Despite the fact that almost 50 percent of women will deal with hair loss and thinning in their lifetime, it’s a topic that’s rarely talked about. While the silence around hair thinning is understandable—it’s hard to admit you’re losing your hair—the silence ultimately does nothing to help educate women about what causes hair loss, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.
In an effort to learn more about hair thinning, we reached out to Mizani artist and certified trichologist Evie Johnson. Johnson, who’s been educating hairstylists about hair and scalp health since 2014, answered all of our burning questions including what causes hair thinning, how to prevent it, and what you should never ever do if you have thinning hair.
What causes thinning hair in females?
Johnson wants to make it clear that it is almost never one thing that causes hair thinning. Rather it’s usually a combination of several factors including genetics, overall health and how you treat your hair. When it comes to genetics, some women are predisposed to androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss, that runs in their family. If you are unsure whether or not hair loss is something any of the women in your family have dealt with—as it’s not a condition many women like to speak about—gently reach out. As with any health condition, the more information you have the better you’ll be equipped to deal with it.
As far as health, Johnson points to “thyroid and endocrine system concerns” as a potential cause of hair thinning. Additionally, there are certain conditions such as alopecia areata that specifically cause hair thinning.
“Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where your white blood cells attack the body, which causes the hair to respond with a form of alopecia (baldness),” she explains.
Mental health is also something to be mindful of when trying to figure out what is causing hair thinning. The stylist reveals mental health issues as common as plain old stress can sometimes lead to hair loss.
Johnson continues noting there are certain hairstyles and treatments such as tight braids and color services that can lead to other types of hair loss such as traction alopecia.
“Taut braids and incredibly tight ponytails create tension and pulling that can really be damaging,” she says. “Just as well, color services and relaxers can lead to thinning if there is an unnecessary amount of contact with the scalp, rather than the intended hair itself. The scalp can end up scarring, which leads to hair loss.”
When trying to figure out the cause of your hair thinning, be sure to pay attention to all three sections of your life.
Can you prevent hair thinning before it happens?
The simplest answer to this question is: It depends. Because hair thinning can be caused by so many different things, some forms of hair loss are preventable and others that are not.
Hair thinning caused by over styling and botched hair treatments is easily preventable.
“Be considerate with your hair styling choices. Again, repeated tight styles that create too much tension and pulling can be harmful as would overdoing it on relaxers and color services,” Johnson explains. “It is important to consult with a professional who can provide you with the necessary education.”
If you’re concerned your regular stylist doesn’t have enough knowledge about hair loss, seek out a trichologist like Johnson who specializes in the structure, function, and diseases associated with the human hair and scalp.
Stress is another hair loss trigger that is potentially preventable. While it may be impossible to remain stress-free all of the time, do your best to take care of yourself physically and emotionally—your hair will thank you.
Unfortunately, hair thinning caused by health problems such as alopecia areata and thyroid complications, along with hair loss caused by genetics are not as easily preventable.
Can female hair thinning be reversed?
Yes—but there’s a catch.
Hair and scalp education have come a long way, making it much easier to deal with hair woes like thinning. While Johnson insists she’s never seen a case of hair loss she has not been able to treat, that doesn’t always mean your hair will return to 100 percent of its former glory. Luckily, the most important thing you can do to stop or reverse hair loss potentially is very easy.
“The number one thing I make sure of is that the scalp is clean. A clean environment promotes hair growth—any buildup is only going to deter any new growth further,” she explains.
If you’re not sure your regular shampoo is doing the job, there are plenty of products on the market that are formulated to maintain a healthy scalp.
“Mizani has a professional scalp care range that includes an exfoliating product. I use this on my clients to cleanse their scalp of any dirt, dead skin cells, dandruff and product buildup,” Johnson says. “Think of it like exfoliating your skin—exfoliating your scalp is also an important ritual that will create the best environment for healthy hair growth.”
Now that you’ve made sure your scalp is nice and clean, there are products that you can add to your regimen to further encourage new growth. Johnson often recommends treatments and supplements such as minoxidil, saw palmetto, or platelet-rich plasma therapy. The important thing to know is that each supplement and treatment addresses a different cause of hair loss, so make sure you’ve identified the trigger of the hair loss before choosing one. Better yet, seek the advice of a professional who can diagnose the cause and recommend the best course of treatment.
If you’ve dealt with hair loss for more than 15 years and are just seeking treatment, the chances of reversing the thinning are much slimmer. So don’t wait to find help when dealing with hair loss—time is of the essence when it comes to saving your precious locks.
How do you hide thinning hair?
Hair loss is such a taboo topic mostly because no one wants to admit they have it. Even though we advocate for open and honest dialogue about hair health, we don't think that means you can’t wish your hair looks fuller. While you wait to see results from any supplements or treatments, there are tools you can use every day to give your mane the thick appearance you're looking to achieve. If you’re looking to cover bald spots and particularly thin areas of your hair, Johnson recommends hair fusion fibers.
“I really like fusion fibers—they are little protein hair fibers that are cut up. They come in a bottle with an applicator and dispense like perfume” she reveals. “If a person has any areas of thinness or baldness and you can spray this to match the color of the hair. Hair will look instantly fuller.”
One thing you don’t want to do is opt for expensive extensions—they have the potential to cause even more damage.
“Extensions are definitely not a good solution for women with thinning hair. There’s a tendency to find a quick fix, like extensions or wigs to conceal thinning hair, but these options can actually make things worse,” she explains. “When extensions are removed, they can take the hair follicle with it, which would result in additional hair loss or thinning. With wigs, putting more things on top of the scalp does not allow the hair room to breathe and grow.”
As far as styling your thinning hair, try to avoid tight styles like the ones Johnson mentioned earlier as well as long term installation styles—even ones that are considered protective. If you’re unsure what is safe to do with your hair, embracing your natural texture is always the best bet.
Are there any products you should avoid when dealing with thinning hair?
Yes—and the answer might surprise you.
Despite earning the title of hair holy grail over the last few years, coconut oil is a major no-no when it comes to thinning hair.
“Coconut oil, peppermint oil, argan oil, black Jamaican castor oil—you want to avoid putting oil directly on your scalp. There is a misconception that oil directly on the scalp will help with growth but this is completely false,” Johnson reveals. “The area round the hair follicle needs to be a clean, open and breathable space. Heavy application of oil or products can really muddy the area and stunt growth.”
Dealing with hair loss can be daunting, but if you follow these simple tips you’ll be on your way to the mane of your dreams in no time.
Interested in more information about how to style and care for thinning hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.