Hair coming out in unusually large clumps in (or out of) the shower is typically not a good sign for hair health. If your mane is getting more sparse, you could have female hair loss.
Remember when Lisa Vanderpump’s pomeranian shared his struggle with hair loss (RIP Giggy)? Maybe not, but it’s not just a problem for (Pomeranian and human) men. In fact, one-third of women experience hair loss (aka alopecia) during their lifetime.
Female hair loss can include:
- thinning all over
- bald spots
- losing handfuls of hair (not the usual amount you see in the shower)
- full hair loss
Ladies, if you’re losing your locks there’s usually a reason. And don’t worry, there are treatments out there for you, too.
There are different reasons you could be losing your hair. If your hair loss is sudden, it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
- Genetics. Hereditary hair loss is usually gradual and worsens as you age (thanks, mom and dad).
- Hormones. Telium effluvium (TE) and androgenic alopecia are two types of hair loss thought to be caused (at least in part) by an increase in male hormones called androgens. This increase can be triggered by pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, ovarian cysts, or taking androgen-heavy birth control pills.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Some dermatologists believe vitamins B6 and B12, amino acid L-lysine, and zinc can also lead to TE.
- Autoimmune reactions. Autoimmune conditions such as alopecia areata, Celiac disease, and lupus can lead to hair loss.
- Thyroid problems. Thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss.
- Medication. Certain medications and supplements can have the unwanted side effect of thinning hair. Chat with your doctor if you suspect your medications are causing hair loss.
- Stress. Traumatic events or extreme stress can cause sudden hair loss, which is usually temporary.
- Girl, you’re doing it to yourself. Excessive bleaching, perming, flat ironing, and blow drying can cause hair to break and fall out.
Depending on what’s causing your lady locks to thin or fall out, there are a variety of options to help women with hair loss. Some of these remedies are economical, natural, and DIY. Others require prescriptions or special procedures and can be scandalously expensive.
1. Feast on these foods
What you’re eating has the potential to improve hair growth. Go for foods with biotin (eggs, fish, meat, and nuts), omega-3 fatty acid, (salmon, tuna, walnuts, and chia seeds), and vitamin D-rich foods (orange juice and yogurt).
2. Supplements for supple hair
You can make sure you’re getting your nutrients in with a whole-food diet of colorful fruits and veggies (eat the rainbow, folks). But, you can also consider taking a multivitamin specially designed for hair, skin, and nail health.
Getting your vitamins and minerals is crucial for healthy hair. The most important nutrients for hair growth include:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B-complex
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
3. Goodbye bleach, hello natural beauty
Giving up your treasured hairstyles that require bleach, heat, and other harsh chemicals could be the key to ending your styling induced hair loss. This might be hard at first, but letting go of perfectly quaffed hair could keep it on your head.
4. Root spray
One of the easiest and quickest solutions to thinning hair is using a root spray to thicken or tint your locks.
Consider it mascara for your crown of glory. It won’t grow your hair out, but it can act as a Band-Aid while you seek other treatment or embrace your thinner hair.
5. DHT shampoo
When searching for a good over-the-counter (OTC) shampoo for hair loss, look for a product that contains ingredients that block DHT. DHT is an androgen hormone linked to hair loss that attaches to your hair follicle.
6. Rogaine (Minoxidil)
Over the years, clinical trials have found Minoxidil applied topically to the scalp does help regrow hairs.
Rogaine is FDA approved for hair loss and available in 2 percent or 5 percent strengths. For women, it’s ideal to treat overall hair thinning at the top of the head. It takes months to see results, and should be applied twice a day.
Side effects can include some scalp sensitivity as well as unwanted hair growth on other areas of the face. It also needs to be used regularly and as directed, or the results could reverse.
7. Topical tretinoin
Topical tretinoin, also known as Retin-A, is available without prescription and can be used in conjunction with Minoxidil shampoo for improved effectiveness (some brands have 2 in 1).
A 2019 study found that 43 percent of people who had no results from Minoxidil had hair growth within 5 days of Tretinoin usage.
8. De-stress your tresses
Studies have found stress can be a major trigger for hair loss. It can make hair loss from another underlying condition worse and start a vicious cycle of more hair loss. People start losing their hair, they stress about it, and they lose more hair. UGH!
It’s tough, but carving out some “me” time to de-stress (even just 15 minutes a day) could make a big difference on your stress levels.
Try stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. If you feel you’re unable to manage your stress, reach out to a therapist.
If you don’t mind needles, this ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine method may work for you. Acupuncture has not yet been proved as an effective method for female pattern baldness, but has shown success for alopecia areata (when your hair falls out in small patches).
In a 2011 clinical observation, patients reported acupuncture gave them better results for hair loss than medications. However, research is limited and the topic needs more study to draw stronger conclusions.
Spironolactone may be prescribed to lower androgen in your body. This anti-androgen medication helps curb excessive androgen (a male hormone) that can lead to hair loss.
A 2015 study found mixed results. In one study, 31 percent of women reported increased thickness, 42 percent mild improvement, and 26 percent no change.
A doctor can also prescribe you corticosteroids to treat hair loss. Research has found corticosteroids may reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system to stop the body from attacking hair follicles.
Corticosteroid options include injections (the most effective method), oral, or topical cream. There are side effects to watch out for, including weight gain and thinning of skin.
12. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy
PRP therapy involves having your blood drawn and put into a centrifuge (a machine that separates the blood contents) to retrieve plasma. This plasma is then injected directly into your dome for 3 months, and then every 3 to 4 months for 2 years.
A 2017 study found injections of non-activated PRP increased hair count and total hair density in participants.
PRP therapy sounds fancy (and expensive), and that’s because it is. The cost of PRP therapy ranges from $500 to $1,000 per session. 😱
13. Low light laser therapy (LLLT)
LLLT treatment can be administered at home or in a hair salon that’s certified for LLLT. This treatment can be done in the form of a comb or a funny looking hard hat contraption. Basically the low-level laser (bright red) omits waves that are said to stimulate hair growth.
A 2014 research review found LLLT helped hair growth in mice as well as men and women in controlled clinical trials.
14. Hair transplant
According to The American Hair Loss Association only 2 to 5 percent of women are candidates for hair transplants. When women lose hair, it’s generally a thinning all over, not like the typical “comb over” that guys experience.
To have a hair transplant, you need a good thick section to harvest. Men commonly have a thick section at the bottom to take from. However, there are some cases where women are candidates.
It’s worth talking to your doctor about your options if you think this might work for you.
It’s important to see your primary care physician or dermatologist to get to the root of your hair loss. There are many causes of female hair loss, and it can require specialized treatment plans.
Diagnosing what’s causing the hair loss can be a journey in itself. With treatment, it may grow back.
As you go through your hair loss journey, don’t compare yourself to women you see on TV or Instagram (most of that’s not real hair, anyway). If you need more support, try checking out Facebook groups dedicated to supporting women with hair loss. Talking to a therapist may also help.
You can also invest in hair pieces and accessories, a wig, or choose to own your hair loss. If there isn’t an underlying condition you can treat (or needs treatment), you can choose to rock your hair loss!
Hair loss doesn’t have to hold you back. U.S. representative Ayanna Pressley holds her hairless head high, and so can you (bald is beautiful!).