Your family’s genes can cause hair loss or thinning, as your hair filaments have DNA. If your family has a history of hair loss, you are more likely to experience it yourself. Genetics can play a significant role in hair loss in women, just as it can in men. Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is a hereditary condition that affects up to 40% of women by age 50. It is caused by a genetic predisposition to sensitivity to androgens, which are male hormones present in both men and women.
In FPHL, the hair follicles on the scalp gradually shrink and produce thinner and shorter hair over time, eventually leading to hair loss. The exact mechanisms behind this process are not fully understood, but researchers believe it involves a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. Women who have a family history of hair loss may be more likely to experience hair loss themselves, although it is not always a guarantee. Additionally, women with certain genetic variations may be more susceptible to hair loss due to hormonal imbalances or other underlying medical conditions.
While genetics can play a role in hair loss, it’s important to remember that other factors can also contribute to the condition. Nutritional deficiencies, stress, medication side effects, and medical conditions such as thyroid disorders and autoimmune diseases can all cause hair loss in women.
Hormones can play a significant role in female hair loss, particularly when there are imbalances in certain hormones. Androgens, which are male hormones present in both men and women, can contribute to hair loss in women when there is an excess of these hormones or increased sensitivity to them.
Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is the most common type of hair loss in women, and it is caused by a genetic predisposition to sensitivity to androgens. This condition is also sometimes referred to as androgenetic alopecia. In FPHL, the hair follicles on the scalp gradually shrink and produce thinner and shorter hair over time, eventually leading to hair loss. In addition to androgens, other hormones can also contribute to hair loss in women. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can cause temporary hair loss or thinning. Women with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is characterized by high levels of androgens, may also be more susceptible to hair loss.
Aside from general hormone fluctuations due to ageing, the following hormonal factors can cause female hair loss include menopause, pregnancy, hormonal birth control and stress.
Several medications can cause hair loss in women. These medications work by disrupting the normal hair growth cycle, leading to excessive hair shedding or thinning. Some of the medications that can cause hair loss in women include:
- Chemotherapy drugs: These drugs are used to treat cancer, but they can also damage hair follicles and cause hair loss.
- Anticoagulants: These medications, such as warfarin, can cause hair loss by disrupting the normal hair growth cycle.
- Antidepressants: Some antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants, can cause hair loss in women.
- Birth control pills: Some oral contraceptives can cause hair loss in women. This is because they contain hormones that can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle.
- Blood pressure medications: Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics can all cause hair loss in women.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Statins, used to lower cholesterol levels, can also cause hair loss in women.
In addition to genetics and medication, your lifestyle and other environmental factors can play a large role in your hair loss. Making positive lifestyle changes can also help manage hair loss in women. This may include reducing stress, improving your diet with a balanced and nutritious meal plan, avoiding harsh hair styling practices, and being gentle when washing and brushing your hair to prevent further damage. The following experiences can cause female hair loss:
- Tight hairstyles that pull on your roots, such as ponytails, braids or cornrows. This type of hair loss is called traction alopecia.
- Over-processed scalp hair or breakage
- Smoking or excessive drinking
- Poor or restrictive diets
- Extreme physical stress or shock to your body, including losing a lot of weight, surgery, anaemia, illness and childbirth