Top Five Little-Known Causes of Female Hair Loss

What even some doctors don’t know

Are you a woman who is losing her hair?  Are you wondering what might be causing it?  If you have been to see your regular doctor about this problem, or even if you have done a little research on the Internet, you have probably noticed that a lot of different opinions.  Here is a list of five things you (and maybe your doctor) did not know could cause hair loss in a woman;

Tension

No – not like tension in your neck – tension on the hair shaft itself.  Besides the obvious damage from breakage, any kind of pulling at hair, either repeatedly or for long periods of time – can result in temporary and sometimes permanent loss.  This includes hair extensions (even the “light” ones!), weaves, and tight hairstyles like braids and ponytails.  Wigs can cause hair loss, too if worn for too long or clipped/glued on.  Strangely enough, some people actually pull or pluck at their hair, a condition called Trichotillomania, and this kind of tension can cause lasting damage.

Thyroid

Either too much thyroid activity (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) can cause hair loss.  Hypothyroidism is more common and can cause permanent damage to the hair follicles themselves, but hyperthyroidism is also a cause of significant hair loss through shedding.  Both conditions are treatable, but intervention needs to happen quickly so if you think you might have either of these conditions, it is important to be treated by your physician as soon as possible.

Hormones

As any pregnant woman will tell you, hormone changes definitely influence hair growth.  For the most part, the hormones that a woman has tend to be protective for hair.  However, certain hormone changes can predictably cause hair loss, like postpartum (a few months after delivery) or post-menopausal (two to three years after menopause).  Even going on or off different forms of birth control and hormone replacement therapy can lead to shedding (known as telogen effluvium) and sometimes chronic thinning of the hair (known as androgenetic alopecia).

Vegetarian or low protein diet

Hair is 98% protein, so it makes sense that your body needs protein in order to grow hair.  Strict vegetarianism, although very healthy for other reasons, can lead to a diet that is low in protein and some other essential nutrients that are found in animal products and foods.  When this happens, slow or weak hair growth can result.  Some nutrients that are essential for hair growth, (like iron from red meat or B-12) are also difficult to find in a completely vegetarian diet, so vigilance and possibly taking additional supplements should be encouraged.  And speaking of diets…

Weight

Big swings in your body’s size – whether it is weight gain OR weight loss – can cause hair loss.  This is particularly seen in women who become anorexic, and if it happens in their youth their hair might have permanently weakened growth.  Hair loss is also seen in cases of crash diets or bariatric surgery (“stomach stapling,” “lap bands,” etc.) and usually the hair re-grows without incident after a year or so.  How much weight loss is too much?  It depends on the speed of the weight loss more than anything – 1-2 pounds per week is usually safe and more likely to stay off anyway, but if your hair starts to shed significantly that may be a sign you are losing (or gaining) weight too quickly.

If you are a woman who is losing her hair, it pays to pay attention to the little health issues that might be contributing to your hair loss.  Seeing your doctor is the first and best step, and in the meantime, do all you can to optimize your hair growth yourself.  Remember, there is hope and tackling any hair loss head-on will give you back control in your life.

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