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March 27th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

The secret is out – women lose their hair too!

By Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

I was on the phone with my friend the other night having ordinary “girl talk” when I heard an exaggerated gasp on the other end of the line. “Are you OK?” I immediately asked, worried something awful had happened. “I’m fine,” she said. “I was just looking in the mirror and realized my hair is getting so thin! I’m going to be bald before you know it.”

The truth is, my thirtysomething friend is not going to end up bald like her shiny-headed husband, but she is joining over 50 percent of women who’ll experience hair loss before age 50.

That number may seem high but doctors say “female-pattern balding” occurs all the time - but women just don’t like to talk about. “It can be embarrassing for some women so they’ll just style their hair differently try to hide it,” says Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.

Hair loss patterns in women are different from those you’d see in men. Most women experience thinning on the top of the head, or around the crown. Rarely do women experience receding hair lines or develop patches of total baldness, according to dermatologists.

It’s normal to lose about 100 strands of hair a day. If you notice your hair loss increasing, it’s important to talk to your doctor because while often hereditary, it can also be a sign of a serious medical condition, or a side effect from a prescription drug. (find a dermatologist in your area

I was surprised to learn not all 'hair loss' is created equal. Turns out, women can experience three different types:

Thinning:  This is the most common form of hair loss and it's hereditary. “You can pretty much look at either your mom or dad and determine if you’re at high risk,” says Mirmirani.

The normal growth cycle for hair is every two to six years. But as we age, the growth cycle shortens and the new strands of hair grow in fewer, and thinner. There is no prevention for hereditary hair thinning, but there are treatment options.

For those experiencing hereditary thinning, an over-the-counter topical medication containing 2 percent to 5 percent of the drug minoxidil will slow down the thinning process and help to re-grow new, stronger hair follicles. “This is a great treatment option but a women need to keep using it because if they stop, the same thinning pattern will develop all over again, “ notes Mirmirani.

Shedding:  Shedding occurs for a number of reasons, most often in women post-pregnancy. When pregnant, elevated hormone levels in the body cause your hair follicles to take a nap essentially and not shed the normal 100 hairs a day. “This is why you’ll often hear women talk about how great their hair looked during those nine months,” Mirmirani added. “Post-pregnancy, your hair’s natural growth cycle plays catch up and sheds a lot of hair at once, but in reality it’s the same amount you would have naturally lost if you never got pregnant.”

Over 290 medications can also cause hair shedding, according to the AAD. Most common medications to impact hair loss are amphetamines, beta blockers, antidepressants and blood thinners.

Lack of a properly balanced diet, including getting enough iron, will also cause hair to shed. An over- or under-active thyroid is also a common factor.

“The good thing for a person experiencing hair shedding to know is that it’s absolutely not permanent–the hair will grow back the same as it was before.”

Experts say about six months after eliminating the reason for the increased shedding (example, after pregnancy, or once your thyroid is regulated), your hair will go back to normal.

Breakage: If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to frequently use an extra hot flat-iron on your luscious locks. But do you ever wonder where all the hair on your bathroom floor came from afterwards? Frequent use of flat-irons and hot rollers can cause damage and hair loss. “The root or hair follicle isn’t being impacted, but the actual hair strands are damaged and will break off from the root with frequent use.” Note to self: cut back on the flat-iron!

How about you? Have you noticed your hair thinning out as you age? Is hair loss really a “taboo” topic for women? Are there any treatments or shampoos that worked for you? Share your story below!

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Evelyn

    What "over-the-counter" mediciation can I use with the 2-5% of minoxidil, for example? Your section on "thinning" is exactly what has happened to me.

    Thanks.

    March 27, 2009 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. cb

    Does PCOS cause shedding or thinning. PCOS affects so many people and probably people who don't even know it because it is so hard to get a definitive diagnosis. Can you please discuss PCOs in your upcomming topics ;)

    March 27, 2009 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Priya

    Agree. My post-delivery hair fall is enormous (I doubt 200/day – I cannot leave a room without a trace). I am on multi-vitamins, and I iron my hair once a week.
    Stress at work might be a cause too.

    March 27, 2009 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Luci

    My hair is thinning and falling out more frequent, I'm going through Menopause (Hystrectomy in 1998) I'm almost 50 and I have had Alopecia in one spot and it grew back with injections, what should I do for my thiining and hair loss.

    March 27, 2009 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lori

    I was reading about women losing there hair, well I do have a question and i hope that someone can help. I have been losing my hair for about a couple of years now and it's the size of a quarter all the time, but it does grow back. It started about three years ago on the back of head and i didn't even know until going to get a hair cut. What could this be cause from?

    Thanks Lori

    March 27, 2009 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pixie79

      You sound like you have alopecia areata. It's an autoimmune disease.

      May 4, 2012 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  6. Janet

    I lost all of my hair in 2001 – no Dr. can?could tell me why. Then it started coming back in 2004 albeit pure white. Now it is thinning on top, I have had all the tests (thyroid, adrenals, kidneys, etc etc) that any Dr. could think of and have had steroid injections, minoxidil and everything in between. Nothing has helped. I know of 3 others who have lost all of their hair – I am the only one whose hair has returned. This is a much bigger problem than realized as it is usually kept hidden.

    March 28, 2009 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Michele

    My hair started thinning 20 years ago. Now, at age 43, my hairline has receded by an inch and at the right angle, the severe loss on my crown on visible. I cannot tell you how much pain this has caused me although it has lessened as I learned to accept the reality that I really was losing my hair.

    My hair got curly in my early thirties and keeping it fairly short keeps the curls. They help to cover up the thinning. Every few weeks I have to de-clog the drain in the shower, and pulling out that clog feels like pulling out my heart.

    I don't know what I'll do if it ever gets to the point where I have lost most of my hair on top. I see it all the time on other woman and it scares me to death.

    March 28, 2009 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristi

      Hey I read your story about Hair loss and it sounds similar to mine. Just wondering if you would email me and we could possibly email/chat about this. I'm looking for support through this and someone that has been through it would understand so much more!!

      November 30, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  8. Christine

    I was diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm back in June of '05. Doctor put me on Beta Blockers. I have noticed over the past so many months a lot more hair in the shower drain...so I had a hunch and looked up the side effects of Beta Blockers and sure enough thinning hair is one of them. My God, I never knew that. I will have to be on Beta Blockers for the rest of my life. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO??? Does anyone know what type of doctor one goes to for this problem? Is their a solution for me? Are there products out there to help me? I cannot sleep anymore worrying about this. Please someone answer my questions ....Thank you for being there, Christine in Florida

    May 3, 2009 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sul

    Obviously, there is somenthing majorly wrong.
    First of all, is it normal for women to lose their hair?
    How much hair loss is normal?
    Where are the location with WOMEN highest hair loss in the world?
    What mayor changes in the environment have triggered this hormonal change in women?
    Some helpful ideas to easy the problem:
    Buy a shower filter
    Buy a drinking water filter
    Take vitamin supplement (check with your doctor first)
    If you can afford it eat organic
    Use organic shampoo and conditioner
    check your thyroid and any hormone you doctor can think of
    Go see an Endocrynologist and a Dermatologist
    Go over sea to see an specialist if you can afford it, but usually it would be cheaper than in the US.
    Don't worry about anything, bills, credit card, job, family affairs–>worrying won't help or solve the problems.
    Practice Yoga if you like or do breathing exercises in the morning (you tube) search.
    Start a work out program such as "spinning" or walking.
    Get a divorse from your stressfull family, friends, jobs, whatever it might be get rid of it.

    July 12, 2009 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Nicole Rogers

    Hi I am only 29 years old, i started loosing my hair about 2 years ago, I feel by summer time im gona have a hair line like a man when they go bald. what causes it and how can i fix this problem?

    January 16, 2010 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. shelly

    Pretty Natural's Amla-Rosemary oil helped bring life back to my thinning hair. You can find it at: http://www.prettynatural-inc.com

    January 25, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. s prather

    I am taking a beta blocker for hypertension/tachycardia control, but the hair thinning and loss is progressive. I am also recently menopausal. What is the beta blocker doing to the blood circulation, hair follicle to cause hair thinning and loss? Will this stop eventually or will I become completely BALD? Can I stop the medication gradually. Maybe I have narrow blood vessels?
    PLEASE HELP! MY DOCTOR DOES NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO.

    February 3, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Christine

    This is for S PRATHER. As you can see a few posts above yours, I have had the same issues with Beta Blockers. My hair has thinned out immensely. I was on Metoprolol Tartrate starting in July of' '05. I told my doctors and they thought I was nuts. I do know of people who are on Betas as well without any hair loss. That is what puzzles me. I was only on 25 mg. two times daily. Just last month (I have relocated to another state) my new doctor switched my Betas and put me on Bystolic (not because of my hair loss, but because he was not pleased with my BP readings on Metoprolol) I keep hoping Bystolic won't have the same side effects but I cannot tell yet. With my luck, I am sure it will. I have to be on Betas for the rest of my life so I don't know what is going to happen. You would think the pharmacuetical companies would be working on this issue but I doubt it. I cannot for the life of me figure out some doctors. When you tell them what is going on they doubt you. There are other sites as well to confirm hair loss in many people who are on Betas. WE ALL CANNOT BE NUTS. I, too, like you thought that because blood circulation is compromised with Betas, that maybe the blood does not get to the hair follicles very well, therefore compromising the hair and hair loss is imminent. What else could it be??? I DO KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. Maybe there is something else you could be put on.....I wish you well. Christine in Oregon.....

    February 4, 2010 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. amanda

    HELP ME!!!!
    I am 24 years old and have been losing a lot of hair over the past couple of months my hair loss is on the top of my head on the right side. The bald spot used to be the size of a quarter but in less than a month has grown to about three inches across. I'm scared about this. Someone please

    February 25, 2010 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Devin

    I am 24 and my hair is thinning out on the top of my head too. Please someone explain this and how we treat it PLEASE!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kristi

    I am 36 and a few months ago I was taking some photos, when I sat down to my computer to view them – to my surprise it looked like a spot in the front/top area that was so fine you could barely see hair there. I freaked out immediately. Long story short I looked back to other photos and maybe I've been thinning for a while. Over the course of the next few months I persued every option of what it could be and what I could do. After 3 visits to the Salon I am now understanding that as we age – our hair thins and found out that the texture of our hair changes every 7 years. Plus I'm getting some white (whites at 36!!) Ug. My hairstylist gave me a new cut – that basically shades the thinning. My doctor ran tons of tests to find out there is no Medical condition that is causing this. As much of a relief that is, it is still hard to experience hair loss. I know my mom and sister started thinning in their 30's and have just found hairstyles to accomodate it. However for me – it's like the end of the world. I'm used to having THICK red hair. I very much dislike the appearance of thinning hair – but it's more noticeable to me then to others. I also tried Nioxin shampoo, which was great for the scalp....but I am trying Aveeno Nourish & Volume shampoo and liking the results much better. I would love to hear from anyone that has been through a similar experience &/or just needs support through this horrible reality of life!

    November 30, 2010 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tina

    Im so sick to my stomach. My hair is falling out in thick strands of hair. You know how men start getting balding in there temples well it started for me like that almost 10 mths ago and now my bang line is fading fast. It is so unnatural when im in the shower or if i even try to a temp to brush my hair its coming out like there is no tomorrow and i am so scared and depressed. This is a really traumatic thing for me because im only 33 years old and know one in my family is bald. Its been eating away at me so im coming out to try and get some help. Another weird thing is that ive noticed that my forehead is more fuzzy in the wrong places and i have freckle discoloration close to my old hair line it reminds me of liver spots lol . Im fiber cystic and ive had cysts on my ovaries and ive noticed my periods are getting shorter....Am i going thru early menopause........?

    July 17, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.