It seems like everything changes as we age, including your hair. It seems normal when men lose their hair as they age, but when it happens for women, it seems to be more concerning. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most of us lose about 50 to 100 hairs per day. When hair loss affects women, known as androgenetic alopecia, a red flag seems to go up and it’s common to be concerned.
The truth is that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 30 million American women experience this type of hair loss, commonly known as female pattern hair loss. This pattern has a classic appearance and is characterized by the hair looking thinner on the top and crown of the head, making the part line of the hair look wider. The hair follicles can shrink, causing the growth of finer, thinner hairs, and creating more brittle hair. In fact, reports have noted that the actual number of hair follicles can decrease in number. In addition, it seems that recession of the hairline happens in both men and women. The difference is that it’s less common for women to experience total baldness where it occurs more often in men
The reasons that hair loss occurs can be many, but the most common cause has to do with hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause due to declining levels of estrogen.
Normal hair growth involves the follicles in different growth phases at the same time resulting in varying amounts of hair either growing or falling out at varying times. During times of stress, however, all the hair follicles can all stop making new hairs at the same time, causing patches of hair loss and the loss of hairs from the root bulb rather than through breakage. Once the stressful event has passed, it can take 6 to 12 months for the hairs to start growing again at differing rates and falling out again at different rates. So, stressors such as sudden loss of a spouse, loss of a job, a serious medical diagnosis or a financial loss can cause a shock to your whole system, including your hair.
Illness such as thyroid disease, anemia, deficiency of protein or calories or sudden weight loss can also cause your system to feel a bit stunned and thus impact your hair growth
In addition, causing harm to your hair either by mechanical abuse such as rough handling and using hair tools, or chemical abuse from the use of hair products that can be harsh, can cause damage to the hair itself or the hair follicle. Handling your hair gently (such as not keeping your hair tightly bound) can relieve some of the pressure that your hair follicles may experience.
In addition, there are some types of food that are said to help promote hair growth, or reduce the chance of hair loss.
Foods That May Help with Hair Growth
Iron: Found in red meat, turkey, eggs yolks and dried apricots.
Biotin: Helps promote hair growth and scalp health which can be found in peanuts, almonds, salmon and avocado.
Silica: Helps improve hair thickness which can be found in bananas oats and raisins.
Vitamins A and C: Helps produce scalp oils which are found in spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, carrots, kale squash, asparagus and pumpkin.
Protein: Helps with hair strength which is found in meats, nuts and legumes like chickpeas or lentils.
Vegetable Oils: Provide hydration and shine and can be found in olives and avocados.
So if you find yourself losing more hair than normal, consider having your blood labs drawn by your doctor and take a look at your lifestyle factors such as stress and nutrition. Your hair and body will thank you!
Elizabeth Salada MD, MPH
Internal Medicine and Wellness