Losing some hair every day is completely natural. But when you’re losing a lot of hair, it can be difficult to figure out what’s causing that hair loss—especially in women.
Most of the time minor hair loss is just a sign that your body's growing new, healthy ones to replace the old. In fact, losing up to 100 hairs per day is totally normal. If you’re not sure what’s normal for you, it’s a good idea to simply pay attention to what you typically see in your brush or shower drain. And "if all of a sudden you're noticing a lot more, or your ponytail is thinner or you're seeing more scalp," then you may be losing more hair than you should, Francesca Fusco, M.D., dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in NYC and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.
Figuring out why you’re suddenly losing more hair than usual can be tricky because there are many different causes of hair loss in women. Some, like hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), aren’t really in your control—you get the hand you're dealt. But others, like traction alopecia or temporary hair shedding (a very common condition called telogen effluvium), can be managed or even reversed if caught early. Making things even more complicated, some causes of hair loss in women result in sudden shedding while others may become progressively more noticeable over time.
If you've noticed your hair is falling out more than usual, looks thinner, or seems to be growing more slowly, here are some of the most common reasons for hair loss in women.1. Genetics
When we think of hereditary hair loss, we usually go straight to male pattern baldness. But people of all genders are susceptible to hereditary hair loss. In women the hair loss is usually concentrated at the crown of the head (especially noticeable at the hair part), while it’s more likely to affect men along the hairline, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes.
Although you can’t prevent this type of hair loss entirely, there are treatments available—such as over-the-counter minoxidil or finasteride—thatcan slow it down and make hair stay fuller longer. So the sooner you start treatment, the better.2. Childbirth
Normally, your hair goes through three major life stages. First, there’s a growth phase; second, there’s a transitional phase when the growing stops but the hair doesn’t fall out; and then there’s a resting phase. Finally, after the resting phase, your hair falls out.
But during pregnancy, most people notice their hair going into rapid growth mode. "That’s when everything is in a grow, grow, grow phase, because there are surges of hormones [estrogen] that make hair grow," Fusco says. Not only is the growth stage kicked into high gear, but also it lasts longer than normal, meaning that normal shedding doesn't occur.
Once estrogen levels go back to normal after delivery, hair resumes its normal growth cycles and starts to shed all that thick, luscious hair that accumulated over the last 10 months. Some women experience very mild shedding, but others experience intense shedding for a few months.
This type of hair loss (technically, hair shedding) is called telogen effluvium, and it can occur months after a stressful or major life event like childbirth, Bethanee Schlosser, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Women's Skin Health Program for Northwestern Medicine, tells SELF. "Shedding peaks about four months after the incident" that caused it, she explains.
Postpartum hair loss is, luckily, temporary. So you don’t really have to do anything to treat it, the AAD says. But there are ways to make your hair look and feel fuller while you wait. For instance, look for volumizing shampoos and conditioners that are formulated for fine hair and avoid products that weigh down the hair.3. Changes in birth control
Going off hormonal birth control or changing to a different type of hormonal contraception can also cause hormone-induced shedding. "Whether you're just starting it, discontinuing it, or changing brands, your body can react by causing the hair to go into an increased shedding mode," Dr. Fusco says.