Dealing With Hair Loss in Women

Image for womens hair loss article Hair is an important part of our identity. Hair loss can be very upsetting for both men and women. Millions of women in the United States suffer from female pattern hair loss. However, women with hair loss have options. They can take steps to safely regain control of their appearance and self-esteem.

The Typical Cycle of Hair Growth (and Loss)

Hair grows about ½ inch per month. About 90 percent of the hair on your scalp is growing at any one time. This phase lasts 2 to 6 years. The other 10 percent is in a resting phase, which lasts 2 to 3 months. After the resting phase, the hair strand falls out and a new one begins to grow. As a result, you lose about 100 hairs a day.

Female Pattern Hair Loss

Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of excessive hair loss. It happens to both women and men. The hair falls out, but new hair does not grow in its place. The cause is not well understood. It is linked to genes, aging, and levels of androgens. Androgens are male hormones, but women have them too.

The pattern of hair loss in women is not the same as in men. Men typically have a hairline that moves back. Women usually have thinning of hair over the entire head or at the crown or hairline. It rarely progresses to total or near baldness.

Other Causes of Hair Loss

Hair loss can happen for other reasons too, such as

  • Telogen effluvium (temporary shedding of hair)—The hair follicles go into a resting stage at the same time. This usually follows a stressful event, such as childbirth.
  • Breaking of hair —This may be caused by styling treatments, such as dyes, tints, bleaches, and straighteners. It can also be caused by twisting and pulling the hair.
  • Alopecia areata —This is an autoimmune disorder. The hair follicles are attacked by a person's own immune system. It causes patchy areas of total hair loss.
  • Thyroid disease—Both an overactive and underactive thyroid can cause hair loss. It can be reversed with proper treatment.
  • Chemotherapy —Many of these drugs cause hair cells to stop dividing. The hair becomes thin and breaks off. Hair regrows after treatment ends.
  • Tinea capitis —This is a fungus infection on the scalp that can cause patchy hair loss. It can be treated.
  • Medications—Taking certain medicines can lead to hair loss. Examples are blood thinners, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications.
  • Low amounts of protein in the diet—Growing hairs will shift into the resting phase when you do not get enough protein. The condition can be reversed and prevented by eating adequate amounts of protein. It is a rare condition in the United States.
  • Low iron levels—Iron deficiency sometimes causes hair loss. It can be corrected by taking iron pills.

Is It Possible to Prevent Female Pattern Hair Loss?

There is no known way to prevent female pattern hair loss. Call your doctor if you think you may be balding. There may be a treatable medical cause for your hair loss. It may be a matter of changing some of your medicines. Your doctor can also give you medicines to help ease symptoms, such as itching or irritated skin.

Treatment for Female Pattern Hair Loss

Female pattern hair loss is lasting. However, it is does not mean that you have a serious health problem. If you are comfortable with your appearance, no treatment is needed. If you want to treat the condition, check with your insurance provider first. They may not cover this type of hair loss.

Some treatment options are:

  • Minoxidil—This medicine used on the scalp twice a day. It may take more than 4 months of use before hair regrows. Hair loss returns if treatment is stopped.
  • Hair replacement surgery—Hair transplants involve filling the hairline with a donor's follicles. The procedure usually requires multiple transplantation sessions. It can cause minor scarring in the donor areas. It also raises the risk for skin infection. Results, however, are often very good and lasting.
  • Nonsurgical hair additions—A weave, extension, or hair piece can be added to existing hair or the scalp. This will give the appearance of a fuller head of hair. They are safe options. Many women may opt for partial transplantation and a partial hair addition.


Alopecia Areata Foundation
American Hair Loss Association



Female pattern hair loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2021.
Hair loss. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2021.
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Accessed June 9, 2021.
Minoxidil (topical). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2021.
Women's hair loss. American American Hair Loss Council website. Available at:
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Accessed June 9, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/9/2021

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