About 85 to 90 percent of your hair is growing at any time. The other 10 to 15 percent is in a resting phase. At the end of the resting phase, the hair falls out. But sometimes, this normal cycle is disrupted. Fewer hairs grow, or too many hairs are "resting" and fall out. What could be the cause of your thinning tresses?
a) You just gave birth
b) You recently entered menopause
c) You're taking birth control pills
d) All of the above
The answer is D.
How Hormones Change Your Hair
The hormone estrogen plays a big part in hair growth, and when estrogen levels change, so do your tresses. For example:
Pregnancy. When you're pregnant, estrogen levels increase, which means your hair grows more quickly. Meanwhile, increased progesterone stops your hair from shedding as it normally would—about 95 percent of your scalp is in the growing phase.
Postpregnancy. Once you give birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and hair growth goes back to its normal half an inch per month. At the same time, all that hair you would have lost if you hadn't been pregnant starts falling out. The combination means there's a lot more hairs in your shower drain in the morning. It takes a few months for all the "extra" hair to turn over, but once it does—usually three to six months after giving birth—your hair growth and loss should be normal.
Perimenopause and menopause. Waning estrogen has a lot to do with perimenopausal and menopausal hair loss too, says Rebecca Hulem, RN, RNP, CNM, author of Feeling Hot? A Humorous, Informative and Truthful Look at Menopause. And it's fairly common. Half of the women in the United States experience hair loss by the time they turn 50, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Hair loss in perimenopause and menopause happens due to a combination of testosterone and estrogen. When you enter perimenopause your estrogen levels start dropping. This means that testosterone, which has always been present in your body, exerts more control and you start losing your hair. "Hair also gets thinner and more brittle," says Hulem, "which makes it seem like you're losing more than you actually are."
Birth control. Birth control pills can also cause hair loss, according to the AAD, causing too many hairs to go into the resting phase.
Healthy Hair Helpers
Treatment options range from topical creams and lotions to hormone or androgen pills. Anemia can also cause hair loss, so taking an ironsupplement may help. Vitamins may be an important treatment option too. B12 and other B vitamins such as biotin are essential to healthy hair and skin, says Hulem. One recent study found that green tea may help combat hair loss as well. "I'm also a big proponent of black cohosh and soy isoflavones," says Hulem. "But if a woman is having significant hair loss, she should certainly bring it up with her health care provider." Talking with your doctor can help you get to the root of the problem.