Whether your hair is stick straight, wavy or super curly, highlighted or au natural—we all want thick, lustrous locks. But when you see extra strands of hair on your pillow, in your hairbrush, or in the shower, it can cause a major freakout.
It’s apparently normal to shed between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day, but if you’re noticing more hair than usual or clumps of hair coming out, you probably have excessive hair loss.
So what’s a girl to do? For starters, don’t panic. You won’t need extensions or a wig. You won’t go bald. Promise! But what you should realize is that it’s really a symptom of something else going on in your body.
7 Surprising Reasons Women Lose Their Hair
1. The Pill Can Cause Hair Loss
Some progestins (synthetic progesterone) found in birth control pills resemble testosterone. In other words, from a chemical standpoint progestins look more like testosterone than real progesterone, which can cause them to shrink and damage hair follicles, triggering hair loss (1).
Four of the most common progestins that act like testosterone are medroxyprogesterone, norethindrone, norgestrel, etonogestrel, and levonorgestrel, so be sure to read your birth control packets to see if your pill has any of these (1, 2, 3).
You might not notice drastic hair loss, but your hair could start to fall out gradually over several months or even years. That’s what happened to me—I’d been on the pill for two years when someone said to me, your hair is so thin! Then I started noticing just how much it had thinned out. I stayed on the pill another two years because it didn’t occur to me that ALL my health problems were linked back to being on the pill, much less my hair loss.
Drospirenone is a common progestin found in pills like Yaz that doesn’t typically cause hair loss because it is not considered androgenic. Because it suppresses androgen production while taking it, you might notice hair loss soon after stopping it or about 3-4 months after stopping it (1). It should subside within a few months with the right nutrition interventions.
If you’re on the pill, you’ll have to stop taking it altogether to address your hair loss and any other side effects you don’t want.
If you need help coming off hormonal birth control, I’ve created the ultimate step-by-step protocol to help you transition off hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, IUD, implant, etc.) and take back control of your hormones, your body, and your life. Check out my Fix Your Birth Control Protocol here.
2. Hormonal Imbalances Cause Hair Loss
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, androgenetic alopecia (or female pattern baldness) is the most common type of hair loss and affects about 80 million people.
The most likely reason for this type of hair loss are high levels of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (1).
Normally metabolized into estrogen, testosterone can also be metabolized into dihydrotestosterone or DHT which is basically a more potent androgen than testosterone and is known to cause hair loss (4, 5). Although some women have a genetic predisposition to this, diet, lifestyle, certain medications like anti-depressants, and the environment can also play a role.
I recommend getting your testosterone and DHT tested to make sure your levels are in range.
Any imbalance of testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, or cortisol—the stress hormone—can cause hair loss, too. Since your hair thrives when estrogen and progesterone are balanced, if you’re not ovulating because you’re on the pill or for another reason, your hair will lack the hormones it needs to be healthy and strong (4, 6).
3. PCOS Can Lead To Hair Loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 5 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder that can cause irregular periods, excessive hair growth on the face and hair loss on the head, acne, and obesity (5). PCOS is a condition associated with elevated androgens (see #2 above), and should be taken very seriously because it can also increase your risk for infertility, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. If you have any of these symptoms, get yourself to the doctor for testing.
Read my full post on PCOS here.
4. Other Health Conditions That Can Lead To Hair Loss
Medical conditions like iron-deficient anemia, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunction, and autoimmunity can all cause hair loss.
You hair needs lots of iron so I recommend you get your iron levels checked. Without an adequate amount of iron, your hair simply will not grow properly. You can take this at home Iron Test at Lets Get Checked to see if you you have a deficiency. Be sure to use code Hormones20 to get 20% off the price of the test.
Thyroid dysfunction is also a common cause of hair loss. Doctors usually test for thyroid issues with a basic test called TSH, but this is not a reliable indication of your overall thyroid health. I recommend this full Thyroid + Antibodies Test to get a complete picture of how your thyroid is performing.
You’ll notice you might lose hair during the postpartum time. This is considered normal, but if you’re concerned look at the diet and supplement recommendations below.
5. Your Diet Can Cause Hair Loss
Keto or other low carb diets might help you lose weight, but if you’re not eating enough calories or carbohydrates, your body can go into starvation mode and prevent you from ovulating, which in turn will affect your hair (see #2 above). There is also the issue of massive weight loss on these kinds of diets.
When you lose a lot of weight pretty quickly, you might experience hair loss. I’ve seen this issue in a number of clients over the years and there are some limited studies that back this up (7).
Same goes for any diet you’re on, not just low carb. Our bodies need to feel well-fed and safe to thrive!
6. Vitamin Deficiencies Can Lead To Hair Loss
Hair follicles are made of protein, so if you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, your hair can start to become thin and fall out. Likewise, deficiencies in B vitamins, zinc, and essential fatty acids can cause hair loss as well. Vitamins A, D and E are also needed in sufficient amounts for proper hair growth (7). Get your vitamin levels tested to find out if you might be deficient and then work with your naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor to address any deficiencies.
I also recommend an amazing product called Nutrafol for hair loss. Check it out here.
7. Environmental Toxins Could Be The Reason You’re Losing Your Hair
Heavy metals like mercury, thallium, arsenic, lead and cadmium can disrupt normal thyroid function and lead to hair loss (8). You can ask your doctor to run a simple blood test for heavy metal toxicity. Keep in mind, heavy metal toxicity can cause acute and chronic health problems so it is important to work with a functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor who will do the right testing and interventions.
Easy, Natural Solutions For Hair Loss
It’s always a good idea to see work with a doctor (described above) or a dermatologist to determine what is causing your hair loss—medical conditions, hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and other possible factors.
1. Foods That Promote Hair Growth
Salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, avocados and flaxseeds which are high in essential fatty acids can support hair growth. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which promote cellular turnover, cell division, and growth that form keratin, a protein in hair. Beef, chicken, fish and other animal-based sources of protein and collagen (collagen supplements in particular) helps to build keratin in your hair.
2. Supplements For Hair Loss
Thyroid Support Supplements
Vitamin D and minerals like magnesium, selenium, and iodine can all support your thyroid and improve hair growth.
For vitamin D, I recommend supplementing with Seeking Health Vitamin D3 + K2 Liquid or Capsules. To find out if you need vitamin D supplementation, take this at home Vitamin D Test. Be sure to use code Hormones20 at checkout to get 20% off the price of the test.
For magnesium, I recommend taking magnesium glycinate, which is the most easily absorbed form of magnesium (and will prevent diarrhea). You should follow dosage instructions on the bottle. Check out Seeking Health Optimal Magnesium Capsules or Seeking Health Magnesium Glycinate Powder.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect the thyroid from heavy metal exposure. It is also involved in T4-to-T3 conversion and helps to decrease the antibodies that are seen in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The recommended dose is 200 mcg per day. Check out Pure Encapsulations Selenium or Thorne Research Selenomethionine. Keep in mind, high dose selenium is linked to hair loss, so be diligent about the dosage (8).
For iodine supplementation, this is best done under a doctor’s supervision. Check with your doctor about whether iodine supplements might be the right thing for you.
Silica and Biotin Supplements For Hair Growth
Silica, or silicon dioxide, is a chemical compound, which studies suggest can improve hair growth (9, 12).
B Complex Supplements For Hair Growth
Consider a B Complex supplement if you’re not on one already, as the B vitamin family is very helpful for a variety of period problems. I really like Thorne Research Basic B Complex, Seeking Health B Complex Plus, or Designs for Health B Supreme.
If you don’t want to take a B Complex, consider a B12 supplement that contains the forms of B12 that include adenosylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin along with a folate supplement. Seeking Health makes a Hydrox-Adeno B12 that combines these two types of B12. How convenient! Seeking Health makes an individual Folinic Acid supplement. Folinic acid is a non-methylated, DNA-based folate which supports hair growth.
Please note: Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any of these supplements. Take either the B Complex or the B12/Folinic Acid combo. Don’t take both at the same time.
Full Spectrum Supplement
Consider a product like Nutrafol, which is a full spectrum hair loss supplement that contains a wide variety of nutrients.
3. Herbs and Essential Oils For Hair Loss
Adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha can help buffer your stress response which will lower cortisol, and support your entire endocrine system function. Take as directed on the label.
Spearmint (in tea) and spearmint essential oil have anti-androgenic properties, which can reduce the amount of testosterone in the blood. In fact, a 2010 study found that women with PCOS who drank spearmint tea twice a day for one month had a significant reduction in their free and total testosterone levels (10).
Saw Palmetto can prevent testosterone from being converted into DHT (11). Take a look at Designs for Health Prostate Supreme (I know, you don’t have a prostate but this product works for both men and women to reduce testosterone and DHT).
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5740213/ & https://journals.lww.com/jaapa/Fulltext/2018/08000/Alopecia_due_to_high_androgen_index_contraceptives.3.aspx & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24861265/
- https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/485749 & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4639951/
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30980598 & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29949176
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