Hair loss is something that happens to men and women alike, and today it seems like the ladies are even more prone to hair fall and thinning than ever before. Researchers have found that less than half of all women go through their lives with a full head of hair.1
But how is this possible? Women are less likely than men to suffer from alopecia (hereditary hair loss) due to their production of testosterone. However, that doesn’t mean they are immune from becoming … follically challenged. If you’re noticing that your hair is thinning out more as you age, you might be contributing to the problem without even realizing it – and you might be able to stop it. So ladies, listen up – here are seven common habits that may be destroying your hair (plus, some ancient remedies for hair loss):
1. Poor Diet
The most popular diet in the United States is called the Standard American Diet, or SAD. It is made up primarily of red meat cuts, dairy products, sugar, refined processed foods, and fast-food.2
This is the type of diet that leaves many Americans with nutritional gaps that they simply don’t know they have. And it is the number one reason people just like you have deficiencies in nutrients needed for the growth of strong, healthy new hair strands – not only on your head, but elsewhere, like your eyebrows and eyelashes.3
- Amp up hair strands with protein by adding more poultry, fish, beans, legumes, and nuts to your diet.
- Feed your hair and hair follicles with minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and selenium for thickness and strength. Try foods like bananas, green beans, oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, potatoes, and Brazil nuts.
- Boost growth speed with biotin. This is a hair growth vitamin that is found in eggs, peanuts, salmon, and strawberries.
2. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is thought to be the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. And women may be especially vulnerable to low iron levels, as the problem usually affects adolescent girls, and is well-known to cause fatigue in adult women.4
An iron deficiency can also affect your hair as follicles undergo numerous phases of their growth cycle. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin within red blood cells, so it is a vital nutrient for hair growth – especially during the resting phase of the growth cycle, also known as the telogen phase.5,6
Additional signs that you may be suffering from an iron deficiency include brain fog, feelings of depression, pale skin, and sore muscles. If you notice that you have one or more of these signs, talk to your doctor.
3. Toxic Personal Care Products
The thyroid is an essential gland that is part of the endocrine system – the body system responsible for producing vital hormones needed to regulate everything from your hunger impulse to your sleep quality, and, of course, your hair’s growth cycles. You see, every hair follicle is dependent on the proper amount of thyroid hormone for the development of new hair growth, as well as the maintenance phases of growth.
People suffering with any type of thyroid problem, including underactive and overactive thyroid glands, may notice more breakage, hair fall, hair loss, and weaker strands.7
Numerous studies have shown that toxic chemicals found in many shampoos, conditioners, and other personal care products can disrupt the proper function of your thyroid gland.8,9
If you notice any of these signs of thyroid problems, talk to your doctor to see what therapies would work best for you. Signs of thyroid problems include enlargement in the neck, visible lumps in the neck, sore throat, swelling in the throat, pain, or tenderness in the area, fatigue, puffiness in the face, cholesterol imbalance, and of course hair loss.
During the resting phase of the hair follicle growth cycle, your scalp is especially prone to hair loss caused by stress.10 Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can damage hair growth, because it leads to the production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is known to affect the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicle.11
Studies have shown that this type of hair loss can cause up to 70 percent of hair fall.12
5. Heat Styling
When it comes to styling products, hot straighteners, curling irons, rollers, and other hot tools can really do a number on your tresses. Take the damage out of your styling routine by adding a heat defense serum to wet hair before styling. You may also want to turn the heat settings down to the low/medium setting before applying any hot styling tool to your hair, as studies confirm this can help reduce strand damage and hair loss.13 Some heat styling tools can reach temperatures of 450 degrees – and that’s far too hot to apply to your hair. Stick to the lower settings only.
The styling process may take a little more time, but it’s worth it if you can avoid damage to the structural components of your hair strands.
6. Tight Ponytails and Braids
These types of hairstyles can cause you to pull and tug at your hair strands more often. And for this reason, wearing tight ponytails or braids may lead to more hair loss in women. Because of the pulling force applied to the hair, these common hair styles should only be worn 2-3 times a week, in order to reduce the risk of more hair loss. And remember: wet hair is more prone to breakage, so always wait until your hair is completely dry before putting it in an up-do like a ponytail, or braiding it.
Studies have confirmed the added risk of additional hair loss and thinning associated with these types of tension hairstyles. So, spare your strong hair strands by loosening hair ties, and softening your braids.14
Dealing with Hair Loss
Hair loss can be devastating, and it can seriously damage your self esteem – especially if you feel like there is nothing you can do about it. So, if you are noticing more hairs in your drain or hair brush than you used to, be sure that you eliminate these seven bad habits that are destroying your hair. And if the problem persists, talk to your doctor about potential therapies, as there are many options.
Want more healthy hair advice? Keep reading:
1. Quan Q Dinh, Rodney Sinclair. Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts. Clin Interv Aging. 2007 Jun; 2(2): 189–199.
2. Standard American Diet. NutritionFacts.org.
3. Emily L. Guo, Rajani Katta. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017 Jan; 7(1): 1–10.
4. Moeinvaziri M, Mansoori P. Iron status in diffuse telogen hair loss among women. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2009;17(4):279-84.
5. Shersten Killip, M.D., M.P.H, John M. Bennett, M.D., M.P.H. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Mar 1;75(5):671-678.
6. Moeinvaziri M, Mansoori P. Iron status in diffuse telogen hair loss among women. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2009;17(4):279-84.
7. Maya Vincent, Krishnan Yogiraj. A Descriptive Study of Alopecia Patterns and their Relation to Thyroid Dysfunction. Int J Trichology. 2013 Jan-Mar; 5(1): 57–60.
8. Rachelle Morgensterna, Robin M. Whyatt.
Phthalates and thyroid function in preschool age children: Sex specific associations. Environment International
Volume 106, September 2017, Pages 11-18.
9. Robin E. Dodson, Marcia Nishioka. Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jul; 120(7): 935–943.
10. American Psychological Association. Stressed in America. January 2011, Vol 42, No.1.
11. Erling Thom PhD. Stress and the Hair Growth Cycle: Cortisol-Induced Hair Growth Disruption. August 2016. Volume 15. Issue 8.
12. S Malkud (1 September 2015). Telogen Effluvium: A Review. J Clin Diagn Res. 9 (9). PMC 4606321 Freely accessible.
13. Christian P, Winsey N. The effects of water on heat-styling damage. J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Jan-Feb;62(1):15-27.
14. Kyei A, Bergfeld WF. Medical and environmental risk factors for the development of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia: a population study. Arch Dermatol. 2011 Aug;147(8):909-14.