11 Sneaky Causes of Hair Loss in Women

It's time to get to the root of the problem.

When you think of going bald, it's likely you imagine a middle-aged man's receding hairline. But women actually make up 40% of Americans who suffer from hair loss. Considering how emotionally tough losing your hair can be (just think of the tears shed over a bad hair cut), it's important to understand why it's happening — and how to fix it.


Whether it's a rocky relationship or a demanding job, stress can take a toll on your hair. The more stressed you are, the more your testosterone levels increase, and that can affect the hair growth cycle, says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist (AKA someone who studies the health of hair and scalps) at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York City.

What to do: Make time for self-care. Whether it's yoga, therapy, or meditation, it's important to lower those stress levels. Kingsley says stress-induced hair loss in women typically only lasts as long as the stress itself is present.

Giving Birth

While pregnancy can give you some of your best hair ever, don't be alarmed if it falls out after giving birth. Kingsley says that 50% of women experience postpartum hair loss, as delivery itself is tough on the body and there's an imbalance of hormones post-pregnancy.

What to do: Either let time run its course as your hormones shift back in balance, or try a hair growth vitamin to speed the recovery process. Either way, Kingsley says your hair should return to its pre-childbirth state within 6-12 weeks.


Anemia is a blood condition in which your body is iron deficient, so it doesn't have enough red blood cells to efficiently transport oxygen throughout the body. That means hair loss may not be your only symptom: Fatigue, severe weakness, and headaches are also common symptoms, reports the Mayo Clinic.

What to do: Ask your doctor for a blood test to confirm whether or not you're anemic. If it's positive, a diet that's focused on iron-rich foods may be all you need. But if you're going through menopause, you may need to add iron supplements to help you reach the daily recommended dose of 18 mg, as iron deficiency is more common.

Female Pattern Hair Loss

"The most common type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss," says Lars Skjoth, founder of hair loss clinic Harklinikken. A genetic condition that can start showing symptoms as early as your teenage years, it's common to experience thinning hair around the temples and through the part, especially after traction — AKA frequently wearing hair too tightly — has been ruled out as a possible cause.

What to do: Rogaine is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for female pattern hair loss. Your doctor may suggest other options though, so talk with them to decide on the best plan for you.

Tight Ponytails

While a ponytail may be the quickest way to get your hair out of your face, making it too taut could place stress on the hair follicle that results in hair loss known as traction alopecia. "We see this a lot in African American women who wear tight braids or in athletes who wear ponytails every day," Skjoth says. If your hairstyle makes your scalp feel sore, it's too tight.

What to do: Loosen your hairstyle and try to limit how often you wear it tied up. Otherwise, the hair follicle will be subject to permanent damage that could prevent regrowth.

Poor Nutrition

"Many of the female clients I see have hair loss that's purely due to an inadequate diet," Kingsley says. "It's harder to nourish your hair than any other part of your body because hair is non-essential tissue, making it the last to receive nutrients and the first that nutrients are withheld from."
What to do: Since hair is made up of protein, it needs a steady supply in order to grow sufficiently. Kingsley recommends eating at least 120g for breakfast and lunch, which you can get via eggs, fish, lean meats, poultry, nuts, or veggies. Just remember that plant protein isn't as easily absorbed as animal protein, so you'll ideally want a mixture of both.

Thyroid Disorders

A hypo- or hyper-active thyroid can cause drastic physical changes, most notably weight fluctuations or pale, dry skin. But that's not the only symptom: Brittle, thinning hair is also quite common, Kingsley says.

What to do: Have a doctor do a blood test in order to accurately diagnose a thyroid problem. With the right prescription medication, your hormone levels will return to normal and the hair loss should subside.

Hot Tools

Using a hot tool to straighten or curl your hair every now and then is NBD, but if it's a part of your daily routine, that could cause problems. "It isn't true hair loss from the follicle, but it can still thin the appearance of the hair considerably," Kingsley says.

What to do: Take a break from the heat, hair dryers included, and up your usage of intensive hair treatments. Harklinikken's Hydrating Hair Mask contains natural ingredients like olive oil, avocado oil, and plant extracts to rehydrate the hair shaft so you're tackling the root of the problem.

Extreme Weight Loss

Weight loss, when done the healthy way, typically occurs gradually. So when pounds drop off all at once, the body treats it as it would a physical trauma and withholds nutrients from non-essential tissues that ultimately results in hair loss, Kingsley says.

What to do: Talk to your doctor to make sure you know what's behind the sudden weight change, and to ensure there are no other health concerns. Otherwise, eat a vitamin- and protein-rich diet to help your body recover. Once it realizes you're not under physical duress, the hair loss should stop.

Harsh Hair Treatments

Similar to the breakage that occurs from overusing hot tools, constant dying or processing of the hair can lead to weaker, thinner strands. When you dye your hair, chemicals in the dye actually have to break through the cuticle for the pigment to be deposited. And since the cuticle protects the hair shaft, lifting it up during the dye process can create significant damage.

What to do: Wait 8 weeks in between color appointments so your hair has time to recover. And invest in a few hydration-boosting hair products that work to reseal the cuticle and retain moisture.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects the function of the ovaries, but Kingsley says it may also impact the hair. "It can result in excessive production of androgens, which are male hormones that can shorten the growth phase of the hair growth cycle," she explains.

What to do: While PCOS treatment can be complicated, your doctor may prescribe an anti-androgenic medication that can help reverse the hormone imbalance and aid in hair loss recovery.

See more at: Redbook

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Women's Magazine: 11 Sneaky Causes of Hair Loss in Women
11 Sneaky Causes of Hair Loss in Women
Women make up 40 percent of Americans who suffer from hair loss. Here are 12 reasons for why your hair could be falling out, and how to stop hair loss from happening again.
Women's Magazine
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