I get a lot of emails about women's hair loss. Yesterday, I received one from a woman who wanted to know why she was seemingly losing her hair. Unfortunately, she didn't give many details about her health, family or genetic history, or any dermatological or scalp issues that may have been contributing to the problem. So, I wrote back with a list of possible causes. You'll find that list below.
Temporary Shedding Or TE: There's a difference between shedding and thinning or balding. Shedding can be seasonal and temporary or it can occur suddenly when there's stress on the body or a health issue or a change that crops up. Examples are pregnancy, thyroid issues, menopause (although much younger women can have these issues), starting or stopping medications, or allergic reactions to foods or shampoos and styling products. Sometimes low iron or vitamin deficiencies can cause shedding. But, honestly, in a western diet, this is quite rare.
Losing Your Hair In Patches Or Sudden Balding With White Regrowth Or No Regrowth At All: Some women (and men too) have patchy hair loss that comes out only in clean, round patches. For example, the rest of the hair will be normal but there are will a round area that has become totally bald and smooth. Sometimes, this progresses to the point where there is total baldness. Often there will be white regrowth when regrowth does occur. This is called alopecia areata (aa) and is thought to be an autoimmune disorder brought on by stress or allergic reactions or viruses. Treatment is often steroid injections but some have had success with herbs rubbed into the scalp. This condition is relatively rare, but that's little consolation to those suffering from it.
Genetic Or Hereditary Thinning (Patterned Loss): AGA: Even women with no family history can suffer from androgenic alopecia. And, this doesn't require noticeable symptoms of androgens like pimples, oily head hair, or excess facial hair although you do sometimes see this. Typically this will be more of a thinning and less of a shedding. You'll usually see patterned loss, with noticeable thinning of the top, temples and crown, although sometimes the bangs or diffuse all over loss is at play. Many people cringe at the thought of this type of hair loss because it is thought to be more permanent and less easy to treat.
There are very effective treatments for AGA but they require that you first diminish the androgens or sensitivity and are then able to stimulate high enough quality regrowth to offer sufficient coverage and volume.
Scalp Issues, Infections, Etc: Sometimes, severe scalp issues can cause hair loss. Examples are psoriasis, oily or scarring dandruff, bacterial infections, yeast overgrowth, and lesions. In short, the scalp is traumatized and unable to support healthy hair or regrowth. The treatment for this is curing and soothing the scalp and then once this process is finished stimulating it (for regrowth) without re injuring it.
CTE: Shedding That Just Doesn't Stop: Many times, TE will fizzle out or stop on it's own. But, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes, the problem that was causing the loss just doesn't stop. So, what you get is just a repetitive cycle or loss followed by regrowth and then the same cycle just keeps repeating itself over and over again. Eventually, the hair's appearance is thin, brittle, and compromised. The regrowth just isn't able to keep up with what's lost so the look of the hair just keeps deteriorating. This can be the most frustrating experience of all because you just don't know what's causing it or how to treat it. I would suggest aggressively looking for the trigger and doing your best to support the scalp and vigorous regrowth.