Many people think of hair loss as something with which only men struggle. In reality, though, many women also deal with it, especially as they get older. In fact, 40 percent of women experience visible hair loss by the time they reach age 40.
Are you currently experiencing hair loss? Are you unsure of why you’re losing hair or what you can do to stop it? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to learn more about the hair growth cycle and why many women experience hair loss as they get older.
How Does the Hair Growth Cycle Work?
In order to understand why you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s important to first understand how the hair growth cycle works.
The hair growth cycle can be broken down into the following four stages:
- Anagen phase: Also known as the growing phase, it lasts between two and seven years and determines the length of your hair.
- Catagen phase: Also known as the transition phase, it lasts about ten days and involves the hair follicle shrinking and detaching from the dermal papilla (small ridges on the scalp).
- Telogen phase: Also known as the resting phase, it lasts for about three months; new hair begins the growth phase while old hair is in the resting phase.
- Exogen phase: Also known as the new hair phase, this is part of the resting phase and involves old hair being shed while new hair continuing growing; 50-150 hairs being lost per day is considered normal.
At any given time, every hair on your head can be in a different stage of the growth cycle.
As you age, the length of the anagen (growing) stage gets shorter. This causes the hair to become thinner and weaker.
When the hair becomes thinner and weaker, it’s more prone to breakage and damage, and more hair may fall out during the exogen phase. Excess shedding and thinning are also noticeable when the hair enters the resting phase too soon.
Reasons Women Lose Hair as They Age
Okay, you get that hair loss increases when the anagen phase shortens and the hair enters the telogen phase too soon. But what causes this to happen? What issues most frequently contribute to women’s hair loss?
Some women are simply more prone than others to experience hair loss. If you have a history of female hair loss in your family, the changes that you will also experience it are likely to increase.
An increase in androgens (male hormones) or a decrease in estrogens (female hormones) can shorten the hair growth cycle and cause you to lose more hair more quickly.
Stress can trigger an increase in androgen levels. This, in turn, can shorten the hair growth cycle.
Stress can also trigger issues like dandruff or psoriasis, which can also increase hair loss.
Iron is a nutrient necessary for the production of hair cell protein. Without it, you will become anemic and your hair will become thin and brittle. This, in turn, makes it more likely to break and fall out.
Thyroid disorders (both hypo- and hyperthyroidism) can affect the hair follicles and the production of hair cell proteins. Untreated hypothyroidism can also lead to iron deficiency and anemia.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
This condition, also known as PCOS, is a chronic health condition that affects between six and 12 percent of women who are of reproductive age.
It can cause hormonal imbalances and excess androgens, which, in turn, can lead to increased hair loss.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If you’re deficient in vitamin B12, the health of your red blood cells may suffer. This, in turn, can minimize the amount of oxygen and nutrients your hair follicles and other tissues receive.
Without oxygen and nutrients, the hair growth cycle may shorten and you may experience increased hair loss.
Hair loss is a common symptom of lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissues. If you have lupus, you may notice a rash on your scalp as well.
Dramatic Weight Changes
Dramatic changes in weight can cause a stress response in the body. This can lead to an increase in androgens and an increase in hair loss.
Excessive or Aggressive Styling
Overstyling your hair, using too much heat or chemicals on it, or overusing hot tools like straighteners and curling irons can also contribute to excess damage and hair loss.
How Women Can Prevent Hair Loss
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing hair loss. Luckily, though, there are also lots of things you can do to prevent it.
Some of the best approaches you can take to reduce or prevent hair loss include:
- Avoid high-heat hair tools, or use them along with a heat-protectant spray
- Avoid tight hairstyles like ponytails or cornrows
- Avoid chemical hair treatments like bleaching or dying
- Take supplements to correct nutrient deficiencies
- Use topical medications like Rogaine
- Use essential oils like peppermint, lavender, or Chinese hibiscus
- Massage your scalp regularly to stimulate healthy blood flow and promote efficient oxygen delivery
- Eat a healthy diet rich in protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats
It’s also important to quit smoking. Smoking can cause your hair cells to age prematurely. This, in turn, can lead to the development of brittle, easy-to-damage hair and hair follicles.
Looking for More Women’s Health Tips?
As you can see, there are a lot of factors involved when it comes to women’s hair loss and hair growth.
You may not be able to reverse hair loss altogether, but you can certainly slow down the process by living a healthy lifestyle and keeping these prevention tips in mind.
If you want to learn more about how you can maintain and improve your health as you get older, be sure to check out the health archives on our website today.
There are tons of great articles here to teach you about everything from the importance of foam rolling to which superfoods you ought to include in your diet.