A colleague and I were talking a few months ago about patterns we are seeing in practice over the pandemic and hair loss was without a doubt in the top five. For many women with sudden hair loss, it can be a never-ending search for treatments and products and cover-up sprays, filled with disappointment. Having a discussion with your healthcare practitioner, MD or ND, is an important start in discovering the root cause and potentially the solution. And know that up to 50% of women will experience some kind of hair loss in their lifetime. You are not alone.
When talking with women (or men!) about unexplained hair loss it is important to go through the basics first and see if they have had recent blood work done to rule out a few things. The following is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it helps.
1. How is your thyroid function? Has it ever been checked? Do you have a family history?
2. How is your iron? Has ferritin been recently or ever checked on bloodwork? Are you having heavier or more frequent periods?
3. Have you been on a diet recently or been restricting calories?
4. Are you eating enough protein daily? Protein is the building blocks of hair, skin, and nails.
5. A shift in hormones - peri-menopause or menopause? Or do you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)? Hyper-androgenism? Insulin resistance?
6. Is it genetic hair loss? Look at parents and grandparents hairlines.
8. Is it chemical exposure like hair dye/styling product?
9. Do you have an autoimmune condition?
10. STRESS - do you have an increased amount of stress? Are you managing it ok?
Number 10. This is a big one. When your body perceives stress, cortisol is released, inflammation increases, and your body to protect its vital processes and organs. Hair growth is an 'extra' and surprisingly requires a lot of energy so it will go into a resting phase (telogen phase). This may happen during a stressful time or for a few months after a stressful period. Most people also don't eat as well during a stressful time so nutrient deficiencies also play a role.
Most women I see pick up a biotin (vitamin B7) supplement at a health food store thinking it will solve their problem. It will if you actually have a biotin deficiency. It can stimulate keratin production and increase hair follicle growth. However, hair loss is never this simple. A thorough investigation of the checklist above should be the first place to start.