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What Are the Common Causes of Thinning Hair in Older Women?

Alex Tree
Updated May 21, 2024
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The most common causes of thinning hair in older women are female pattern hair loss, extreme stress, and self-inflicted hair loss. Female pattern hair loss affects tens of millions of women around the world and is genetic in nature. Everyone experiences stress here and there, but too much stress can lead to more hair loss than usual. In addition, many women are responsible for their hair loss because of harsh styling practices, over-brushing, and aggressive towel drying. Lastly, some people suspect that thinning hair in older women is linked to menopause, but others remain skeptical.

Female pattern hair loss is one of the most common causes of thinning hair in older women. The lessening of hair is usually noticed in the top or front half of the scalp rather than the back. While there are several other potential causes of thinning hair in women, a good rule of thumb to use is to think about female relatives around the same age or older. If some of these mothers, aunts, or sisters have difficulty with thinning hair too, female pattern hair loss is the likely culprit. This troublesome genetic hair condition is genetic, meaning it runs in the family and a person who suffers from it might pass it onto her own children.

Extreme stress is another common cause of thinning hair in older women. Experiencing the death of a loved one, dealing with a traumatic disease, or even having a routine but serious surgery can lead to hair loss. In many cases, the hair loss is not noticed right away, occurring weeks later. When it comes to thinning hair due to stress, the hair usually grows back once the woman is feeling less stressed.

Sometimes thinning hair in older women is self-inflicted, which means the woman caused the hair loss herself. Applying chemicals to the hair like dye or texturizers, over-brushing the hair, and using too much heat on the hair can all lead to hair loss. Like hair loss due to stress, self-inflicted hair loss is usually reversible. Most women need only be gentler with their hair by using less damaging hair styling methods or at least using them less often.

Hair loss may be linked to menopause, but many people believe there is no correlation. It could be that female pattern hair loss begins to occur at about the same time as menopause. Female pattern hair loss is most common in women around 50 to 60 years old, but it can happen to a woman of any age.

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Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and BeautyAnswered contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Mar 25, 2014

@irontoenail - I know it's easy for me to say now, when I'm not yet at that age, but I hope that if I get to live long enough for my hair to turn white and possibly to fall out, that I will be confident enough to not care what the ladies at the salon think.

That's the one thing that can be great about getting older. You don't have to care so much about the conventions of society.

By irontoenail — On Mar 24, 2014

@croydon - It can be a fashion thing. Maybe they simply don't want to have to deal with long hair, or maybe they were told that older women "should" have short hair, like my grandmother was at her hair salon.

But thinning hair is fairly common in older women. It becomes more delicate and less likely to withstand the rough treatment they might have put it through when they were younger. Or it might be related to menopause or to a condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome, which involves increased testosterone and can lead to women ending up with pattern baldness, just like men might.

By croydon — On Mar 23, 2014

I always think it is so beautiful when older women grow their hair long, probably because it seems like it's a very rare style. I guess if hair loss is somewhat common in older women, they might keep it short in order to hide the loss, since short hair is easier to fluff up so it looks fuller.

It never really occurred to me that women would lose their hair though. I always thought the short hair was just a fashion thing.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and BeautyAnswered contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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