A loss of body hair may sound like a GOOD thing - after all, we spend most of our adult lives trying to remove it from one body part or another! But the reality is that it can be quite alarming, because it can be completely unexpected and the cause can be hard to determine.
Partial or complete hair loss can affect pretty much any part of the body, including the arms and legs; eyebrows and eyelashes... even pubic hair can be affected. In some cases, the hair loss can be temporary, but in others it may be permanent.
On this page we'll take a look at the various causes of body hair loss in women (if you're suffering from scalp hair loss, please see this page instead).
Please note: This information, whilst supported by links to the relevant resources and research, is not meant to constitute medical advice. You should always discuss your hair loss concerns with your doctor or other medical professional.
If you're noticing hair loss from a certain part of your body, one of the first things to consider is your skin. Do you suffer from any of the following?
Any of these conditions can cause damage to the hair follicles, which can then have a negative impact on hair growth. In some cases, the damage may be impossible to reverse, which means that the hair loss will be permanent.
Burns and injuries to the skin may also cause follicular damage - and, in the case of burns, the damage is even more likely to be permanent.
Even if you suspect a skin condition as being the cause of your loss of body hair, it's important that you speak to your doctor to be sure - in part, to receive treatment if possible, but also to make sure that there isn't another, underlying issue causing the problem.
Hormones help regulate hair growth - so hormonal disorders of one form or another are a relatively common cause of hair loss, including loss of body hair.
Hypothyroidism - a condition where the thyroid hormone in the body is low - can cause general body hair loss. So too can hyperthyroidism (where the body produces too MUCH thyroid hormone). Usually, treatment for the condition can help alleviate the hair loss problem (you can learn more about hypothyroidism and hair loss here).
But if you continue to lose body (or scalp) hair in spite of the fact that your thyroid problem is being treated, there may be another issue coming into play.
Research has shown that - in patients with thyroid problems - the conversion of testosterone in the body to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) seems to be accelerated. DHT causes hair loss by attacking the hair follicle and shrinking it. In some cases, DHT can make the hair follicle disappear altogether.
Experts speculate that this rapid conversion of testosterone to DHT may be what causes continued hair loss in patients whose thyroid problems are otherwise controlled by medication. If this sounds like you, then discuss this research with your doctor.
Other points you may like to address with your doctor are whether or not your thyroid medication may be causing your loss of body hair (some do!), or whether there is a separate issue BESIDES your thyroid problems that may be causing your hair loss.
Source: Thyroid and Body Hair
DHEA is dehydroepiandrosterone, the most abundant hormone in the blood. We produce most of it during our adult lives - but certain factors can reduce how much we produce. These include...
Under-production of DHEA can contribute to a lowered libido and a loss of body hair, particularly in the lower half of the body.
Ask your doctor to check your DHEA levels - this can be accomplished with a test of either your blood, urine or saliva.
If your DHEA levels turn out to be low, then your doctor can often provide a supplement to get things back on track.
Source: Crossroads Medical Associates
Menopause, of course, is one of the life events that causes the biggest disruption to our hormone levels.
DHEA levels may drop (as explained above) and so too may estrogen and progesterone levels, allowing the male hormones in the body (androgens) to have more of an impact on the body.
This can cause hair in unwanted places (like the chin!) and also loss of body hair. Indeed, this British Journal of Dermatology article confirms that there is an increasing loss of body hair after menopause.
Speak to your doctor for advice - this type of body hair loss may not be too worrisome to you (some women even welcome it!) but hormone replacement therapies are available to help you deal with the more troublesome symptoms of menopause.
The ironic thing about many drugs is that - whilst they're successfully treating one problem within the body - they may be causing another! And a loss of body hair is one of the problems that some medications can cause.
Chemotherapy is well known for this side effect, causing a loss of eyebrows and eyelashes in addition to scalp hair loss. But there are many other drugs that are associated with hair loss problems.
This page gives a comprehensive list of drugs that can cause hair loss, usually from the scalp but sometimes from other parts of the body too. Do speak to your doctor to review your medication if you feel it is causing your hair loss problems - often a different dose or different brand may be all that's needed.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions such as lupus or diabetes, where the body attacks itself. Autoimmune diseases, other diseases of the immune system and conditions affecting the functions of certain organs can all cause body hair loss, usually in the areas most impacted by the condition, but sometimes all over the body.
Should you suffer from any of these conditions and find yourself experiencing a loss of body hair, speak to your doctor about a possible connection.
Source: Dr Oz
In fact, alopecia areata can cause patchy hair loss on the body and can, in rare cases, progress to alopecia universalis, an autoimmune condition that results in total loss of body hair (note that the word 'alopecia' simply means hair loss).
Alopecia can only be diagnosed by a doctor, so do discuss your concerns with a medical professional if you feel you may be affected.
Unfortunately, experts are unclear about what actually causes alopecia... and there is no cure available.
However, encouraging news is that researchers from Columbia University may have discovered the genetic cause, linking alopecia to 8 genes. This came after they found that the 8 genes associated with alopecia were the same genes associated with autoimmune diseases like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. This discovery may lead to new treatments for alopecia in the future.
Source: Cleveland Clinic - Hair Disorders
...And whilst a lack of proper nutrients in the diet usually shows up in the hair on your head - causing anything from poor condition to hair loss - a loss of BODY hair can be the result too. Iron is a particularly important nutrient for the hair, but often our iron levels are far lower than we realize.
By the same token, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia - which affect how many nutrients from food the body actually absorbs - may also cause a loss of body hair.
It's a good idea to review your diet with your doctor if you're losing body hair - and even if you feel your diet is varied and nutrient-rich, it's still a good idea to have your iron levels checked. Maintaining healthy iron levels is good for your whole body, not just your hair, so identifying a deficiency is important for your general well-being.
The causes are varied, and - of course - both the treatment and outcome depend on what triggered the loss in the first place.
Hopefully, the information given on this page will have given you some ideas of what to discuss with your doctor and how best to resolve your particular issue.