Why Is My Hair Falling Out? 9 Triggers Of Hair Loss In Women (And What To Do About It)

Photo: Nalada Nagawasuttama / Shutterstock
woman holding hair in her hands

Hair shedding is normal! We find hair in our brushes and the shower drains constantly because we lose about 80 strands of hair a day.

But sometimes, hair loss becomes concerning when it feels like you're losing way more hair than usual, leaving you wondering: why is my hair falling out?

To figure out whether or not your hair loss is a cause for concern, it's important to first understand the hair growth cycle.

The three stages of hair growth and shedding are called the anagen, catagen, and telogen stages.

Anagen is the active phase of hair. This is when new hair is formed, pushing hair that has stopped growing up the follicle. 

Catagen is the transitional stage in which growth stops and the outer root sheath (the lining of the hair follicle) shrinks and attaches to the root of the hair. This is known as club hair. 

Lastly, telogen is the resting phase where the hair follicle is completely at rest and the club hair is completely formed. This is usually where the shedding begins. About 25 to 100 telogen hairs are shed each day.

You will have hairs in each three of these stages at any given time.

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As you can see, hair shedding is normal and is a part of the hair cycle. However, excessive shedding known as telogen effluvium may be causing large amounts of your hair to fall out. 

Hair loss is different among men and women as well.

Male pattern baldness can begin after puberty and over the course of years. The hair loss begins above the temples and continues around the perimeter and top of the head to create a ring of hair along the bottom of the scalp. 

In women, female pattern baldness causes hair to slowly thin, particularly on the crown of the head, and is noticeable around the part of the hair as well.

But, why is my hair falling out?

Here is a list of triggers that could be affecting your hair growth. 

1. Stress 

Major stressors such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or surgery can cause excessive shedding. Childbirth also sometimes results in hair loss for several months after delivery.

“I personally experienced hair loss after having my first baby. Not only was there the pressure to quickly figure out how to be a mom, but to do it all really good!" Christine Hourd, a success and leadership coach, said. "The stress from this was so overwhelming that my hair was thinning and my hairline receding.”

Some people have also reported hair loss after extreme psychological stress. 

2. Alopecia 

Alopecia is a disorder caused by a disruption in hair production and has several different types, according to NYU Langone Health.  

The most common type of alopecia is androgenetic alopecia. This currently affects at least 50 million men and 30 million women and is hereditary. 

Another form of alopecia is alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune condition that attacks the healthy hair follicles and causes hair to fall out. The hair falls out in small patches from the scalp and may also fall out in other parts of the body as well.

Cicatricial alopecia, also known as scarring alopecia, is a rare type of hair loss that destroys hair follicles and scar tissue forms in its place. Some symptoms include severe itching, swelling, and red or white lesions on the scalp. 

3. Nutrient deficiencies 

Hair loss can be caused by several different deficiencies including anemia and B12 deficiency. 

"One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is an iron deficiency," Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in London said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. "Iron is essential for producing hair cell protein." 

Shortages of B12 can leave you feeling tired and low on energy and may also result in hair loss.

“Our body needs certain vitamins and nutrients to build hair,” Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, explains.

4. Hormone changes 

“Hormone changes are a huge contributor to hair loss for women. Hormones change due to stress after pregnancy, during perimenopause and menopause. I highly recommend women get their hormones tested (no matter their age) by a functional medical doctor. Most medical doctors don't look too deeply into hormones and how they impact our bodies. A functional medicine doctor does. Through a simple blood test, you can assess where your stress levels and hormone levels are and then take proper supplements or Biodentical hormones to support you,” Lesley Goth, PsyD said

According to WebMD, “Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Scientists now believe that it's not the amount of circulating testosterone that's the problem but the level of DHT binding to receptors in scalp follicles. DHT shrinks hair follicles, making it impossible for healthy hair to survive.”

5. Thyroid problems 

Both hypothyroidism (when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones) and hyperthyroidism (when your body produces too much thyroid hormone) can lead to excessive shedding. 

"The thyroid gland helps to regulate the body's metabolism by controlling the production of proteins and tissue use of oxygen. Any thyroid imbalance can therefore affect hair follicles," Kingsley said.

6. Medications 

Chemotherapy drugs are commonly known for causing hair loss. However, several other pharmaceuticals may include hair loss as a side effect.

Drugs can cause hair loss by interfering with the normal hair growth cycle. Medications can cause telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium hair loss. 

Telogen effluvium, as previously mentioned, is the most common type of drug-induced hair loss and appears within two to four months of taking the drug. 

Anagen effluvium occurs when the hair is still growing and prevents the matrix cells from producing new hairs. This typically occurs a few weeks after taking the medication and causes people to lose hair from their eyebrows and body hairs as well, according to WebMD

7. Genetics 

Hereditary-pattern baldness may mean you are predisposed to hair loss. According to Harvard Health Publishing, "Up to 40 [percent] of men and women will experience a more obvious form of this condition. Hair loss typically begins in the 20s and 30s, although in women the changes are most noticeable after menopause.”

This is a natural condition, which occurs due to a combination of hormone levels and aging. 

8. Hairstyles or treatments 

According to the Mayo Clinic, hairstyling or hairstyles that tug at your hair can cause hair loss.

Hot-oil treatments and permanents can also cause hair to fall out and if scarring forms it may be permanent. 

9. Age 

“With age, most people notice some hair loss because hair growth slows. At some point, hair follicles stop growing hair, which causes the hair on our scalp to thin. Hair also starts to lose its color. A woman’s hairline naturally starts to recede,” the American Academy of Dermatology Association said.

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How can you stop your hair from falling out?

1. Go see a doctor. 

Although shedding usually stops on its own, a doctor would be able to check you for underlying health conditions and give you medical advice about possible treatments.

2. Try topical products.

For example, Minoxidil promotes hair growth from hereditary hair loss. This can be applied to the scalp to help women with thin hair and frontal hair loss. 

Minoxidil is available from many different brands over the counter.

3. Add spinach to your diet.

Spinach has several nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, and iron, which all promote hair growth.

“I read that spinach was great for hair growth and after about eight months of adding it to my morning smoothie, and keeping my stress levels in check, my hair stylist was amazed at the new growth," said Hourd. 

4. Use laser caps. 

Laser devices use low-level laser technology to stimulate hair growth in the scalp and hair follicles.

For example, the iRestore Hair Growth System can be used every other day for 25 minutes and most see results in three to six months. 

5. Avoid hair pulling. 

Try to avoid hairstyles that put traction on your hair. Avoid harsh chemicals and serums which also may put unnecessary weight on your hair. 

6. Get a scalp massage. 

According to Eplasty, a scalp massage can increase the thickness of your hair by increasing blood flow. 

7. Take a supplement. 

Supplements can help boost levels of vitamins in your hair follicles. The right supplements should include amino acids, copper, zinc, and biotin in the ingredients. 

Hair loss can be scary because almost every society associates healthy hair with youth and beauty.

“For many people, their hair is what makes them feel beautiful... When you lose your hair — for whatever reason, it can be devastating,” Robert T. Brodell, MD, professor of internal medicine of the dermatology section at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Warren, Ohio explains.

Women especially grow an attachment to their hair and see their hair as a reflection of their own identity. When we lose our hair, our self-esteem is often lowered and we find it difficult to consider ourselves beautiful. 

Although it is hard to break that mindset, know that what you have on your head doesn’t matter.

Women don’t need to be confined to express their femininity only through long hair. Women can experience thinning hair too, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. 

It is important to take steps to deal with your hair loss in positive ways. It is not life-threatening and it doesn’t change your attraction level.

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Sydney Taylor is a writer who focuses on health, news, and entertainment topics.