When we see more hairs than usual in the shower or the hairbrush, we suddenly wonder whether we might be losing our hair. It’s comforting to know that the human body sheds approximately 100 of its 100,000–150,000 strands of hair every day and new ones grow to take their place. As we age, this renewal process may slow where more hairs are lost than grown.
The health of your hair is a reflection of the overall state of your health, so it is important to address hair loss from a multi-pronged approach that includes both the use of standard medical treatments to slow hair loss, and hair loss vitamins for women to address and improve health.
For 40–50% of women, hair may begin to thin after age 50 (typically after menopause). This is called female-pattern baldness. Women tend to see their hair thin throughout the head, but most visibly on the crown. Significant hair loss for women before age 50 is rare and usually triggered by hormonal fluctuations, stress, or a secondary health concern.
There are many things a woman can do to help with hair loss. The first step is to determine what is causing the hair loss in the first place. This can be achieved by visiting your family doctor or dermatologist. Hair loss can be a result of a number of factors, many of them treatable.
If hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, dry skin and hair, and menstrual fluctuations, it may be the warning signs of hypothyroidism or an under active thyroid. See your doctor immediately for further tests.
- Age: Hair loss is more common with age
- Burns, injuries, and skin infections such as ringworm
- Drugs used to treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, and birth control pills can lead to hair loss.
- Hair treatments: Chemicals used for dying, tinting, bleaching, straightening, or perming can cause hair to become damaged and break off if they are overused or used incorrectly; hairstyles that pull your hair too tightly also can cause some hair loss, which is known as traction alopecia.
- Hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause
- Immune disorders (lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease)
- Nutritional deficiencies: Inadequate protein, iron, lack of hair loss vitamins for women or essential fatty acids
- Severe gastrointestinal disorders
- Stress: Emotional stress, fever, surgery, flu
- Weight problems and extreme dieting
If you experience sudden or excessive hair loss, or bald patches, you should visit the doctor to rule out thyroid concerns, and other health problems. Hair loss due to aging and genetics must be treated as early as possible to stabilize hair loss and stimulate regrowth.
Treatments for hair loss in women
Essential fatty acids: A deficiency can cause hair loss; supplements can help improve the health of scalp and hair. Take a blend of fish, flaxseed, and evening primrose or borage oil. Dosage: 2–3 g daily.
A study by Scottish researchers found that essential oils could benefit bald patches caused by alopecia areata. In this study, half of the participants massaged a combination of essential oils of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood onto their scalps each day. The other half of participants massaged inactive oils. After seven months, 44 percent of the patients using the essential oils showed significant improvement in hair growth compared to only 15 percent improvement in the placebo group.
Even though hair is not a living tissue, it is important to supply nutrients to the hair follicles in the scalp. While there are no foods that directly stimulate increased hair growth, choose foods that supply the body with a rich supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, and protein.
Foods that help in the treatment of hair loss in women
- Ensure adequate protein intake as protein is necessary for hair growth. Choose lean sources of protein (fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy). Meat, poultry, and fish also contain iron, which is required for proper hair growth.
- Fish and flaxseed contain essential fatty acids necessary for proper hair growth.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds contain magnesium, which is important for hair growth.
- The outer skin of plants such as potatoes, cucumbers, green and red peppers, and sprouts can strengthen hair because they are rich in the mineral silica.
- Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are good sources of essential nutrients and fibre.
Foods to avoid in the treatments for hair loss in women
- Caffeine and alcohol can deplete the body of nutrients and also raise adrenal levels, which can trigger hair loss.
- Foods high in sugar can raise cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and cause the body to pro- duce more androgens, promoting hair loss.
- High intake of salt has been linked to hair loss. Foods high in salt include processed and snack foods, deli meats, and the salt shaker.
- Reduce or eliminate pro-inflammatory foods: saturated fat (fatty meats and dairy) and trans fats (processed foods and fried foods). Saturated fat reduces the amount of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a substance that normally binds to testosterone. With less SHBG, more testosterone can be converted into DHT, which promotes hair loss.
The Effect of Drastic Dieting
Severely reducing calorie intake (less than 1,200 calories per day) can trigger sudden hair loss (telogen effluvium). When the body is deprived of sufficient protein, through strict dieting and calorie restriction, it will shut down all production of hair in order to divert all of its energies toward conserving vital body organs. The body will save protein by shifting healthy hairs that are in a normal growth phase (anagen) into a sudden resting phase.
- Regular exercise and healthy sleep habits will increase circulatory and overall health, promoting healthy hair.
- Reduce the frequency of washing and drying your hair. Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Avoid using hot water and hair dryers or curling irons whenever possible.
- Avoid exposing hair to chlorinated pool water or any other chemical solutions (perms and dyes).
- Do not overbrush your hair. Limit grooming and always be gentle when brushing or combing hair. Keep braids and ponytails loose.
- Give yourself a weekly deep conditioning treatment and scalp massage to protect the hair shaft and stimulate new hair follicle growth.
- Wear a wide-brim hat when outdoors to protect your scalp and hair from the sun’s damaging rays.
- Don’t smoke. According to one report, smokers were four times more likely to have grey hair than non-smokers and were more prone to hair loss.
- Grape seed extract: A potent antioxidant, grape seed extract can be used as one of the treatments for hair loss in women. It has shown in preliminary research to stimulate hair growth.
Dosage: 50–100 mg daily.
- Minerals: Iron, selenium, and zinc are essential for hair growth; a deficiency can cause hair loss.
Dosage: Take as part of multi supplement with both minerals and hair loss vitamins for women.
- Saw palmetto: Used primarily for the treatment of enlarged prostate. It blocks the production of DHT and thus it may be helpful for treating hair loss due to high DHT levels, although this has not been tested in humans yet. Consult with your health care provider before supplementing with saw palmetto.
Often the appearance of our hair, skin and nails offers a window into our overall health. Hair and nails reflect the health of the body two to six months prior while our skin reflects any imbalances much more immediately.
Dry skin, acne, wrinkles, thinning hair and brittle, pitted nails can result from a lack of vitamins for healthy skin hair and nails, environmental factors, including sun and pollution, smoking and aging.
Aging contributes to reduced cell development and a slowing in the production of collagen and keratin (the key structural components in hair, skin and nails). This translates into skin dryness and wrinkles, hair loss, brittle nails, and generally slower growth of hair and nails, and slower skin regeneration.
Although aging cannot be prevented, the effects of aging can be slowed through various methods. In addition to regular exercise, not smoking, using a sunscreen and consuming a healthy diet, dietary supplements containing vitamins for healthy skin hair and nails are also available. Look for supplements containing these key ingredients:
- MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)
- Vitamin C
- Amino acids L-isoleucine, L-leucine, and L-valine
- Biotin and calcium
- Vitamins A and D
To improve the health of your hair and prevent hair loss, consider the following tips for treatment for hair loss in women
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, seeds, and ensure adequate protein intake.
- Reduce or minimize saturated fat, caffeine, sugar, and salt.
- Get regular exercise and don’t smoke.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals and heat on your hair. Do a scalp massage with essential oils weekly.
- Consider a quality supplement containing the important hair loss vitamins for women, including the B-vitamins.