We speak to the experts about why your hair is falling out, and what you can do about it.
Ever find yourself, hairbrush in hand, thinking: where’s the rest of it? If you once had voluminous hair that is now thin and fine, you’re not alone. Hair loss in women is relatively common, especially as we age.
While thinning hair is usually nothing to worry about, sometimes it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. So what causes hair loss in women, is it hereditary and what can we do about it? We speak to trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver and consultant dermatologist Dr Adam Friedmann to find out:
What causes hair loss in women?
There are a number of reasons you might be losing your hair. According to Tarver, these include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth:
Hair loss after pregnancy is common. Your hormonal profile changes after birth, and you’re more likely to be low in iron, which combined with the stress of looking after a young child can affect the quality and growth of your hair.
Periods can be heavier after having a baby, which also impacts on iron levels – iron deficiency anaemia shows up in about 70 per cent of women with hair loss. And pernicious anaemia, which is a lack of vitamin B12, is also common, particularly in women experiencing rapid hair loss. Where there is deficiency, the body will send nutrients to the essential organs, such as the heart, first, and there’s not always enough left over for the hair.
- Severe stress:
We lose between 100-200 hairs a day naturally but after a stressful event or illness that required treatment with antibiotics, this can double or even triple. Stress increases the levels of cortisol in the body, which triggers hormonal changes that result in hair loss. Antibiotics can reduce haemoglobin in the body, resulting in low iron levels, which affects the hair.
We lose between 100-200 hairs a day naturally but after a stressful event this can double.
Many other medications, including those used to treat acne and high blood pressure, can also interfere with the normal cycle of hair growth resulting in something called telogen effluvium, which causes the hair follicles to go into their ‘resting’ phase and fall out too early.
- Under or overactive thyroid:
If you have other symptoms, such as low mood, lethargy and weight gain or at the other end of the scale, experience weight loss and a feeling of being constantly ‘revved up’, an under or overactive thyroid might be the reason for your hair loss.
With an overactive thyroid, everything speeds up, including the reproduction of the hair follicle cells, which means the hair falls out faster than it can grow. With an under-active thyroid, everything slows down, so hair doesn’t grow as quickly. Luckily, thyroid conditions are usually well-diagnosed and easy to treat with the appropriate medication.
Is thinning hair hereditary?
The short answer, says Dr Friedmann, is yes. ‘One of the most common reasons for thinning hair in women is androgenic female pattern hair loss. If your mum has noticed her hair thinning as she ages, you might too.’
If your mum has noticed her hair thinning as she ages, you might too.
Each time a normal hair follicle is shed, it’s replaced with hair that is finer and thinner until it just stops growing altogether.
‘Genetic or age-related hair loss can be treated with minoxidil, which is the active ingredient in a product such as Regaine. Caffeine shampoos such as Alpecin, which stimulates the root, may also be useful, although they don’t work for everyone. It’s helpful to feel that you’re being proactive about a problem that many women find profoundly upsetting. Don’t forget it can take months to see an improvement, as hair grows slowly,’ says Dr. Friedmann.
Food supplements that help hair loss
Tarver recommends eating the following foods and supplements to help promote a healthy head of hair:
Why: It’s a form of iron that encourages the hair to grow to its full length.
Where to find it: Time-release supplements such as Ferrograd C. Include red meat, spinach, pulses and broccoli in your diet.
✔️ Vitamin B12
Why: It encourages hair regrowth.
Where to find it: Try Forever Living’s B12 Plus. It’s prescription-strength and chewable, which is better for those people who have trouble absorbing it. Also include salmon, eggs and fortified cereal in your diet.
✔️ Vitamin D
Why: It can help create new hair follicles, and to re-energise dormant ones.
Where to find it: Exposure to sunshine helps our bodies to make vitamin D – try 10 minutes in the sun without sunscreen (avoid the hottest part of the day and be careful not to burn). Sardines, milk, yoghurt or egg yolk are good dietary choices.