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The Why, Who And How Of Female Hair Loss And What To Do About It

Although hair loss may seem like a more prominent problem in men, women are nearly as likely to lose, or have, thinning hair. Most women notice it in their 50s or 60s, but it can happen at any age and for a variety of reasons.

Way To Grow

Hair grows in three different cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. About 90% of the hair on the head is in the anagen phase, which lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 years. The catagen, or transition phase, typically lasts 2-3 weeks, during which the hair follicle shrinks. During the telogen cycle, which lasts around 2 to 4 months, the hair rests. An overwhelming majority of the time the hair is on the scalp, it is growing. Only about 10% of the strands are in transition or resting at any one time. Hair grows about 6 inches a year for most people. 

At A Loss

The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern hair loss or female-pattern hair loss. It usually occurs gradually with aging and in predictable patterns — a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair in women. For women, hair loss is most common around ages 45 to 55, but can commence as early as a woman’s 20s. Over half of women will find their hair is thinning by the age of 50. For men, it can happen as early as their teens and it starts with the hairline receding. Women may notice their part widening or the volume decreasing in the middle of their scalp. When it comes to seeking treatment, women will usually take action far more quickly than men. 


Most people lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands of hair each day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. On the days when hair is washed, people can lose up to 250 strands. But don’t avoid washing in an attempt to keep the hair, as it will fall out eventually, anyway. 


For those who don’t plan on counting their hair every day, there are ways to know when hair is thinning or being lost at a higher rate. When waking up in the morning, there may be an usually large amount on your pillow.  Or, when you comb your hair (especially without tugging, which can pull the hair out), more than normal will be left in the comb. Another way to diagnose whether a woman is experiencing excessive hair loss is through a family history. What did your mother, aunts, or grandmothers look like at similar ages?  If they had similar amounts of hair loss at such ages, it could be a telltale signs of female pattern hair loss. Typically, each time a normal hair follicle is shed, it is replaced by hair that is equal in size. But in women with female pattern hair loss, the new hair is finer and thinner - a more miniaturized version of itself. The hair follicles are shrinking and eventually they quit growing altogether.

Medical and Other Conditions

If hair loss is sudden or excessive, it is likely to be caused by something other than heredity, like a medical condition. There are a wide range of conditions that can bring on hair loss, with some of the most common being pregnancy, thyroid disorders, and anemia. Others include autoimmune diseases, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. There also may be a link between menopause and hair loss. Menopause is also a pretty common culprit in female hair loss and is one of the many symptoms that come about due to the major hormonal fluctuations that occur at this time in a woman’s life. Menopausal hair loss usually manifests as a general thinning all over the scalp, instead of hugely noticeable bald spots. Other reasons for hair loss include extreme stress; physical trauma like surgery or intense illness; dramatic weight loss over a short period of time; and taking too much or too little of certain vitamins.  And hair loss can occur a couple of weeks to six months after any of these experiences. Regular, garden variety ‘female pattern baldness’ is age-related and the most common cause of female hair loss and can occur even in non-menopausal women. This is a genetic condition that’s also known as androgenetic alopecia. It’s quite normal – not that that’s of much comfort – and is usually confined to overall thinning rather than patchy losses.

Easy Does It

One other way to thin hair is self-inflicted - hairstyles like cornrows or too-tight braids can cause hair loss called traction alopecia. All of the things women do to manipulate their hair -- dyes, chemical treatments, bad brushes, blow dryers, and flat irons -- can result in damage and breakage. This includes brushing too much and towel drying aggressively when the hair is wet.Luckily, for most of these issues, the hair grows back or the loss can be reversed with medical treatments. But it is important to see a dermatologist if there seems to be something wrong, because the sooner treatment is started, the better the chances are for improving your growing season. Another thing to keep in mind is that wearing your hair in a tight hairstyle such as a heavy ponytail or bun or tight braids can cause hair loss too.

Can female hair loss be reversed?

Well it mostly depends on the reason for it in the first place. A dietary deficiency can often be corrected with supplements or an improvement in what you eat. Life-stage issues such as pregnancy and menopause are going to take their toll and quite often, the level of hair loss will even out once the stage is complete. In the case of menopause, that full, lustrous head of hair probably won’t return to what it once was but the hair fall will usually slow dramatically. Hormone replacement therapy can help although if hair loss is the only symptom worrying you – and not too traumatically – you may want to forgo the HRT and muddle through. 

Do hair loss treatments for women really work?

Just as everybody responds differently to their hair loss, everybody responds differently to treatments for it. It’s critical to find out the cause first, so that could mean a visit to your doctor. Once you know what you’re dealing with, start there. Maybe you need treatment for stress, for a hormonal imbalance or for PCOS or another medical condition. But if you find out you have female pattern hair loss, there are certainly treatments that can help manage it.

What are some of the most effective treatments/strategies for women with hair loss? Again, the solution for you will depend on your situation but here are some strategies you might want to look into. It depends on the cause and on the individual, but some of the strategies include:

  • Minoxidil. Initially developed as a treatment for high blood pressure, it became known as a drug that could grow hair in places where it was lost. Some women – not all – experience great results. It’s important to keep in mind that one must stay on Minoxidil for at least six months to cover the full hair cycle. One favorite is Hair Restoration Laboratories' Ultra Strength Hair Treatment which not only contains FDA-approved 5% minoxidil but also a number of powerful ingredients that, when combined with 5% minoxidil, significantly improve the quality of hair and scalp.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP). Known as the ‘Vampire’ treatment, the patient’s blood is drawn, naturally enhanced to boost the number of platelets and key factors then reinjected back into the scalp. This can revive dying follicles and hair.
  • Iron supplements – Iron deficiency is thought to be a hair loss cause in a lot of women. If women are experiencing hair loss, shedding or thinning, it is highly recommended that they see their doctor for a blood test to check levels, particularly if they’re vegan/vegetarian, have a history of anemia or experience heavy menstrual bleeding. The doctor may prescribe an iron supplement, which could help to remediate the hair loss.
  • Hair Restoration Laboratories’ Hair Restore Shampoo and Conditioner Set. This shampoo and conditioner set helps keep hair healthy and protects against the effects that cause hair loss. Combined, the Hair Restore Shampoo and Conditioner Set contains over 30 potent ingredients formulated to fight the primary factor the causes female pattern hair loss, prevent hair loss and thinning and stimulate thicker, fuller and healthier hair. 

    The Solution: Treating Hair Loss In Women

    If you are suffering from hair loss or thinning, the most likely culprit is genetics. While you cannot fight your genetics, there are numerous treatments available to effectively prevent any further loss or thinning and restore the hair that you have already lost.  Time is not on your side with hair loss.  So, the sooner you consult with a physician to identify the causes, the sooner you will be able to give your hair what it needs to grow strong, thick and healthy.