5 Common Causes of Female Hair loss
For women, increasing hair loss can be both a scary symptom and a major cause of stress. Although it is common to go through periods of increased hair loss, this is not a normal symptom for women and is a signal your body is sending that something is not right.
There are many different causes of hair loss, but with some investigation and a few lab tests, the cause can be pinpointed and treated.
The Hair Growth Cycle
One of the important aspects of understanding hair loss is the growth cycle of hair. Hair growth consists of 3 main phases; anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. Each strand of hair on the human body is at its own stage of development. Once the cycle is complete, it restarts and a new strand of hair begins to form.
The telogen phase is known as the resting or shedding phase and lasts 3-4 months. This means that the cause of hair loss can sometimes be related to events or changes that occurred 3-4 months prior. Being aware of this timeline and linking your hair loss to a stressful period, or a change in diet or lifestyle 3-4 months prior can help pinpoint potential causes of hair loss.
5 Causes of Female Hair Loss
1. Low iron
Ferritin, the storage form of iron, actually lives in hair follicles and helps hair stay in the anagen or growth phase. If you have noticed a slow and steady increase in hair loss that is all over the scalp, the first thing to investigate should be your ferritin level. If you have heavy periods, low energy, experience periods of dizziness or shortness of breath these could all be additional signs of low iron.
For proper hair growth, your ferritin levels should be above 50 and ideally between 70-90.
2. High Stress
Acute stressful events are common causes of abrupt hair loss. Typically, this hair loss occurs 3-4 months after the stressful event so connecting the dots can be difficult. A rise in the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, is what causes this increased hair loss.
Decreasing stress through lifestyle changes (meditation, mindfulness, exercise, sleep) as well as incorporating herbs that can help modulate the stress response can help reduce cortisol and decrease hair loss.
3. Slow thyroid function (Hypothyroidism)
A low level of thyroid hormone leads to a decrease in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). One role of SHBG is to bind free testosterone. With low thyroid hormones, SHBG is decreased and free testosterone in comparison is increased. Free testosterone causes hair follicles to shrink and hair to fall out.
If you are also experiencing fatigue, brain fog, feeling colder than others, and constipation you will want to get comprehensive thyroid testing done.
4. High testosterone levels (Commonly seen in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Women with PCOS can have elevated blood levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is an even stronger male hormone. Elevated levels of these hormones can lead to hair loss as well as acne. This type of hair loss typically appears as a widening of the midline hair part.
Other symptoms that indicate PCOS include long menstrual cycles, trouble losing weight, and acne. PCOS is a complicated metabolic condition that should be treated by a health care practitioner. Treating the underlying causes of PCOS will help with associated hair loss.
5. Alopecia areata
This is an autoimmune cause of hair loss resulting in a patchy hair loss pattern. In autoimmune disease, the body attacks itself mistaking it as a foreign invader, and in the case of alopecia areata, the body is attacking the hair follicles.
Treatment for any autoimmune disease involves decreasing inflammation, redirecting the immune response and removing any food or environmental triggers.
Dr. Kelly Clinning, ND
Dr. Kelly Clinning is a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor (ND) with a passion for research and evidence-based care. Her clinical focus is in treating women’s health with a particular concentration on reproductive health, PCOS, endometriosis and thyroid health. Her goal is to help women connect with their bodies, understand their remarkable physiology, and maintain sustainable balance in their health and life.
Dr. Kelly has her naturopathic prescribing license and incorporates natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) and bio-identical hormone treatment into her practice. She also uses nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, and clinical supplementation.
After graduating from Western University with a Bachelor of Science and an Honours specialization in Kinesiology, she completed a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. She is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, and the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is in good standing with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
If you would like to book an assessment or work with Dr. Clinning directly, you can book an in-person or online appointment here.