Why Women Lose Their Hair

Women's Health
on February 8, 2011
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Rebekah Pope
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Hair loss happens. "About 50 percent of the population is affected to some degree," says Dr. Paradi Mirmirania, dermatologist at The Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, Calif. And while hair loss is most commonly thought to affect men, it's a problem that also touches—and can be especially embarrassing for—women. Our hair is our crowing glory, so when it doesn't look its best, we feel like the rest of us doesn't either.

According to Mirmirani, while hair loss is occasionally caused by underlying medical conditions, most of the time it can be explained by several other, less serious factors. Getting to the root of your hair loss problem can help you find the right solution and get you feeling confident and looking your best.

Common Hair Loss Culprits

Age. As we get older, the rate at which our hair grows slows down. More and more follicles go into the resting phase of growth and remain there for longer periods of time, so there are fewer hairs sprouting at any given time than there were in our 20s.

Genetics. Some people are genetically predisposed to a condition known as androgenetic alopecia, which affects both men and women. Although some women see the signs of this condition as early as their teenage years, many do not see marked hair loss until their 40s and beyond. Instead of losing hair at the hairline like men do, most women see an all-over thinning.

Hormones. Hormonal imbalances happen throughout a woman's life. One such imbalance occurs as women reach perimenopause. When estrogen levels decline, the body is left with an excess of testosterone, which can be converted to a testosterone derivative known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Under certain conditions, DHT attacks hair follicles and either destroys or damages them so they're unable to produce healthy new hair. Other hormonal causes of hair loss include post-partum, polycystic ovary syndrome, and changes in birth control medications.

Diet. Doctors can test your blood for levels of ferritin, a protein that indicates whether your body is storing enough iron. Some research suggests that iron levels are often low in women with hair loss. Something as simple as taking iron supplements or adding iron-rich foods to the diet may be enough to boost hair growth and decrease thinning.

No matter what is causing your hair loss, there's no need to suffer in silence. The sooner you seek help, the better your chances of successfully treating the problem.

Found in: Women's Health