Hair Loss and Women

Although it is more often seen as a man’s issue, hair loss is also a common complaint amongst women.  Whereas men typically experience a receding hairline or balding at the crown of the head, women tend to notice a general  thinning of the hair.  In more extreme cases of hair loss, a woman may see the part in her hair gradually become wider or may see more scalp than usual when the hair is pulled back.

The average woman has about 100,000 hairs on her head.  Between 50 and 100 hairs fall out naturally every day.  At any given time, the hairs on the head are going through one of three stages:

1. The Growth or Anagen Stage:  About 90% of the hairs on our head are in the growth stage which lasts between two and eight years.

2. The Transition or Catagen Stage: Lasting about two or three weeks, this is when growth ceases and our hair follicles shrink and die.

3. The Resting or Telogen Stage:  During this final stage, lasting about three months, the hair remains in the follicle until it is pushed out by the growth of new hair starting again at the beginning of the cycle in the Anagen Stage.

When this normal cycle of growth, transition and rest is interrupted, the hairs may fall out early and may not be replaced, leading to increased hair loss and thinning.

Many factors may contribute to hair loss in women, including:

  • Hormonal changes.  This may include pregnancy, giving birth or menopause.  Increased levels of some hormones during pregnancy can cause the body to retain hair.  However, once those levels return to normal about three months after giving birth, the extra hairs shed in what may seem as alarming amounts.   During the marked hormonal fluctuations of menopause, up to 75 per cent of women experience hair loss and thinning.  The good news is that many cases of hair loss during menopause are temporary; once hormone levels rebalance, it is possible for hair to regain its previous thickness. In the meantime, consider giving your hair a break from dyes, heat irons and chemical treatments.  Opt for gentle shampoos and skipping a day between washing to allow your hair to build up its natural oils which can keep follicles strong.
  • Stress.  Emotional stress can also trigger hair loss. This may not occur until  three or four months after the traumatic experience.  When the body is under extreme stress, the hair shifts into the resting stage while the growth stage is delayed in order to conserve resources.   Introducing regular exercise like walking or yoga can be a good way to lower stress levels. Recognize the importance of taking care of yourself first, something many women struggle with.
  • Diet.  Nutritional deficiencies, iron in particular, can result in hair loss in women.  Ensure your diet includes whole grains, dark green vegetables and protein-rich foods.  Consider a mineral supplement  or a daily multi-vitamin that contains hair-healthy vitamins like B, C, D and E.

Keep in mind that hair loss may also be an indication of other health issues, so it’s always important to discuss your concerns with your doctor.