There are many causes of hair loss in women, including not just genetics, but also a wide range of health and lifestyle factors. That’s the conclusion of a recent study in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which found that high stress levels, smoking, having more children, and having a history of hypertension and cancer are all associated with increased hair thinning.
Researchers have long known that there are genetic and hormonal causes for female pattern hair loss. Higher testosterone levels are associated with increased hair loss, particularly at the sides and top of the head. This latest study has reaffirmed and expanded on those findings.
The study also found that a variety of other risk factors can also contribute to female pattern hair loss. How did the researchers eliminate the genetic factor? By studying 98 identical twins, average age 54 years, and comparing lifestyle and medical factors. The study involved measuring hair loss or thinning at the front, sides, and top of the head, and measuring the twins’ testosterone levels. The women also completed questionnaires that assessed different environmental, lifestyle, and medical factors.
The survey concluded that there are many environmental and medical risk factors for hair loss, including:
- higher levels of stress (linked to being separated or divorced, multiple marriages, and more children)
- higher income
- prolonged sleep (possibly related to depression/anxiety)
- cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- smoking, not exercising, and not using sun protection
Curiously, women with a higher caffeine intake were at a lower risk of hair loss. The researchers believe that this may be because caffeine counters the hormonal effects that lead to hair loss.
The researchers concluded that women can decrease the risk of hair loss by reducing many of these factors, including through exercise, quitting smoking, using sun protection, and reducing stress in their everyday lives.