When men lose their hair, it’s considered a pretty normal part of their aging process, but when women lose their hair, it certainly is not. It can cause extreme distress, lack of self-confidence and leave the sufferer desperately needing to find out what causes hair loss in women.

Whilst it is always recommended that the sufferer consult their health care provider or a trichologist, this overview of possible causes may help to determine why the condition occurs in the first instance.


In many cases, hair loss in women is attributed to a change in hormone levels; for example:

  • During pregnancy and in the months after a child is born (particularly if the mother is breastfeeding)
  • During the menopause
  • As a result of thyroid abnormalities
  • Starting or stopping the use of oral contraceptives.


Acute emotional or physical stress can result in the loss of hair but this is usually only temporary. The reason for this is not absolutely clear, but is possible that stress induces hormonal changes that are responsible for the hair loss, particularly as this is a recognized consequence of other hormonal changes caused by the conditions referred to above.

Situations which may result in stress at this level include:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Serious illness
  • Surgery (and post-op recovery period)
  • Worry
  • Extreme weight loss or gain


Whilst it is not completely clear as to what causes hair loss in women, one thing is for sure, and that is the importance of a balanced diet in order to achieve and maintain healthy hair.

According to nutritionists, deficiencies in the correct nutrients in a person’s diet can result in dull, thinning, or even the temporary loss of hair. To combat this, the following advice is recommended:

  • A deficiency of zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids can adversely affect the health of your hair, so it is essential that foods containing these minerals be incorporated into your diet. Foods which are rich in zinc include seafood, salmon, meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs, all of which are also high in protein. Other good zinc food sources are whole wheat bread, whole grain rice and cereals and pumpkin seeds. Zinc supplements are also available. Foods which are rich in magnesium include whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, tofu, spinach, scallops, oysters, okra, nuts, halibut, broccoli and black beans. As before, magnesium supplements are also available. Foods which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, salmon, sardines, Atlantic herring, swordfish, lake trout, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, soybeans and soybean oil, walnuts, brazil nuts, olive oil, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • It is important to incorporate a variety of food from different food groups into your diet, as eating too much of the same type of foods whilst eliminating others from your diet can cause hair loss.
  • A long-term, low-calorie diet may cause the hair to fall.

Female Pattern Baldness

This condition and its symptoms are very similar to those of Male Pattern Baldness. It is a permanent condition and there is no known method of prevention. However, in Female Pattern Baldness, the hair loss will occur slightly differently:

  • In FPB, hair usually begins to thin on the top of the head and crown of the scalp, although the front hairline will normally remain intact
  • Unlike the symptoms experienced in MPB, the hair loss will very rarely continue to near or complete baldness

The exact causes of Female Pattern Baldness are not known for sure, but some of the contributing factors are thought to be:

  • Aging
  • Genetics (family history)
  • Hormonal (an increase in the level of male hormones in a woman’s body)

Female Pattern Baldness is not necessarily an indication that the affected woman is suffering from a medical disorder. However, it is common for women with this condition to suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and anxiety and if this is the case, it is recommended that a health care provider or counselor is contacted.


Normal shampooing, drying, brushing and styling of the hair should present no problems.

However, whilst it is normal to lose up to approximately 150 hairs a day, it is best not to contribute to any extra hair loss if it can be helped. The following guidelines refer:

Hair styles which require the hair to be pulled tightly can, over a period of time, put stress on the root of the hair, which may result in hair loss.
Over-styling the hair with heated appliances such as tongs, straightening irons or curlers and the extensive use of perm solutions, bleach and colors can cause dryness, and even breakage, of the hair.

Additionally, if an adverse reaction is experienced to any chemical applied to the hair, a consequence could be that hair is lost from the root.

Unfortunately, it is not always clear as to what causes hair loss in women, but if you, or someone you know is affected by it, the first step should be to get professional help to try and establish the cause so that the most appropriate course of action can be taken.

Brian Johnson MD

Brian Johnson MD

Dr. Brian Johnson is a professor of dermatology. He has conducted numerous research studies about hair loss and it's effects on the human psyche. Dr. Johnson has written for Maclean's, Motherboard, the National Post, and the Huffington Post.
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