Eight reasons why your hair might be thinning

Thinning hair and hair loss can be stressful, especially for women who normally have a lot of hair, triggering feelings of shame or insecurity. 

Thinning hair in women can occur at any age and can take different forms, such as minor thinning on the crown of the head or complete baldness. Any type of hair thinning can feel particularly worrying, especially if the reason behind it is unknown, therefore it’s important to understand what might be causing the issue.

What causes thinning hair in women?

Dr Bhavini Shah (GMC:7090158) from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor explains eight possible causes of thinning hair in women. And professional hair stylist, Megan Brooks, from IHS Hair Replacement London, reveals the best hairstyles to try if you’re experiencing thinning hair. 

Let’s start with eight factors that can trigger, or are associated with thinning hair in women

1) Female pattern hair loss

Female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is common and can occur at any age, but it’s thought that 40% of women aged 70 or over experience the condition in some form. 

Women with androgenetic alopecia will usually experience gradual thinning of the hair, typically on the top of the scalp and some women notice their hairline receding. 

The condition is thought to be hereditary and while it doesn’t usually cause baldness like in men, it can still affect self-esteem and confidence. If you’re concerned about female pattern baldness, talk to your doctor who can advise you on possible treatment options.

2) Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, which usually leads to hair loss in small, round patches on the scalp or other parts of the body. It can affect people of any age and may come and go unpredictably.

Some individuals may experience regrowth of their hair in the affected areas, while others may not. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

3) Traction alopecia

Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss caused by prolonged pulling or tension on the hair follicles. This often happens when hairstyles like tight ponytails, braids, or extensions are worn regularly. 

Over time, the constant pulling damages the hair follicles, leading to thinning or bald patches, especially around the hairline or where the hair is pulled tightly. It’s best to avoid repetitive wear of hairstyles that pull too tightly and give the hair regular breaks from tension, especially if you notice your hair thinning. Opting for looser hairstyles and avoiding excessive use of hair accessories can help protect the hair from damage.

4) Telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a type of temporary hair loss that occurs when a large number of hair follicles enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle prematurely. During telogen effluvium, more hair than usual falls out, leading to thinning of the hair, but it’s typically reversible once the underlying cause is addressed

This can be triggered by various factors such as physical or emotional stress, illness, hormonal changes, or nutritional deficiencies. While telogen effluvium can be distressing, it usually doesn’t result in complete baldness.

5) Stress-related hair loss

Although stress by itself does not directly cause hair loss, it can contribute to other hair loss conditions such as telogen effluvium. 

When the body is under stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol, which can disrupt the natural hair growth cycle and cause hair to enter into the resting phase prematurely.

6) Menopause

During menopause, hormonal changes, specifically a decrease in oestrogen levels, can affect hair growth cycles. This often leads to thinning of the hair, particularly at the crown and along the parting line. 

While not all women experience hair loss during menopause, those who do may find it distressing. Although menopausal hair loss can’t be completely prevented, there are treatments available, such as hormone replacement therapy or minoxidil, that may help slow down the thinning process and promote hair growth.

7) Poor diet

A lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and vitamin D can contribute to hair loss, particularly if you are experiencing an iron deficiency. Vitamins are essential nutrients that play a crucial role in hair health and getting the adequate amount is important.

If diet and health related hair loss is causing concern, your GP will be able to check this and recommend the best course of action. This alongside a well-balanced healthy diet is the best way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.

8) Using harsh hair products

Bleaching, perming, and extreme hold hair sprays contain harsh chemicals that can cause hair loss by damaging the hair follicles and strands. Certain chemicals found in shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, and styling products can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness, breakage, and hair loss.

Ingredients like sulphates, parabens, and formaldehyde can irritate the scalp and weaken the hair, making it more prone to falling out. Opt for products that are gentle on your hair and scalp, and try to avoid over-bleaching.

What hairstyles are best for thinning hair? 

Professional hair stylist Megan Brooks from IHS Hair Replacement London shares her advice on the best hairstyles to adopt if you’re experiencing thinning hair. 

Try a side parting

A side parting, as opposed to a middle parting, adds instant volume to thin hair. You can flip the

hair from one side to the other as you wish to emphasise volume on the area which most needs it creating the illusion of full, thicker hair.

Short hair with curtain bangs (curtain fringe)

Short hair with curtain bangs is a classic style if you have thin hair. A shorter cut creates fuller and thicker looking hair instantly as the ends are blunt, giving the appearance of more density.

Longer hair tends to look thinner because the weight of the hair pulls it down, making it appear flatter. Try adding bangs to add volume and dimension to the hair by framing the face and creating layers.

Long A-line bob cut hairstyle

Try a chic A-line bob or lob (long bob) that will add volume and give some bounce. This will give the illusion of thicker hair, especially when styled with soft waves or curls. This style adds volume and dimension to thin hair while maintaining a trendy look.

Wispy layered hairstyle

Wispy layers, instead of heavy layers, will add texture and volume to thin hair by removing weight, adding shape and creating movement. They are light, airy and seamless – creating hair that’s easy to style.

Author: Dr Bhavini Shah is a GP from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor