Like many unwanted afflictions, female hair loss can be a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors we don’t realize are making matters worse (eek!) Since the frustrating problem comes with a side of gender-associated embarrassment, it can be harder than other beauty woes to navigate as a woman.
If you’re currently experiencing unexpected hair loss, or just want to ensure favorable conditions for the future, click through to discover how you can both treat and prevent this tricky issue.
We all lose a normal amount of hair when we’re shampooing, brushing, styling with heat, or just pulling strands into a ponytail. Like our eyelashes, the hairs on our head go through normal life cycles, and fall out when they’re dead to be replaced by new ones, typically about 100 per day.
However, some of us experience more than average hair loss, for a variety of reasons. If you notice excessive amounts of hair falling out in the shower or as you brush, or a more gradual and dispersed thinning, there could be a number of sources and accompanying ways to troubleshoot.
Telogen efluvium is the medical term for when you shed handfuls and clumps of hair every day. This occurs because the natural life cycle of the hair accelerates, moving hairs through the growing, resting, and shedding phases of the cycle more rapidly than normal. Pregnancy, stress, and certain medications (such as Acutane and Klonopin) are all factors that contribute to this phenomenon.
There technically is no official test to verify if you are experiencing telogen effluvium, but a doctor canhelp you assess your lifestyle and determine if any medications or particularly stressful recent events may be behind your hair loss. Typically, hair loss of this type won’t occur until one to three months after a stressful trigger, like illness, divorce, a death in the family, or a high-stress job can be one. A doctor might also perform blood tests to rule out nutritional deficiencies, thyroid complications, and other potential medical factors.
Hereditary hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is different. Signs that you are experiencing the onset of hereditary hair loss are thinning at the hairline itself and more diffuse thinning around the middle and sides of the scalp (versus losing clumps at a time). People more prone to this type of hair loss are those who’ve had two parents with a similar pattern as they’ve aged. A doctor or dermatologist may perform a scalp biopsy for follicle verification of hereditary hair loss.
Hair loss can also be a result of “abusive” hair habits—negative tendencies like pulling your hair too tight, abrasive brushing, and excessive coloring and heat styling, which can lead to damage and breaking.
If prescription medication is contributing to telogen effluvium, you can talk to your doctor about switching types or lowering dosage.
Also, Keep stress to a minimum, since you actually can prevent stress-induced hair loss through stress management. If you are already experiencing telogen effluvium, stress will exacerbate it. The good news is that as soon as traumatic triggers are removed, hair will grow back.
Relatedly, keep your immune system in tip-top shape! Suffering from major illnesses where you are bedridden, have a high fever, or need surgery are known causes of hair loss. Stay healthy, exercise, maintain a well-balanced diet, and engage in positive practices to keep those anxiety levels low (hello, yoga!).
You can also prevent hair loss with better hair practices. Case in point: it helps to be kinder and gentler—both on yourself, and your mane. Check out our article on unhealthy hair habits to stop now, here.
If your gradual hair loss is genetic, there’s not exactly a prevention mechanism per se, but you can take action to mitigate the status quo and at least prevent further loss—and in many cases see significant regrowth. If you suspect hereditary hair loss is your issue, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a dermatologist, who can discuss medication options with you. Minoxidil, better known as Rogaine, is the only FDA-approved medication for treating hair loss in women, via a two percent formula you apply to scalp topically. There is a higher solution that some doctors recommend off-label, but it comes with a risk of increased facial hair growth. Your doctor will discuss any off-label options and the risks associated.
Bottom line: don’t lose hope! There are both lifestyle changes you can make and medication you can take, to tackle the problem of female hair loss.
Do you suffer from hair loss? Have you found any tips or products that work?