. Hair loss is rarely the only sign of a thyroid problem.  Other hair loss triggers commonly known include weight loss or weight gain, sensitivity to heat or cold and changes in your heart rate.

Women suffering from a condition known as PCOS {polycystic ovary syndrome} have a chronic hormonal imbalance. What this means is a higher level of androgen in their hormones.  This chronic imbalance causes additional hair growth on the face and body while hair on the scalp starts thinning out.  PCOS may also lead to ovulation problems, acne and weight gain but sometimes thinning hair is the only obvious sign.

Another hair loss trigger is alopecia areata.  This symptom causes hair to fall out in alarming patches.  The surprising culprit is the body’s own  immune system which mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles.  In most cases, the damage is not permanent.  The bald patches normally grow back within 6 months to a year.  In rare cases, some people may lose all of their hair on the scalp and body.

Ringworm seems to be an unlikely source of hair loss.  Because of the contagious nature of ringworm, this fungus is easily spread by direct contact, so family members should also be checked for symptoms. Ringworm fungus creates its distinct pattern of hair loss in the form of itchy, round bald patches.  The affected areas can appear to be scaly and red.  This condition can be treated by medication but not before it has caused some displacement of hair.

Women lose hair for various reasons.  In some cases, illness and medication are contributing factors ( like chemotherapy to treat cancer).  Hair growth returns to normal once treatment for cancer is withdrawn.  Diseases such as typhoid, arthritis and hypertension can cause thinning.  Deficiencies and metabolic disturbances such as diabetes melitus II can cause hair loss and thinning.

Women can testify to postpartum hair fall that usually tapers off and hair growth restarts within 6 months to a year. Childbirth is a major cause of hair loss among women.  Post surgery hair fall is a common occurrence and usually a temporary syndrome.

Intake of birth control pills, anti-depressants and blood thinners have listed hair loss as one possible side effects.  Sudden or excessive weight loss and extreme diets are often linked to hair loss.   Excess intake of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals is known to affect hair growth process.

Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic believe that iron deficiency could be a major cause for hair loss and balding. Deficiency of Vitamin C could also result in hair fall.  However, an excess of fat soluble Vitamins A & D can cause hair loss too.

Compulsive behavior like trichotillomania, { an irresistible  urge to pull or twist the hair until it breaks } leads to noticeable hair loss.

Stress and anxiety are also major causes of hair loss in today’s competitive environment.   A study by Dr. Bahman Guyuron in 2011 revealed the disturbing statistics that women who had multiple marriages suffered more hair loss than those who are happily married.  The study concludes that divorce is a significant hair loss factor among women.

Hair thinning problems can also be attributed to improper handling of hair, improper hair regimes,  and excessive use of styling tools.  Perming lotions, hair coloring pigments, curlers, hair dryers necessary for the “look good and feel good factor” in today’s conditioned lifestyle are the direct causes of hair loss.

The end result is thinning hair that may never recover unless one resorts to long term natural or alternative therapy or a change of habits in diet and lifestyle.