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Understanding Female Hair Loss: Causes & Treatment

There are numerous causes of hair loss in women. Stress, lifestyle, diet, genetics, external surroundings, hormonal changes and medical issues can all be contributing elements to hair falling out or becoming thinner.
Professionally reviewed by
Sara Alkazraji MITThe Institute of TrichologistsManager of Education

Hair growth is affected by a wide range of factors, and although hair loss is an issue often associated with older men, many women are also confronted with reduced volume or hair thinning at some point in their lives. This can affect self-esteem and confidence, and is sometimes a symptom of other health issues that need addressing.

There are numerous causes of hair loss in women. Stress, lifestyle, diet, genetics, external surroundings, hormonal changes and medical issues can all be contributing elements to hair falling out or becoming thinner.

Around 70% of women over the age of 70 experience some form of female-pattern hair loss (the most common type of hair loss) and 40% of women experience hair thinning after menopause1. Due to the ever-changing hormone levels throughout women’s lives, they are particularly vulnerable to some unique hair loss triggers attributed to hormonal change, such as pregnancy and menopause.

It is normal for men and women to shed a small amount of hair (around 100 hairs) on a daily basis. Hair loss or thinning occurs when certain triggers, such as those mentioned above, interrupt the hair growth cycle and more hair than usual enters the resting (shedding) phase – resulting in noticeable areas of loss.

Causes of Hair Loss in Women

The reasons for hair loss2 in women fall into a few key areas. Some causes are lifestyle-based, others are hormonal, and some are medical. Each woman may be affected differently; genetic predisposition also influences how the body responds to changes. Not all changes to hair are permanent. If the hair follicle isn’t damaged and the hair loss isn’t a result of an internal medical issue (such as an autoimmune disease like alopecia areata), hair can grow back healthily once the imbalance is corrected3.

Age Related Hair Loss

Thinning hair and hair loss are often a normal part of aging, like going grey. Hair may become more brittle, the rate of growth slows, and hair follicles can shrink (affecting the density of each hair produced)4.Hair loss in young women is less common and is often part of the body’s response to a change or stress that it is being subjected to.

Hormonal Changes

  • Menopause affects each woman differently, but hair thinning is a common occurrence. A drop in oestrogen at menopausal stages can result in a loss of density for some individuals leaving hair with less volume and prone to breakage.

Lifestyle Factors

Unless you have an existing medical condition, many of the lifestyle measures that keep the rest of your body healthy will also help your hair to grow healthily. Lifestyle causes for changes in the hair condition can usually be rectified.

  • Diet and exercise keep both hair and body in optimum condition. Get regular exercise and eat foods that contain plenty of the important nutrients for healthy hair growth– like iron, biotin and zinc – read more on the link between diet and hair loss

  • Smoking, vaping, high alcohol consumption and other lifestyle choices can negatively impact your hair, since they affect overall health. They may contribute to dehydration or restrict minerals from reaching the scalp for hair growth(5).

  • Increased stress levels can result in hair falling out or thinning.

  • Hair styling and treatment – excessive strain from hairstyles or hair extensions and continued use of high heat can result in hair thinning or loss.

Female Pattern Hair Loss

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is characterized by hair thinning in the vertex region of scalp. Over time individual hairs miniaturize, becoming smaller and finer until eventually these ‘vellus type’ hairs will cease growing altogether. As with male pattern baldness, genetic predisposition is a factor. However, the effect in women is not usually as severe – women are less likely to go completely bald, but may see a receding hairline at the temples or forehead(6). Women may notice their parting becomes wider and the scalp becoming more visible.

Medical Causes

The body can respond to illness or medication with hair loss. Some illnesses do cause hair loss, or cause changes in hormone levels that can affect hair production – hair follicles may respond to stress in the body by going into the resting (shedding) phase.

  • Alopecia is the formal medical umbrella term for a number of hair loss conditions. They come in different forms; alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles.

    Read more about alopecia here

  • Anemia is likely to affect hair quality due to the lack of iron in the body(7).

  • The thyroid produces hormones that facilitate and regulate cell reproduction – so thyroid disorders can affect hair production.

  • Polycystic ovaries, eating disorders and other illnesses that are more prevalent in women can result in hair loss or thinning, especially when hormone levels are affected.

  • Medication and medical treatment can cause hair loss (it is a known side-effect of chemotherapy, for example).

Hair Loss Treatment For Women

While the process of hair shedding isn’t physically harmful, hair loss in any of its forms can understandably be quite upsetting. For many women, hair is as a part of their identity; coming to terms with losing it can be emotionally difficult and may affect self-confidence. An important first step to hair loss treatment for women is to understand the cause. Speak to your doctor, dermatologist or a trichologist for help and support. The sooner an issue or cause is identified, the sooner it can be addressed to redress, reverse or slow down hair loss.

Lifestyle Changes

A healthy diet rich in nutrients good for hair growth, regular exercise and sensible lifestyle choices (e.g. cutting down on smoking or alcohol consumption) are important factors for healthy-growing hair. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help to prevent hair loss in women.

How Nioxin Can Help

NIOXIN products are designed to improve scalp health and maximize the appearance of fuller and thicker hair, to combat hair loss or thinning. A simple three-step system kit matched to your hair type combines haircare and treatment, to give hair the best possible chance of growing as densely and healthily as possible. Visit our Consultation Tool to find out which products you should be using for your hair and scalp concerns.

  1. Apply the cleanser, a thinning hair shampoo, designed to rinse away any build-up of sebum and skin debris, leaving your scalp in optimal condition.

  2. Follow up with the revitalizing conditioner to hydrate the hair strands from root to tip, delivering deep moisture to hair and scalp to help resist breakage caused by brushing and styling.

  3. Complete the process by massaging in the leave-in scalp treatment at the roots, to supply fuller-looking hair and refresh the scalp area.

With NIOXIN as your daily haircare routine, you can keep your hair in the best possible shape to withstand breakage and damage caused by styling. Combine your system with intensive hair thickening products such as Nioxin’s Diamax Advanced Hair Thickening Treatment. Hear our success stories, from first-hand NIOXIN dedicates!

Other Treatments

No treatment for hair loss is 100% effective, and there is no guaranteed cure (however, not all hair loss is permanent). More drastic and invasive treatments are available, but they come with additional risks and often at greater cost:

  • Corticosteroids can help regrowth in some people, but evidence is limited.

  • Laser or light therapy can help to stimulate hair follicles in some types of alopecia.

  • Hair transplants – some of your own hairs, or artificial hairs, can be surgically moved to areas of thinning(8).

Other treatments may be available for different types of alopecia – speak to your doctor or trichologist about what would be appropriate for your specific hair and scalp concerns.

Seeking Emotional Support

Acceptance of your situation, whether you expect it to be temporary or permanent, is extremely important.

  • Discuss your situation with your doctor or a trichologist, and with friends.

  • Join a support group to find others who are going through a similar experience.

  • Consider counselling if you feel that hair loss is impacting your mental health.

  • Try lifestyle changes and be patient with them – it can take 3-6 months to see a difference.

Scalp & Hair Care

Learn to take care of your hair while it is thinner, to protect the growth you have and prevent breakage.

  • Many women opt for a shorter hairstyle as their hair thins, to reduce hair weight.

  • Try alternative styles that alleviate strain on hair roots.

  • Scalp care is important – a healthy scalp gives your hair the best opportunity of growing fully.

  • We recommend using a wig only for severe and pronounced hair loss, as these can suffocate the scalp.


  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hair-loss/coping-tips-for-women/

  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hair-loss

  3. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/06/female-hair-loss-causes-treatment

  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004005.htm

  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-hair-loss

  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss

  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia

  8. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/female-pattern-hair-loss/


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