Why is my hair falling out?

Experiencing hair loss can be distressing, especially if you’re a woman.

Men are susceptible to baldness, and while losing hair isn’t ideal whether you're male or female, it does mean hair loss is more socially acceptable for men.

If you find you're shedding hair excessively, you may worry you’ll end up with bald patches. Perhaps you’re concerned that this loss is revealing a hidden health problem. It’s important to remember, you’re not alone. According to Harvard University, at least 1 in 3 women will suffer from hair loss or reduced hair volume at some point in their lifetime.

On average we lose around 80 to 100 strands a day. If you begin to shed significantly more than that or you notice they aren't growing back, it could be time to investigate.

There can be a number of reasons for hair loss, perhaps it runs in the family, or it’s caused by an illnesses, or maybe poor diet and stress. Here are some of the top reasons why your hair may be shedding…

Your hairstyle is causing hair loss

Tightly pulled back styles, plaiting, cornrows and hair extensions can pull on the follicle and cause breakage and damage. Wearing rollers to bed most of the time can also lead to hair loss. This is known as traction alopecia. It's important to avoid wearing hair tightly too often, as it may lead to permanent hair loss. 

You have Long Covid and this is causing your hair to fall out

If you’ve been infected with COVID-19 and are feeling the effects of Long Covid, hair shedding could be an issue. According to a study published in the Lancet, which looked at patients from Wuhan, China, nearly a quarter of COVID-19 patients suffer from hair loss within six months of infection. Women are at greater risk of post-viral symptoms.

You’ve just had a baby and your hair is shedding

Known as telogen effluvium, hair loss after giving birth usually occurs within six months of giving birth. The reason is, women's hair does not fall out during pregnancy. Plus, the extra oestrogen often helps women’s hair look thick and lustrous. After giving birth, the hair sheds. This is a temporary situation and your hair should go back to normal after this. 

You’re stressed and losing your locks

Experiments on mice have shown what many long suspected –hair loss may be linked to emotional stress. It’s because the ‘fight or flight response’ means your body makes extra hormones. This change in your hormone levels can have an effect on different parts of your body. As with pregnancy and giving birth, the hair loss occurs within six months of the event. 

Your hair loss is indicating you're anaemic

Many health experts believe anaemia and hair loss are closely linked. Iron is stored in the body in the form of ferritin. Ferritin is a type of protein in your blood, which is also stored in hair follicles, and low levels indicate an iron deficiency. Experts believe that when your body is low in iron, it takes ferritin from your hair follicles causing hair loss. One Korean study found that people who experienced hair loss had lower iron levels than those who did not. 

A thyroid problem is causing you to shed hair

Untreated hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause loss of hair. This is usually accompanied by other symptoms of an over- or under-active thyroid, such as tiredness, low mood and dry skin in the case of an under-active thyroid, or nervousness and twitching in the case of an overactive thyroid. Thyroid issues can go hand in hand with iron deficiency. Once treated, the hair should grow back. 

You have a vitamin deficiency which is making your hair thin

It remains unclear what the relationship between vitamins and hair loss is. However, several studies show an association between hair loss and low vitamin D levels and supplementation is recommended in these cases. Vitamin C is also important, especially in those with an iron deficiency and although there is limited evidence, some health experts believe that supplementing folate or vitamin B12 may support healthy hair growth.  

Your hair loss has been triggered by losing weight 

Weight loss – particularly if it’s rapid - can also lead to thinning hair due to the strain it can place on the body, similar the stress caused by a pregnancy or emotional distress. Lack of nutrients and protein also means the body prioritises its processes to keep you alive during a ‘starvation period’. Hair growth is low down the body’s list in terms of importance.

The menopause means your hair has started to thin

Seesawing hormone levels means hair loss is not uncommon around and, in the lead, up to the menopause.  This might manifest itself in a receding hair line, especially around the temples or an increasingly wider hair parting. 

You have a genetic predisposition to female pattern baldness

The medical name for the condition which predisposes you to hair loss is androgenetic alopecia. Although both men and women may experience hair loss, it is not as widespread in women as in men and appears differently. In men, hair loss usually begins above the temples, and the receding hairline. In women, androgenetic alopecia begins with gradual thinning where the hair parts, followed by and stems from the top of the head. For women, this conditions rarely leads to complete baldness.

What can I do if my hair is thinning?

The most important thing to do if you are a woman and have hair loss is seek some medical advice so your doctor can rule out any condition which requires treatment. Your doctor may prescribe minoxidil for female pattern baldness, which has proven results.

Depending on the cause of your hair loss, HRT may also help, or thyroid medications, as may a carefully selected regime of supplements. 

PRP hair restoration may be another strategy to promote healthy hair growth.This is the use of stem cells and cellular medicine is leading the way for many pioneering treatments. The technique of taking a sample of a patient’s own cells and treating it so that a nutrient dense version can be injected back in, is something that’s been used for a number of years to help boost healing after surgery.  And now this innovative method is being used to promote hair growth. 

In one study of the effects of PRP on genetic hair loss, published by the medical journal Dermatologic Surgery, it was found that patients experienced at a least moderate to very good improvement in hair growth, while another study in the journal BioMed Research International, concluded that there was a significant increase in hair density and less thinning. These findings were deemed clinically important.  

Read more

Loss or absence of hair. Full medical glossary
A reduced level of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. Anaemia causes tiredness, breathlessness and abnormally pale skin. Full medical glossary
A type of steroid hormone that stimulates male development. Testosterone is an androgen. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The iron-carrying protein in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
One of the B vitamins, involved in the production of red blood cells. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Relating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
Abbreviation for hormone replacement therapy, the administration of female hormones in cases where they are not sufficiently produced by the body. Full medical glossary
Prefix suggesting a deficiency, lack of, or small size. Full medical glossary
Underproduction of the thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
An element present in haemoglobin in the red cells. Full medical glossary

The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods cease

Full medical glossary
A hormone involved in female sexual development, produced by the ovaries. Full medical glossary
the period from conception to birth Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
Cells with the ability to specialise into various forms. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
A form of non-scarring alopcia characterised by extreme hair loss. Full medical glossary
A gland in the neck that produces hormones with a role in controlling metabolism. Full medical glossary
Abnormally swollen. Full medical glossary
A vein that is swollen, distended and twisted, usually due to weakness of its valves. Full medical glossary
A blood vessel that carries blood towards the heart. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
Essential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. Full medical glossary