What Causes Hair Loss in Older Women (& How to Treat It)


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Listen, a lot of great things come with age— experience, wisdom and self-acceptance, to name a few. But alongside those perks come things that we’d rather not deal with, including chin whiskers and hair loss. But here’s some wisdom for you: if you’re dealing with hair loss, you’re far from alone.

Studies have shown that fewer than 45 percent of women go through life with a full head of hair. So as much it may seem like hair loss is an issue just for dudes, it’s not. 

Female pattern hair loss is the most common cause of hair loss for women, and prevalence increases with age. Many older women also notice hair loss or a decrease in hair health as they go through menopause. You can learn more about how menopause can affect hair growth in our guide on hair growth rate by age. 

What Causes Hair Loss in Older Women?

Hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, but the most common reason for hair loss in both men and women is genetics. And while hair loss can happen at any age, it becomes increasingly more common as you get older.

While approximately 12 percent of women aged between 20 and 29 years experience hair loss, over 50 percent of women over the age of 80 experience this condition.  

Hair loss can be complicated, but if you learn how to recognize the signs early and are quick to start treating it, you may be able to keep the hair you have, and even get some of what you’ve lost back.  

You can check out our guide on female pattern hair loss for a deep dive on causes and treatments, but let’s dig into some of the root causes you may want to consider. Genetics

Let’s start with the most common reason for hair loss in both men and women: genetics. Thanks, fam. But although we know this is the major underlying cause, the genetic predisposition to hereditary hair loss (or androgenetic hair loss) isn’t fully understood yet.  

While men with male pattern baldness may see a receding hairline or a prominent bald spot, hereditary hair loss looks a little different in women. You might find that your part is getting wider or you may see diffuse thinning over the top of the head.

You can learn more about the various signs of hair loss in women in our comprehensive guide. 

In both sexes, the hormone believed to be responsible for hair loss is the same: dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone. 

Similar to how genetics play a role in whether you have blonde hair or brown, they also play a role in how sensitive you may be to DHT. In some people, DHT can affect their hairline by attaching to hair follicles and causing them to shrink.

As these hair follicles get smaller (or miniaturized), they can no longer support healthy hair. Instead, they produce thinner vellus-like hairs. These shorter, finer hairs cover the scalp poorly, leading to thinning or balding. 

DHT-related hair loss is often seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is characterized by a hormonal imbalance that can lead to irregular menstruation, acne, excess hair elsewhere on the body (hirsutism) and weight gain.

So if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS or think you may have symptoms of PCOS, you could likely be dealing with androgenetic alopecia.


Unfortunately, menopause doesn’t just bring on hot flashes — you can add hair loss to the list too. Menopause is known to cause some hormonal changes in women, usually over the age of 45,  and that hormonal havoc can lead to thinning hair. 

When women experience menopause, estrogen and progesterone drop. This can create an uptick of male hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the blood, which can then lead to the loss and thinning of hair. This type of hair loss usually appears as thinning hair on the central part of your scalp and forehead.

Hair Styling

A lifetime of tightly pulled back hairstyles can also take a toll on your hairline. This form of hair loss, called traction alopecia, is caused by hairstyles (like tight ponytails, hair extensions, braids, and buns) that pull on the hair and cause targeted hair loss over time. 

Telogen Effluvium

There can be a lot happening in your personal life as you get older, whether it be a loss of a loved one, drastic weight loss or a sudden illness. These types of stressful events can lead to a type of excess shedding known as telogen effluvium.

The Most Common Causes of Hair Loss in Elderly Women

Hair loss in women occurs for a variety of reasons, but hair loss in older women can also be due to factors that come specifically with age.

  • Aging. Just like you may notice fine lines or other changes in your skin over time, hair also can reflect the years. Studies have shown that hair diameter changes as you age and is likely to create the biggest impact on hair aging. In addition, postmenopausal women were shown to have significantly lower hair strand diameters than premenopausal women.

  • Health problems. Age tends to bring more wisdom, but it can unfortunately also bring on health issues. If you’re dealing with any health problems like autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorder or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), they can trigger hair loss.  

Other people who may not have underlying health issues can still develop an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this disease develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles. It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to fully understand how your medical conditions can affect your hairline. 

  • Medications. Some medications can cause a variety of side effects, including interfering with your normal hair cycle. Drug-induced hair loss is usually reversible once you stop taking said medication, but when it comes to stopping any medication or figuring out if a medication is responsible for your hair loss, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to understand what’s going on. 

(RelatedMenopause Hair Loss: Why It Happens & How to Treat It)

Treatment Options for Hair Loss in Older Women

While hair loss may feel complicated, the right treatment doesn’t have to be. There are lots of effective and easy-to-use hair loss treatments available now. Talk to your healthcare provider or dermatologist to figure out which is the best one for you. Here are some you may want to consider:

  • Topical minoxidil : Minoxidil (commonly sold as Rogaine) works by increasing the blood supply to your hair follicles and prompting your hair to enter the anagen, or growth, phase of its cycle. And it’s FDA-approved to treat female hair loss. In a 2014 placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that both 2% and 5% versions of minoxidil improved hair thinning. Hers has two formulations available:  

    • Minoxidil drops: This easy-to-apply 2% solution can help target areas of hair loss like a wide part. 

    • Minoxidil foam: A 5% strength foam, this can be easily distributed to help quickly cover overall thinning. 

  • Oral minoxidil : Studies have shown that low-dose oral minoxidil can be an effective treatment for numerous hair disorders, including female-patterned hair loss (FPHL). This once-daily pill is especially great if you don’t want to fuss with your styling options, although it’s only used as an off-label treatment for women.

Additionally, if you’ve tried topical minoxidil in the past and it didn’t work for you, you may have better luck with the oral form. Minoxidil requires the presence of an enzyme called follicular sulfotransferase, and not everyone has high enough levels of this enzyme in their hair follicles.

So while a topical treatment will not work for those people, an oral form may help grow new hair.

  • Spironolactone: An once-daily anti-androgen pill, spironolactone helps decrease testosterone levels in the blood and lessens its effect in the body. It’s often prescribed off-label to treat female pattern hair loss, or female androgenetic alopecia. Read our guide to spironolactone for hair loss for a deeper dive into how it could help treat your hair loss and hormonal acne.  

  • Topical Finasteride Spray: Another topical solution to treat hair loss in older women, topical finasteride and minoxidil spray is a solid choice for postmenopausal hormonal hair. This selective 5-alpha reductase inhibitor helps decrease the conversion of testosterone into the hormone DHT, which can create hair loss in some. 

Healthy Hair Habits

Maintaining proper hair care is also critical if you’re dealing with thinning hair. Give your strands some TLC by being extra gentle. That means taking it easy when you wash and towel dry hair (no vigorous rubbing!) to avoid breakage. Additionally, keep your hot tools and hair dryer at a lower temperature to help fend off hair damage. 

Lastly, think about your hair from the inside out. Make sure to have a healthy diet and check with your healthcare provider to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies that might be getting in the way of healthy hair growth. If it turns out you need a vitamin boost, check out our biotin gummies.

(Related: How To Stop Hair Loss For Women)

Causes of Hair Loss in Older Women: Takeaways

Remember, it’s totally normal to experience hair loss, and it’s even more common to experience hair loss if you’re over 50. You are most definitely not alone, even if it’s not a club you want to be a part of. 

However, you don’t have to just go through the rest of your life with a combover. There are plenty of hair loss treatments that can help you get a fuller head of hair again. Here are the things to keep in mind: 

  1. Know that you are not alone. Hair loss for women can feel really isolating but more than half of women experience hair loss in their life. 

  2. Identify the root cause. Figure out whether you have traction alopecia vs. female pattern hair less or another issue. This will help you figure out the best course of treatment.

  3. Act fast. Once you figure out the root cause, get your game plan in place. Whether it be minoxidil, a supplement or finasteride, stay consistent with applying or taking your medication so you can get the best results.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Discover the Most Popular Hairstyles the Decade You Were Born

Discover the Most Popular Hairstyles the Decade You Were Born

There are so many things that define each decade, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. But none of the things we’ve looked back on were quite as polarizing as the hairstyles. From piled-high funky styles to buzzed dos, here are the most popular hairstyles from the decade you were born, spanning from the 40s to the 2000s. 

Wikipedia / Mediafeed

Inspired by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood women at the time, the victory roll hairstyle featured tight curls pinned toward the face to frame it. Victory rolls were customizable, so you could opt for a single roll or different symmetrical or asymmetrical versions of dual rolls. 

Other popular hairstyles of the decade for women included tight curls, waves, and the pageboy. Women were also big on hair accessories, particularly the snood, which was essentially a crocheted bag used to cradle the hair and keep it in place. Both men and women sported the infamous pompadour during the ’40s. Men were also partial to quiffed hair or short curls and were also prone to just slicking their hair back.

Wikipedia / U.S. Army – Yank, the Army Weekly

Everyone knows the beehive hairstyle, whether you associate it with the ’50s or Amy Winehouse. All you had to do to be cool in the 1950s was pile your hair on top of your head in a conical shape to resemble a beehive. Lots of hairspray was needed for this one.

If your hair wasn’t long enough for the beehive, you might have sported other bouffant hairstyles, a poodle cut, an Italian cut, victory rolls, or even a pixie cut. Men were still into the slicked-back look along with side parts, the pompadour, or — if they were influenced by Elvis later in the decade — a Rockabilly do.

Wikipedia / Warner Bros.

Bouffant (derived from the French verb “bouffer,” which means to puff or fluff up) hair became popular during the 1950s, but dominated in the 1960s thanks to the iconic Jackie Kennedy sporting the style. The puffy, rounded hairdo was especially popular among housewives during the ’60s. 

Women also gravitated toward shorter hairstyles (influenced by Twiggy), including pixie cuts and flipped bobs and, for long hair, bangs. Men styled their hair with everything from the bowl cut and the ducktail cut to shag cuts and styles copying The Beatles.

Public Domain / Wikipedia

During the 1970s, the afro became a symbol of cultural and political expression, particularly within the African American community. The style pushed back against Eurocentric beauty standards and celebrated natural Black hair. Influenced by icons like Angela Davis and the Jackson 5, the afro surged in popularity, crossing racial and cultural boundaries to become a mainstream fashion statement. Its voluminous shape was achieved through techniques like picking, and its prominence spread among both men and women.

Separately, and inspired predominantly by Farrah Fawcett, long, feathered hair was also sought after during the ’70s. 

Wikipedia / GeorgeLouis at English Wikipedia

Whether it was crimped, curled, teased, spiked into a giant mohawk, or cut into a towering flattop, the most iconic ’80s dos could all be tied to one main group: big hair. During this decade, freedom of expression was fully embraced and displayed through hair. Styles like Jheri curls were popular thanks to Michael Jackson, and Billy Ray Cyrus spearheaded the popularity of the business in the front, party in the back mullet. The ’80s were eclectic times that reeked of Aqua Net and perms. 

Wikipedia / Allan Light

You didn’t even need to be a fan or viewer of “Friends” to ask your hairdresser to give you “The Rachel” in the ’90s. Everyone knew exactly which version of Jennifer Anniston’s hair you wanted. Layered, framed around the face, and shoulder-length was the style that ruled the decade. Chunky highlights, side bangs, and hair flipped out at the bottom were also wildly popular during the decade. And who could forget chopsticks carefully stuck into buns? All the rage. 

If you were a cool dude during the ’90s, you might have had frosted tips, spiky hair, or cornrows.


All you needed was a few bobby pins and some hairspray to make a pulled-back pouf happen, and every girl in the 2000s was on board. High ponytails and pigtails, choppy layers, and money-piece braids were a go-to as well. 

Skater boy hair/emo boy haircuts that swooped halfway across a guy’s face were also iconic during the 2000s. Who else remembers watching guys shake their heads in slow motion to get the hair out of their eyes like they were playing a role in the “Baywatch” intro? We shudder at the memory. On the opposite end of the spectrum, buzz cuts were prominent, along with faux hawks. 



Featured Image Credit: Cunaplus_M.Faba/istockphoto.