If you are seeing hair on your pillow, more hair in your brush especially without tugging, and clumps in the shower drain you may be suffering hair loss. Thinning usually begins in women along their part line or their forehead line may start receding.
Hair loss has two main categories – sudden temporary hair loss and gradual hair loss. Treatment depends on the type of hair loss.
The best way to understand female hair loss is to picture a garden – what is happening underground determines the health of what grows on top.
Why are you losing your hair?
Category 1 - Sudden Hair Loss
Sudden hair loss is the result of hair not growing properly from the scalp. The garden soil is lacking nutrients or has become polluted causing hair to grow dry and brittle or suddenly shed.
Common causes of sudden hair loss:
- Illness and surgery
- Thyroid gland issues
- Autoimmune disease and anemia
- Medication: blood thinners, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and depression meds are common culprits
- especially anti-depressants
- extreme stress
- lack of sleep
- diet changes (especially crash diets)
Anyone suffering sudden hair loss should have blood work done by a doctor to rule out thyroid, hormone, and vitamin deficiency.
I suffered sudden hair loss after a period of illness. I discovered I had an autoimmune condition and was not properly absorbing D3 and vitamin B12 – both necessary for healthy hair growth and overall organ function.
Not one doctor ever ran a blood test to check for this and I suffered for many years until I insisted a new doctor test me for everything under the sun. Simple B12 injections reversed the majority of the hair loss, helped me sleep and feel more energetic, cleared brain fog and helped lube my organs for proper functions.
A second cause of my long term hair loss was medication. A particular medication for by bladder causes hair loss and nail weakening. Again, my doctors never mentioned hair loss as a major side effect. Years later when I asked about the meds effect on my hair I was told yes hair loss was a common side effect but my concern was 'silly'.
I share this story because hair loss for a woman is not 'silly'. It can lead to depression and many do not talk about it for fear of shame or dismissal. Often hair loss is the first sign there is a bigger medical problem. If you have suddenly lost a noticeable amount of hair please see your doctor and be vocal about comprehensive testing.
Category 2 - Gradual Hair Loss
Gradual hair loss (or androgenetic alopecia) may get worse with hormone changes and may be hereditary.
- Menopause - hair becomes finer and hair follicles shrink
- Hereditary – if your relatives suffered female hair loss it is a good chance you may too
While there is no way to reverse hereditary hair loss, there are a number of solutions to minimize the look of sparse patches, protect the hair you have, and treat the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
Beat the heat
You wouldn’t pull a pan out of the oven without a glove so why are you putting heat tools on your hair without a thermal protectant? Hair and skin are very similar and curling and flat irons will burn your hair just like a hot pan will burn your hand.
Turn down the temperature
Most women use way too much heat on their hair. Turn down the heat setting to the lowest possible setting for your hair type. 150-200 degrees for fine or highlighted/colored hair, 200-300 degrees for medium/thick untreated hair, 300+ for untreated ethnic hair.
Monitor the heat by putting your finger on the hair, if it feels warm it is time to move to another section. Take very small half inch sections when flat ironing and go over the section slowly – but only ONCE. Do not keep going over heated sections, if it didn’t straighten you moved too quickly or took too big a section.
Chemicals & Color
Chemically straightening your hair, bleaching, and lightening your hair can all cause damage to the hair shaft, weakening the hair and causing hair loss. All of these should be done by a professional who will closely monitor the strength of chemicals applied. All lightening services should include a protein bonder to help repair holes in the hair strand.
I hear from new guests all the time that dyeing their hair made it brittle. Box dye and older permanent salon dyes used harsh ingredients.
Today’s newer lines are created to actually improve the hair condition and elasticity. Faction 8 used at The Pretty Swan has quinoa in every tube, a natural bond building protein. Hair appears more shiny, manageable, softer, and more elastic AFTER coloring because these proteins fill in holes in the hair shaft. It is also processed at much lower levels than older hair color lines.
Love your natural hair
Try and stick as close to your natural style as possible. If you have dark hair don’t try and go blonde. If you have super curly hair don’t try and go stick straight.
If hair is colored and cut properly it will accentuate the hair you have. Today there are a number of styling products to help save you time and work with your hair’s natural texture. Even Kim Kardashian lost over a foot of hair when she went blonde. Trust your stylist when they tell you no.
Peruse your pantry
Foods high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 can all help revitalize thinning strands. Make sure your diet includes plenty of leafy greens, nuts, beans, fish, and lean meats. If you’re having a hard time getting enough nutrients in your daily diet, a good dietary supplement can help cover whatever your diet is lacking.
Use hair products targeted to restore hair growth
Because thinning hair and hair loss is a huge cosmetic concern for women, many companies are now creating products specifically aimed at restoring hair growth.
Your hair products contain toxic chemicals
Ladies with thinning or sudden hair loss need to be extra careful they are using hair products that are chemical free and of natural origen ingredients.
Common chemicals damaging to hair growth: sulfates, parabens, phalates, silicone. These chemicals lead to dry, brittle, broken hair. These products only preserve the product making it last longer on the shelf – think of it like the chemicals in canned food. At The Pretty Swan all of our products by Biolage are free of these toxic chemicals and contain natural origen ingredients promoting a healthy scalp 'garden'.
Because your hair might be a little more dry than it used to be, now's the time to start taking advantage of oils. It only takes a drop or two to get that moisturized, shiny feel once again. A few drops applied overnight or on dull ends instead of hairspray bring back a youthful appearance.
Please, please shy away from any at home remedies like coconut oil, jojoba oil, apple cider vinegar, etc. While they may work for some hair types, they are all typically toxic to the scalp and can destroy your scalp's proper pH level. Stick with products made for your hair.
Handle with care
Don’t over wash your hair
Great news! You should only be washing your hair a couple times per week. Don’t skip the scalp massage in the shower. Slow stimulating circles on the scalp will trigger blood circulation and regrowth. Getting oily? I recommend everyone double wash - first wash target just the scalp with a stimulating massage, second wash shampoo as usual then follow with conditioner on the ends only. Dry shampoo is great between washing for thin hair. I suggest a charcoal based dry shampoo because it absorbs oil without making the scalp itchy.
Your ponytails are way too tight
Too tight ponytails can lead to traction hair loss. Try switching to braids or headbands to keep your hair out of your face. Less damaging hair ties like the Bobble holds back a ponytail without putting pressure on the hair strand. It is also easy to remove causing less damage.
You are sleeping on a cotton pillowcase
Silk or bamboo pillowcases not only reduce wrinkles and fine lines but also protect hair from damage while you sleep. These materials also reduce frizz and increase shine. I recommend everyone with long hair tying it up in a loose bun on top of their head and securing with a Bobble tie, clip, or silk scrunchie to keep strands from frizzing and knotting overnight. Add a few drops of hair oil before tying up for bed and hair will be smooth and shiny in the morning.
Hair extensions may seem like an instant fix but will lead to more damage. Medical related hair loss sufferers cannot support the extra weight of the extensions and hair will loosen and fall out at the root worsening the problem. Consider a specialty made wiglet (small hairpiece) for bald patches or a 'fall' for added fullness. Halo Couture makes beautiful falls that rest on the head without tugging.
You are not alone
Hair loss and hair thinning are my passion projects because I have been personally effected. The majority of the professional classes I take are geared toward solutions. Likewise, most of my guests have concerns over thinning or shedding hair.
By creating a private salon at The Pretty Swan, my hope is you will feel comfortable discussing hair loss and any other sensitive issues openly so I may be able to help. It is not ‘silly’ for you to be losing your hair and I know first hand how upsetting it can be.
Questions? You aren't alone, I'm here to help.