Many categorize hair loss as a distinctly male experience. But as Harvard Health reports, female hair loss or thinning is incredibly common. Approximately one-third of women will experience some form of hair shedding throughout their lives.
"Thinning hair is a normal part of the aging process in women," said Sandy Skotnicki, MD, FRCPC, a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor at Hers. "However, just like everything else, there is individual variation, which is where genetics come into play. Similar to men, some women thin more than others due to genetic susceptibility."
Below, read up on the common reasons behind hair thinning, how it relates to birth control, and the steps you can take to mitigate hair loss, according to Skotnicki.
Common Reasons Behind Female Hair Shedding
While Skotnicki contends that there is no "normal" when it comes to hair changes, shedding is categorically different than hair loss. "Many women experience hair shedding at different times in their lives, and this shed hair can regrow," she explains, adding that oftentimes, shedding is related to stress and low iron. However, slow thinning at the crown of the head is different. "This is usually genetic and a response to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone."
Birth Control & Hair Shedding
If you've ever noticed more hair in your brush after switching forms of birth control or going off an oral contraceptive altogether, it's not just in your head. "Some birth control pills can help lessen hormonal hair loss over time. This is generally due to increasing estrogen and lowering testosterone," notes Skotnicki. But changing birth control pills can be a "shock to the system" and give rise to a temporary increase in hair shedding. "But, as mentioned, this hair grows back," she clarifies.
How to Combat Hair Loss & Shedding
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If you seem to be shedding more hair than usual, Skotnicki recommends an iron-rich multivitamin and paying a visit to your GP. "See your doctor to make sure your thyroid function is normal, and your iron levels are adequate," she instructs.
Alternatively, "saw palmetto is an oral supplement that has some science to suggest it can help decrease hormonal hair loss, too."
If you're experiencing slow, progressive thinning on the crown of your head, Skotnicki recommends visiting your doctor or dermatologist to discuss minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine that has been used to treat male and female hair loss since the 1980s.
"This topical treatment has been proven to help grow hair and prevent further loss in both men and women," she explains. Keep in mind that you may experience some initial shedding of scalp hairs as the solution stimulates new hair growth. "This often upsets patients but means that it's working," she explains. "It's important to be consistent and understand that minoxidil is a long-term treatment."
Minoxidil for women typically comes in two strengths: 2% or 5%. The stronger 5% treatment may result in hair growth in unwanted areas, like the face or forehead. It's important to discuss all possible treatment options and side effects with your doctor before starting minoxidil.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.