Let’s be honest - hair is often a defining feature of our appearance and an extension of our identity. For many women, our hair is also a means of self-expression. That's why hair loss can be very distressing and impact self-esteem. There are various reasons why women experience hair loss, ranging from genetics to lifestyle factors. In this blog, we will explore the most common causes of women's hair loss and shed light on potential solutions.
Androgenetic Alopecia (Female Pattern Hair Loss)
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss, is one of women's most prevalent causes of hair loss. Androgens are a group of hormones, including testosterone, which are predominant in men but are also produced in smaller amounts in women. Hair follicles in the scalp have androgen receptors, which means they can be influenced by these hormones. In some cases, when the balance between androgens and other hormones shifts, hair follicles can become more sensitive to the androgens. This increased sensitivity can lead to a process called "miniaturization," where hair follicles shrink over time and produce thinner, shorter, and less pigmented hair strands. Genetics plays a significant role in determining susceptibility to this condition. Conventional treatment options range from topical minoxidil solutions to prescription medications like spironolactone and finasteride, but often only help while in use and may not resolve the issues long term.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for hair growth and maintenance. Deficiencies in nutrients like iron, biotin, zinc, and vitamin D can lead to hair loss. Iron is often the most common cause seen in practice, with research suggesting approx 60% of individuals experiencing hair loss present with iron deficiencies. A balanced diet rich in lean proteins, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and dark leafy greens can help combat hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies.
Hormonal fluctuations can also play a substantial role in women's hair loss. Hormones naturally fluctuate in women due to various life stages such as puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. These fluctuations can impact the hair growth cycle. During pregnancy, for example, higher estrogen levels prolong the growth phase (anagen) of the hair cycle, resulting in fuller hair. However, estrogen levels drop rapidly after childbirth, and many hairs enter the resting (telogen) phase simultaneously, leading to postpartum hair shedding. Hormonal changes during menopause can also lead to hair thinning due to decreased estrogen levels and potential androgen dominance. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism), and chronic stress can also lead to hair thinning. Treating the underlying hormonal imbalance often results in improved hair health.
Telogen effluvium is a reversible condition that occurs when there is an abrupt shift in the hair growth cycle. This shift leads to increased hair follicles entering the resting (telogen) phase, followed by shedding. Common triggers include significant physical or emotional stress, major surgeries, rapid weight loss, childbirth, and certain medications. The hair loss is diffuse and occurs all over the scalp. While not much can be done to immediately reverse the shedding, managing the underlying cause and ensuring a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can aid hair regrowth.
Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss caused by repeated pulling or tension on the hair follicles. Tight hairstyles like braids, weaves, and ponytails can lead to hair loss, particularly around the hairline and temples. Avoiding tight hairstyles and giving hair regular breaks can prevent further damage.
Medical Conditions and Medications
Certain medical conditions such as alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder), lupus, and scalp fungal infections can lead to hair loss. Additionally, some medications used to treat cancer, depression, arthritis, and high blood pressure can have hair loss as a side effect.
Chronic stress can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. Elevated cortisol (aka our ‘stress’ hormone) disrupts the normal hair growth cycle by pushing more hair follicles into the resting phase, resulting in hair shedding. Practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help mitigate its effects on hair health.
Hair loss in women can result from a combination of genetic, hormonal, nutritional, and lifestyle factors. Understanding the root causes of hair loss is the first step toward finding effective solutions. If you're experiencing significant hair loss, it's advisable to consult your healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause, as it may often not be one factor in isolation causing the hair loss, and more importantly, hair regrowth may not occur under the root cause has been accurately addressed.
If you aren’t sure what to do about hair loss, call (647) 351-7282 for a consultation with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto. Dr. Holmberg will assist in getting answers as to why your hair is falling out and solutions to address the issue and improve your overall health. Make an appointment today to learn more about testing and a natural approach to health.
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