For many women, hair is part of their identity, it is a way of expressing their style. So, hair loss in women can cause panic. But what are the main reasons for hair loss (alopecia) in women and what can be done about it?

How does the hair grow?

The scalp has around 100,000 hairs, each with its own life cycle. Each hair follicle produces hair, which grows at a rate of about 12 mm per month. The hair stays there for about 2-6 years and then falls out when the next cycle begins. The majority of hair is therefore continuously in the growth phase.

What is abnormal hair loss?

Most people lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day. So don’t worry if you find it on your clothes or your hairbrush. But when they fall in strands or if you notice that they are getting thinner and thinner, it is better to consult a doctor. They will assess your hair loss and tell you if it is really a problem. If the cause of alopecia is treated, the hair grows back more often.

What are the causes of hair loss?

The causes of hair loss in women are multiple: they can be linked to your state of health, your degree of stress, your lifestyle, for example, your diet… Your genes also play an important role. Sometimes no specific cause is found. However, it may be useful to have a check-up to see if your thyroid gland is working properly and if your hormonal balance is in order. Hormonal changes, such as during menopause, can indeed play a role.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This syndrome results in an excessive production of male hormones. Consequence: unwanted hair grows on the body, while the area called the crown is scattered. PCOS can also lead to ovulation problems, acne, and weight gain.
  • Alopecia areata. The immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles, resulting in massive hair loss. In most cases, the damage is fortunately not permanent, and the hair grows back.
  • Childbirth. During pregnancy, the hair mass seems more voluminous due to the higher hormone levels. But the hair that has completed its life cycle then all falls out at once. It can take up to two years to get things back to normal.
  • The contraceptive pill. Hormones that stop ovulation can cause hair loss. Other drugs can have the same effects: anticoagulants, drugs used to treat high blood pressure, depression or arthritis.
  • A shock diet, too much vitamin A, not enough protein.
  • Hair tied too tight, especially in a ponytail.
  • Emotional or physical stress, like an illness, operation serious surgery, an accident in which you have lost a lot of blood.
  • A yeast infection.
  • And, of course, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat cancer.

What you can do about it

  • Consult a dermatologist. There are medicines that can slow or stop hair loss and promote hair regrowth, but the effect usually stops when treatment is stopped. In the event of alopecia areata, corticosteroids are often administered. If a medical problem or a poor diet is causing this situation, it should be remedied so that your hair regains its shape. In addition, there is a laser treatment which is effective but the long-term effect and safety of which are still insufficiently known.
  • If medication does not help, a hair transplant may be considered, but in a woman, it is not obvious because all the hair is usually sparse and there are no real “donor areas”.
  • Style your hairstyle and use the right volumizing styling products. Maybe a short cut, a slight wave, or a different hairline would work better. Ask your hairdresser for advice.
  • Allow your hair to air dry for a while before using a hair dryer.
Elena Mars

Elena writes part-time for the Scientific Origin, focusing mostly on health-related issues.