PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Thyroid hormone levels
Your thyroid is a gland in the front of your neck. It secretes thyroid hormones which are needed to support your body’s function. It’s thought that too much or too little of this hormone can lead to hair loss in women. When the thyroid secretes too many hormones, the result is hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid. The thyroid can also be underactive and fail to secrete enough thyroid hormones. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Thankfully it’s easily diagnosed and treatments are available to help relieve symptoms.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in patches of hair falling out from your head. It’s a fairly common but unpredictable hair-loss condition that can range in severity from person to person. The exact reason why some women develop alopecia is unknown, but it’s thought to be influenced by genetic factors (you’re more likely to get it if you have a family history of it), as well as environmental factors such as emotional or physical stress.
For some women the condition is mild, where only small patches of hair fall out to the point where it might not even be noticeable to the person who has it. In mild cases of alopecia the condition is usually only temporary, and your hair may grow back to its previous thickness after just a few months.
It can, though, affect other women much more strongly, sometimes to the point where all of their head hair falls out. When this happens it’s called alopecia totalis. Although alopecia doesn’t cause any further health issues, it can be both stressful and distressing for the women who suffer from it, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. More severe cases of alopecia are likely to affect you for much longer periods of time, often permanently.
But although there’s no cure for alopecia, there are things that can be done to help support hair regrowth, such as taking treatments like minoxidil (Regaine), or seeking emotional support and help for the mental health issues that can arise from and contribute to alopecia.
Postpartum hair loss
Having a child can be one of the most amazing experiences in the world, but it can sometimes cause unexpected effects on your health. You might attribute this hair loss to the stress of having a newborn baby in the house, but it can actually be due to hormonal changes. When you give birth it can lead to your estrogen levels dropping. Since hormonal changes are linked to hair loss, the change in estrogen levels can lead to your hair falling out. You’ll usually see these effects around four months after childbirth.
Stress - how does stress cause hair loss?
Emotional stress can cause hair loss in both men and women. Hair loss as a result of stress is referred to as ‘telogen effluvium’. High stress levels can push your hair follicles into a resting phase. After a few months these hairs might begin to fall out when you complete simple tasks like brushing or washing your hair.
Stress can have serious health implications and you should always speak to a doctor if you feel like you’re getting too stressed.
Certain medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. Like with stress, they can affect your hair follicles and force them into a resting phase. Birth control tablets and antidepressants are known for having this effect sometimes. If you feel like your medication is causing hair loss then it’s worth speaking with your clinician. It’s likely that there’s another type of treatment you can use to help you with your condition, while keeping your head full of hair.
Hair loss has been associated with not getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Because of this it’s important that you try and include a variety of different fruits and vegetables in your diet, as these can help provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals to keep your hair nice and healthy. Another thing you can do to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins is to take supplements. Most vitamin supplements can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or your local supermarket. (We do, however, ask that you speak to your clinician before you start taking any over-the-counter supplements.)
Hair treatments and styling
Certain dyes and hairstyles can have a negative effect on your hair follicles. The chemicals in strong hair dyes can damage hair follicles and wear them down over time. Eventually, they’ll cause your hair to thin and fall out.
Another way that hairstyles can damage your hair is through traction alopecia. Traction alopecia happens when your hair is placed under a lot of tension. This is common in hairstyles like ponytails and cornrows. Wearing hats, scarves and bandanas on your head can have a similar effect.
Smoking is known to cause various health conditions. Over the years many clinical trials have been carried out to test the effects of smoking on people's physical appearance. Results have shown that people who regularly smoke tend to look older than they are.
Smoking affects your hair's follicular growth cycle and pigmentation. In other words, it causes your hair to thin and fall out. Quitting smoking can be hard. If you feel that you need assistance with this then you can contact your clinician for help.