Many young women do not fully expect hair loss to happen as early as their 20s or 30s. When it does happen, it is usually caused by a specific trigger that can be reversed. The three most common triggers for hair loss in young women are stress, dieting, and hormonal changes. Less commonly, hair loss can be caused by certain autoimmune diseases.
Here’s more on these four triggers for hair loss in young women.
Stressful events are a leading cause of hair thinning in women. They can cause your body to enter “survival mode,” in which it rations fuel and energy to support its most vital functions.
Every hair follicle goes through growth and resting phases. A body under stress pushes hairs out of the growth phase and into the resting phase, causing them to eventually fall out. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium.
In telogen effluvium, you might see your hair start shedding around 3 months after a very stressful event, and it can last for 3 to 6 months. But you won’t go bald from stress-induced hair loss. Once the stress passes, most people see regrowth 3 to 6 months later. Depending on how long your hair is, it can take 12 to 18 months to be fully corrected.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, causes of stress induced-hair loss include:
Illness, like COVID-19
A change in medications
Extreme weight loss
Crash dieting can have two negative effects on your hair. First, your body perceives rapid weight loss as a stressful event: It thinks you are starving. Second, it might mean you’re not getting the nutrients your body needs to grow healthy hair. In times of stress or nutrient shortages, your hair is the first thing to go.
As we’ve just learned, hair loss from a stressful event normally corrects itself over time. But, if the stress is ongoing and you have a protein or vitamin deficiency from excessive dieting, it could limit the hair’s ability to grow back. Dieting can also change how the hair looks, making it drier, duller, and more prone to breakage.
The healthiest way to eat is to choose a wide variety of foods. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you like, as well as a range of different proteins. Choose whole grains over white, refined grains, and limit solid fats, sugar, salt, and alcohol. And drink mostly water. This will ensure you get all the nutrients you need for healthy hair growth — and a healthy body.
Avoid taking nutritional supplements for hair loss unless your healthcare provider confirms you have a deficiency. Too much of some nutrients can make you sick and even result in more hair loss.
3. Hormonal changes and imbalances
Whether you went off of a contraceptive pill or just had a baby, hormonal changes can affect hair growth. Specifically, higher estrogen levels make your hair thicker and fuller. When estrogen levels drop, hair falls out. Fortunately, hair loss should stop as your body adjusts to your new estrogen levels.
While estrogen helps hair, progesterone can cause or worsen hair loss. Some popular progesterone-based birth control medications associated with hair loss are:
Implants like Nexplanon
Depo-Provera, the birth control shot
Birth control patches like Xulane
NuvaRing, the birth control vaginal ring
Women with health conditions that cause hormone imbalances also have a higher risk of hair loss. Examples include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Your healthcare provider might test your hormone levels to see if you have one of these conditions, particularly if your hair loss is accompanied by symptoms like:
New hair growth on the face or body
Difficulty losing or gaining weight
Difficulty tolerating changes in temperature
If your hair loss is from a progesterone-based birth control, it should resolve when you stop using the birth control. If the issue is a hormone imbalance, identifying and correcting the imbalance is necessary for regrowth.
4. Autoimmune conditions
Less commonly, hair thinning or hair loss in women can be caused by an autoimmune condition. This means the body’s immune system reacts against the hair, causing it to fall out. Autoimmune conditions that can affect hair growth in younger women include systemic lupus erythematosus and alopecia areata.
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, can affect the hair in two different ways. It can cause it to thin all over, and it can create bald patches that scar.
For women with general hair thinning from lupus, treatment starts with controlling the lupus so the hair can regrow. If the hair loss involves scarring, unfortunately, it’s much less likely to grow back. Therefore, it’s important to get treatment right away. In addition to treating the lupus, steroid creams or injections can lessen the inflammation and save some of the hair.