Which of These Hair Loss Causes
Is Affecting YOU?

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There are a number of hair loss causes that may be affecting you and here we'll help you identify which one is the culprit. This, of course, is the most important step in dealing with the problem and finding the best way to either stop it, or minimize the damage.

Losing your hair is alarming and can affect your self esteem

Important note: It's always a good idea to speak to your doctor if you're losing your hair, as he or she is both familiar with your medical history and is the best person to offer you medical advice. The information presented here, whilst extensively researched and supported by links to appropriate medical sources, is NOT intended to replace professional medical advice.

Am I losing too much hair... or is my hair loss normal?

According to the experts, we all lose somewhere between 50 to 100 hairs every day. Some days we may notice it more than others (when we've just washed our hair, for example) but that rate of hair loss should not cause our hair to become noticeably thin (particularly when you consider that there are around 100,000 hairs in the average scalp).

Source: Mayo Clinic

That being said, hair DOES thin as we age (known rather charmingly as senile alopecia!), but this is still considered within the realms of 'normal' hair loss.

How to spot excessive hair loss

You may be losing more hair than normal if...

  • You notice an unusually large amount of hair in your hairbrush - particularly if you hadn't even been tugging at your hair!
  • There's a lot of hair on your pillow when you wake in the mornings.
  • When you tie your hair back, it seems that more of your scalp is showing than usual.
  • You can see more of your scalp at the point your hair parts - as if your part is getting wider.
  • Your hair just FEELS thinner all over.

Sometimes, the signs are just unmistakable, particularly with some types of alopecia that may leave distinct, round bald patches.

So... you've established that the amount of hair you're losing is excessive - now it's time to examine the range of hair loss causes to determine which one is affecting YOU!

Female pattern baldness

Female pattern baldness is a hereditary condition that - according to the American Academy of Dermatology - is the most common cause of hair loss in women. In fact, about 30 million women in America are affected right now - so if you suspect you're one of them, or if you've already been diagnosed with the condition, then you are most certainly not alone.

Female pattern baldness - also known as androgenetic alopecia - is most common in women in their 50s and 60s, but it CAN happen at any time... even as early as puberty.

If you're affected by female pattern baldness, you might have noticed that your hair has been thinning steadily over time, particularly at your hairline behind your bangs (fringe), or all over your scalp (this is called diffuse hair loss).

The condition can be passed down by one or both parents and it gets its name from the fact that it causes a 'pattern' of hair loss which may be permanent.

This is because the condition causes the hair follicles to shrink over time. In a normal situation, hairs that fall out are replaced with hairs of equal size - but with female pattern baldness, the shrinking follicles cause each new hair to be thinner and thinner. Eventually, the hair follicles just stop growing at all.

Female pattern baldness - follicle damage

This damage to the follicles can be caused by their sensitivity to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Yes, it's made from the male sex hormone testosterone, but it's present in our female bodies, too - and if we've inherited the susceptibility to it, then excessive hair loss is the result.

If your female relatives - mother, grandmother, aunts etc - suffered from female pattern baldness, then there's a good chance that the condition is what's causing YOUR hair loss. It's important to discuss this with your doctor, who will go over your family history with you.

Your doctor or dermatologist may examine your scalp using magnification to take a closer look at your hair follicles, in order to determine whether or not the follicles vary in size (a factor that strongly indicates female pattern baldness as the cause of your hair loss). On some occasions a scalp biopsy is used to examine the follicles and you may be given a blood test to rule out any other possible hair loss causes.

It's not possible to prevent androgenetic alopecia, although some women feel theirs was triggered by taking birth control pills, perhaps by the changes in hormones caused by the pills themselves. If pattern baldness runs in YOUR family, we feel it's worth mentioning to your doctor when birth control pills are prescribed.

Female pattern baldness is not damaging to your health... but there's no doubt it's damaging to your confidence.

If it's been determined as the cause of your hair loss, then talk to your doctor about treatments like minoxidil, which can slow down the rate at which the hair falls out. There are also lots of cosmetic options available to help you hide your hair loss altogether.

Learn more about female pattern hair loss

Source: WebMD

Omega Fatty Acids and Hair Loss

Research shows how effective omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids can be in restoring thinning hair

Alopecia areata

Not to be confused with androgenetic alopecia (above), alopecia areata is a condition where the body's immune system - which usually protects the body from infection - actually ATTACKS the hair follicles.

If you're finding smooth, roundish bald patches on your scalp, then alopecia areata is the likely cause.

According to the NHS, up to 1 in 5 cases of alopecia is due to a genetic predisposition to the condition - in other words, if one or both of your parents had it, then this may make you somewhat more likely to develop it too.

It may also be more likely to occur if you have an existing autoimmune condition like diabetes or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

The good news is that alopecia areata is treatable - your doctor may prescribe cortisone creams or injections, which are often effective in mild cases, or you may be offered oral tablets if your case is more severe. In some cases, the hair may even grow back by itself.

Occasionally, however, getting the hair to regrow can present a real challenge and the best option is to consider cosmetic ways of hiding the problem.

Only your doctor can give you a firm diagnosis of alopecia, which is reached after tests which may include a scalp biopsy, examination of the hairs themselves or - in some cases - blood tests.

Frontal fibrosing alopecia

As its name suggests, this type of hair loss usually affects the frontal hairline (although it can affect the sides and back too).

It is often accompanied by inflammation to the hair follicles, causing scarring that can lead to permanent hair loss in the affected area. 

This make early diagnosis important.

Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of frontal fibrosing alopecia

Hormonal hair loss causes

Hormones have a lot to answer for... and hair loss is another problem in which they can play a part!

Hair loss is common after giving birth

As you're very likely aware, your hormones can be 'all over the place' when you're pregnant and after having a baby. And many women notice that - within 2 to 3 months of giving birth - they begin losing copious amounts of hair.

So is this something to be concerned about?

The answer is no - it may common, but this type of hair loss (called telogen effluvium) is temporary and is caused by the hair moving too quickly through its growing phases, arriving at the 'shedding' stage far more quickly than usual.

Although you might find yourself losing an alarming amount of hair while it lasts, things DO correct themselves and your locks WILL grow back.

Click here to read more about postpartum hair loss

Comments from our readers...

I had huge hair loss for years. No one could figure it out until – one clever doctor tested my hormone levels, as I had been taking troches for years. My testosterone was four times as high as it should be so she removed that from the prescription and had me take Aldactone, which blocks DHT. I used DHT blocking shampoo and now six months on – I can see some little hairs coming back. So happy! 


Some women experience hair loss around the time of menopause. Whilst some medical sources suggest this is due to the hormonal imbalance, others feel there is no direct link between menopause and hair loss... it's simply the natural thinning of hair that comes with age.

Learn more about the link between hair loss and menopause

Hormonal changes may also trigger temporary hair loss in teenagers, which can be quite devastating at a time when they are already insecure about their appearance.

If your doctor suspects telofen effluvium - one of the most common hair loss causes - he or she may be able to diagnose it by simply discussing recent life events with you. This often turns up the cause! Alternatively, (s)he might examine fallen hairs, looking for club-shaped bulbs on the roots. This can show that the hair has been through a full - but rather too speedy - cycle of growth.

Telogen effluvium causes an overall thinning of hair, rather than actual bald patches. Whilst we consider that to be a good thing, in our experience it can sometimes make it more difficult to persuade your doctor that you're actually experiencing hair loss at all... you may be written off as 'over anxious'. So prepare to defend yourself and fight your corner!

Hair grows in 3 stages -

1. anagen (growth stage)

2. catagen (transition stage)

3. telogen (resting/shedding stage)

Sometimes, some hairs are accelerated into the telogen stage too quickly and the subsequent hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.

Estrogen and Hair Loss

Estrogen and hair loss are connected - click here to discover how too little (or too much) of this female hormone can have a significant impact on the growth of your hair.

More hair loss causes resulting in telogen effluvium

Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause are not the only conditions that can cause temporary hair loss like this... it can also be triggered by:

Medications that cause hair loss

Medications that may cause hair loss

Another of the more common hair loss causes is medication! Yes, the sad fact is that whilst you may be prescribed a course of drugs to help you overcome one condition, that same medication can create a whole new problem for you.

The types of medication and treatments most commonly found to cause hair loss are...

  • drugs that treat cancer (particularly chemotherapy) and radiotherapy
  • arthritis drugs
  • blood thinners like heparin and warfarin
  • epilepsy medication like Dilantin
  • drugs for gout
  • blood pressure medication (beta-blockers in particular)
  • drugs to lower cholesterol
  • thyroid medication
  • anti inflammatories (prednisone, for example, which is often used to treat lupus)
  • drugs that alter the mood, like lithium, Prozac and Wellbutrin
  • diet pills with amphetamines
  • acne medications such as isotretinoin
  • antibiotics
  • anti fungal medications
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • steroids
  • drugs for Parkinson's disease

With the exception of chemotherapy and radiotherapy - which trigger a type of hair loss called anagen effluvium, where the hair shaft is broken at scalp level and the hair loss is more extensive - these medications generally cause telogen effluvium. This means that the hair loss is temporary and your hair will grow back once the medications are stopped, or if your doctor recommends switching to a different drug.

Learn more and see our list of medications that cause hair loss

Note: Never stop taking prescribed medicine unless advised to do so by your doctor!

Source: Hair Loss Causes - Anagen Effluvium

Skin conditions

Whilst round, bald patches on the scalp often indicate alopecia areata, there could be another culprit... ringworm!

Learn more about scalp ringworm, also known as tinea capitis

Other hair loss causes include skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Often these can be treated and the hair grows back - however, there are some skin conditions, like lupus and lichen planus, that cause scarring. The hair loss caused by the scarring is - unfortunately - permanent, so the best solution in this case is to look for a cosmetic way to cover the problem.

Find out more about how an itchy scalp can cause hair loss issues

Nutritional problems

Good nutrition is important for healthy hair

You are what you eat... and your diet can affect your hair, too. Although it may not be one of the more common hair loss causes, some people do find that nutritional factors most certainly play a part and that better nutrition improves their hair.

Factors that may contribute to loss of hair include...

  • too much vitamin A (known as hypervitaminosis)
  • crash dieting
  • bulimia
  • anorexia
  • lack of protein and vitamin B12 - more common in vegetarian diets
  • low levels of zinc
  • lack of essential fatty acids
  • biotin deficiency
  • malabsorption (difficulty in absorbing the nutrients from food)
  • low iron*

*The Cotswold Trichology Centre in the UK actually suggests that low iron is one of THE most common hair loss causes, revealing that a study conducted on 1000 women showed 33% suffered from hair loss, with only 10% caused by female pattern baldness and a staggering 90% caused by low iron.

Learn more about the best foods to fight hair loss

Suffering in the name of beauty!

Hair damage by blow drying

Sometimes, the things we do to make ourselves more beautiful become the source of our hair loss problems!

Traction alopecia is the name given to the condition where the hair falls out because it's under too much strain! This can be caused by tying it back too tightly on a regular basis or braiding it tightly into cornrows.

Learn more about traction alopecia

Weaves, too, place the hair follicles under constant strain, so it's best NOT to wear a weave all the time and to ensure that whoever applies your weave is properly trained to do so.

There are lots of other things we do in the name of beauty that can have a negative impact on our hair, including blow drying, straightening with flat irons, curling, dyeing etc. These tend to cause hair breakage rather than loss... the hair might FEEL a lot thinner, but the roots are undamaged. The good news is that this type of hair thinning is superficial - start taking care of your hair and treating it with respect and you'll see a big difference!

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Allow your hair to dry naturally whenever possible and be careful of harsh hair clips, hair pins and - a big no-no - rubber bands with no fabric coating, which tend to tear the hair to pieces!

Avoid brushing your hair too much when it's wet (it's weaker then) and choose a good quality hairbrush.

If you're in a dry climate - or your air is dry because of indoor heating - try using a humidifier. It can make a HUGE difference to the strength of your hair.

Other hair loss causes

If none of the conditions above apply to you, then here are a few more possible hair loss causes that you may wish to discuss with your doctor...

  • stress - although some medical professionals dismiss stress as a cause of hair loss, research shows that the hair follicles may respond to certain types of stress

  • thyroid problems (some women notice they're losing their hair when the thyroid - the gland that helps regulate the body's hormonal levels - isn't functioning correctly). 
    Learn more about hypothyroidism and hair loss
  • autoimmune conditions such as lupus (hair loss can sometimes be the first symptom)

  • diabetes - recent figures show that 24% of diabetes cases go undiagnosed. Hair loss can be a symptom of the condition.
  • hair pulling disorder - this is an emotional illness that gives sufferers the urge to pull out hair from their heads or other areas of the body

  • mercury amalgam fillings - the connection may not be proven, but there are concerns about the use of mercury in fillings and the effect they may have on our health (and hair)

How to prevent hair damage from swimming

Swimming - either in a public pool or the ocean - can be a worrying proposition if you have fragile, thinning hair. 
Learn how to keep your hair in good condition whilst enjoying the sport you love!

Mythical hair loss causes!

There are all sorts of myths about what can make your hair fall out... the most common being that hats are responsible! Your hats should be kept clean, of course, otherwise you may find yourself dealing with falling hair due to a skin infection... but that's about the only 'danger' they present.

Neither do shampoos, hair spray, hair gels or dandruff cause hair loss... although some cosmetic products may cause superficial damage to the hair shaft, as discussed earlier.

Other sources and references for more information:

Bernstein Medical

We hope that this summary of hair loss causes has helped you identify which issues may be affecting you. That's an important first step in restoring or enhancing your hair and giving your confidence a boost.

› Hair Loss Causes


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