Feature Archive

Women and Hair Loss: The Causes

Today more women than ever are experiencing hair loss -- and the causes may be quite different that what causes balding in men.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

From Lady Godiva to the Breck Girl, Farah Fawcett to Jennifer Aniston, there is no question that, at least for women, hair is often a defining point in personal style. That's one reason why so many women panic at even the thought of losing a few hairs down the drain with each shampoo.

Those fears are not unfounded, as each year more women are forced to come to grips with the possibility of serious hair loss. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it's a growing problem, affecting some 30 million women in the United States -- with some forms of loss occurring at earlier ages, and being seen in increasing numbers.

"I have seen women as young as 15 or 16 develop hair loss problems -- it's not common, but it's also not that rare," says Ted Daly, MD, a dermatologist from Nassau University Medical Center on Long Island, who specializes in the treatment of female hair loss.

But what exactly causes a woman to lose her hair? To understand that, it's important to know a little something about how hair grows.

Growth Cycle Interrupted

Experts say our tresses usually grow at the rate of about one-half inch per month -- with each hair having a growth phase of two to six years. At that point the hair "rests" for a period of time, then falls out -- and the follicle from which it sprang soon starts growing a new strand. And so the cycle continues, usually well into our senior years.