Everything Women Need To Know About Hair Loss, According To Experts

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Written by Annie Walton-Doyle

Updated: March 5, 2024

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Losing some hair from time to time is a fact of life—but if you’re noticing extreme hair loss, it can be rather worrying. Not only do we want to keep as much thickness and volume in our hair as possible, but hair falling out to excess can be a sign of other health issues. 

We all lose a few strands of hair every day, but if you’ve noticed an uptick of strands in your shower drain, it could point to a wider hair loss issue. There are a whole range of different causes of hair loss, and figuring out the reason behind yours may be the best way to come up with a prevention plan. Illness, hormonal changes, stress, dietary issues, and poor hair care can all contribute to excessive hair loss.

Keep reading to discover the primary causes of hair loss, plus the different methods of prevention that could help keep your hair feeling full and thick.

Hair Loss —Normal Or Excessive?

Per Web MD, there are three phases to our hair’s life cycle: anagen (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). Anagen refers to the active growth phase of hair which lasts 3–10 years, catagen is the transition phase where hair stops growing and lasts 2–3 weeks, and telogen is the resting phase where hair falls out and lasts 3–4 months 

At any given time, the majority of your hair is in the anagen phase, while around 1% is in the catagen phase, and 9% is in the telogen phase, per Healthline. Losing around 100 to 150 hairs per day is a natural part of your hair’s growth cycle, but if you’re noticing you’re losing much more than that, it could be worth investigating the cause to help with hair loss prevention.

Signs of Excessive Hair Loss

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There are a few warning signs to look out for that may suggest your hair loss is not completely normal. If you lose several hairs every time you run your fingers through your locks or notice lots of hairs on your pillowcase in the morning or in your shower drain, this could be a cause for concern. You may also notice a loss of density when pulling your hair into a ponytail over several moths. 

Causes Of Hair Loss

The best way to prevent excessive hair loss is to understand exactly why it’s happening to you. Figuring out the cause of your hair loss will help you tailor make a plan to stop it from happening and to return your hair to its most bountiful and healthiest self. 

1) Genetics

One of the primary causes of hair loss is genetics. Androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern hair loss) is a condition passed down from your parents, and can begin occurring as early as your 20s. While genetic hair loss is the most difficult to treat, having a well-rounded approach to your health and haircare routine can help minimise the genetic effects on hair loss.

2) Pregnancy and Childbirth

Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the leading causes of hair changes in women. When a woman is carrying a baby, her hair essentially stops falling out, meaning it looks exceptionally full and thick during the pregnancy. This is because the hormones of pregnancy keep hair in the anagen phase.

However, after the child is born, hormones shift and the hair moves into the telogen and catagen phases, meaning hair loss quickly picks back up, often leaving postpartum women noticing a lot of hair coming out. This is all completely normal and should balance out once hormones settle following a pregnancy.

3) Hormonal Changes

Alongside pregnancy and childbirth, women experience other hormonal shifts on a monthly (and even daily) basis. Postpartum, menopause, IVF treatment, and coming on or off of birth control are all major hormonal shifts that can impact hair loss. If you’ve experienced a significant hormonal change and are simultaneously noticing an increase in hair loss, it’s likely that could be a major reason why.

4) Underlying Illness

Excessive hair loss can also be a signifier that all is not well in your body more generally. Three major health conditions linked to hair loss are thyroid issues, polycystic ovary syndrome, and diabetes, which causes circulatory problems.

If you are, in fact, suffering from any of these conditions, then treating them will also help to treat the symptoms of hair loss. It’s important to be patient, thought, as this can take several months.

5) Vitamin Deficiencies 

The correct levels of vitamins and minerals in our bodies can have an impact on hair growth and hair loss. As per Springer Link, the most common deficiencies linked to hair loss are in vitamin B12, biotin, folate, and riboflavin. Taking a multivitamin or supplement which contains these four key ingredients can help minimise hair loss, and, in fact, boost growth.  

6) Lack of Protein

Getting enough protein in your diet is also key to minimising hair loss and helping healthy hair growth. Those with vegan and vegetarian diets, or those who aren’t prioritising their protein intake, can notice weaker and more brittle hair and nails over time. Calorie restriction or weight loss can also have a negative impact on hair, causing weakening and thinning.

7) Certain Medications

Some long-term medications have a potential side effect of hair loss. However, if it’s a medication that treats a potentially harmful or dangerous condition, it’s likely not worth risking your health for your hair. If you are concerned that a medication you’re taking is having an adverse effect on your locks, you should seek advice from a medical professional, and never take matters in your own hands.

8) Trauma and Stress

The Cleveland Clinic confirms that stress and trauma is a leading cause of hair loss in women. Traumatic or stressful events in your life can induce a sudden spurt of hair loss in which a lot of hair falls out all at once. This is a condition called telogen effluvium and is thought to be due to inflammation. It can be reversed over time, but speaking to someone about stress management or trauma therapy may be an intrinsic part of preventing future hair loss.

9) Poor Scalp Health

A National Library of Medicine study shows that an unhealthy scalp can be linked to thinning hair, hair breakage, reduced shine, and rough hair texture. Infrequent or inadequate scalp cleansing, product build-up, and inflammation from harsher products can all damage the hair follicle, which can result in hair loss over time. Chronic scalp conditions such as dandruff or psoriasis can also have a negative impact on hair retention. Using scalp-friendly hair products and incorporating scalp care into your hair routine can help with hair loss prevention. 

10) Over-Styling Hair

If you’re a fan of a fancy up-do or a slicked-back ponytail, beware – you may be causing issues with hair loss. Putting too much tension and strain on the scalp can cause traction alopecia.

Per the American Academy of Dermatology Association: “The constant pulling can cause strands of your hair to break or fall out. In time, the continuous pulling can damage your hair follicles. If you damage your hair follicles, your hair cannot grow back, so you develop permanent hair loss.” You can still enjoy pulling your hair back from time to time but try to do so gently and allow your hair time to recover in a relaxed, looser style in between.

11) Hair Damage

Overprocessing your hair through heat or chemical treatments can also cause hair loss. This is typically more due to breakage (hair snapping in the middle of a strand) rather than actual hair loss (hair falling out at the follicle) – but, nonetheless, the end result is the same: thinner-looking locks.

The best way to prevent this sort of hair thinning is to minimize your hair damage. This can be by reducing heat styling, or by color treating hair less frequently or with less extreme bleaches and dyes.

Incorporating a heat protectant and a reparative hair oil can also help. You may also wish to look into hair treatments that aim to reduce and repair hair damage, such as the K18 or Olaplex haircare ranges. 

How To Prevent Hair Loss

Some of the major causes of hair loss are not necessarily issues you can treat at home with a DIY ethos. If you believe your hair loss is linked to hormonal problems, genetics, or an underlying medical condition, it’s important to consult with a professional to help to treat not only the hair loss but the underlying cause, too.

However, there are some hair loss prevention methods that you can implement yourself at home. These primarily revolve around looking after your hair and scalp.

The National Library of Medicine confirms that keeping your scalp healthy is the key to maintaining your hair, stating that: “there is a wealth of observational data on specific dermatological conditions of the scalp providing evidence for the role of the scalp condition in supporting the production of healthy hair.”

You may also wish to add some extra protein to your diet or incorporate some hair-friendly vitamins or supplements. Treating hair loss from a variety of angles can be the best method of prevention – plus, it’ll offer you some extra health benefits elsewhere, too.

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