If you thought losing your hair was just a worry for men, think again.
“About one-third of women experience hair loss (alopecia) at some time in their lives; among postmenopausal women, as many as two-thirds suffer hair thinning or bald spots.” – Harvard Medical School 
That means, in the United States alone, more than 52 million women will experience hair loss based on the current population.
How can you prevent this from happening to you or maybe regain some growth? Here are a few possible causes of hair loss, along with hacks to keep your hair thick and shiny.
1. Switch to higher-quality hair products
Hair products are more prevalent than ever. Dyes, dry shampoo, relaxer, mousse, toner, conditioner, bleach – many hair products contain harsh chemicals and hormone disruptors that soak into your pores and diffuse into the air you breathe.
- Bleach is especially rough on your hair. Your hair color depends on the ratio of two types of melanin in your hair: eumelanin, which makes hair darker, and pheomelanin, which makes it redder. Brown hair, for example, is mostly eumelanin with a moderate amount of pheomelanin, while black hair is almost entirely eumelanin. Bleach strips both melanins from your hair, leaving your hair lighter. But bleach also destroys precious oils that protect your hair’s integrity. The result is permanent damage that leads to brittleness and split ends. Even worse, bleach seeps into your hair follicles, which can weaken your roots and cause hair loss. Bleach your hair as little as possible, or preferably not at all.
- Dye also strips your hair of protective oils, both on the strand and in the follicle, which causes damage. On top of that, most dyes contain phenylenediamine (PPD), which can trigger spontaneous allergic reactions, even if you’ve been fine with it in the past. PPD allergies have doubled in recent years, probably because so many people dye their hair repeatedly . Switch to a natural hair dye to avoid PPD and most drying, oil-stripping chemicals. Better yet, embrace your hair’s original color.
- Shampoos, conditioners, relaxers, mousses, and other hair products often contain phthalates and parabens, two chemicals that throw off your hormone balance by mimicking estrogen [4,5]. Estrogen plays a central role in regulating collagen production; when you disrupt balanced estrogen levels, you don’t make collagen efficiently, and your hair, skin teeth, nails, and joints all suffer. Like bleach and dyes, many hair products also contain detergents that strip natural oils, damaging your hair from tip to root.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit that ranks cosmetics based on the safety and quality of their ingredients. Use the EWG’s free database to look up the rankings for your cosmetics and, if necessary, find better alternatives. You can also make your own cosmetics with almost no effort:
- Charcoal Dry Shampoo. Mix 1:1 activated charcoal and chemical-free baby powder and lightly dust onto your roots. This dry shampoo has the added benefit of detoxifying your scalp and follicles and leaving you with cleaner, lighter hair.
- Coffee Ground Hair Mask. Keep those grounds after you brew your morning coffee! Coffee is full of antioxidants and polyphenols that can help return shine and life to your locks. Stir the grounds from 1-2 cups of coffee in with 1 tsp Brain Octane Oil (or XCT Oil) and 2-3 drops of peppermint oil. Add enough water to make a thin paste and apply to wet hair. Let sit for 5-10 minutes (you may feel a little tingle–that’s the peppermint), and rinse with warm water, then a shot of cold at the end to lock in shine. You can also use this on your face and body – the grounds act as an exfoliant and the caffeine will tighten your skin.
- Brain Octane Conditioner. Coconut oil is becoming more and more popular in homemade cosmetics because of the sheen and moisture it imparts. But coconut oil is too heavy for many people and can clog pores; Brain Octane does not . Brain Octane is also antimicrobial, so it’ll leave your hair clean without stripping it of its natural oils. Massage Brain Octane into your hair and scalp, leave it on for a few minutes, and then wash it out with a natural shampoo.
- Activated charcoal eyebrow mask. Most eyebrow pencils and powders focus on covering up your eyebrows, rather than making them more healthy and vibrant to begin with. A hydrating and detoxifying mask can help restore moisture to the skin under your brows, which can get dry from chemical-laden makeup and cleansing products, helping you to grow full, even brows. Mix 2 capsules of Activated Charcoal with 1 tsp maple syrup and ½ tsp of Brain Octane or XCT oil. Let sit for 5 minutes and rinse with warm water. Warning: before putting charcoal on your skin, use coconut oil to cover the skin on either side of your brow, so as not to stain your face (you would look quite odd the next morning at work).
- Charcoal also makes a great, chemical-free substitute for big brand eyebrow-filling powders. Anyone with cool-toned hair can attest that finding a true black eyebrow powder can be nearly impossible. Empty a few capsules into a clean eyeshadow palette. A little goes a long way.
- E.V.O.O. makeup remover. A teaspoon of olive oil gently removes dirt and makeup from your eyes without rough scrubbing and pulling, which can cause premature shedding, i.e. shorter, thinner, eyelashes. You can also use olive oil to remove makeup on your face. Use the olive oil straight or add a bit of witch hazel. (Note: your olive oil doesn’t have to be a virgin).
2. Get off the pill and other hormonal birth control
Thinning hair is one of the most common side effects of hormonal birth control, affecting about 25% of women who use it. Hormonal birth control includes:
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- Progestin implants (like Norplant)
- Hormone injections (like Depo-Provera)
- Skin Patches (like Ortho Evra)
- Vaginal rings (like NuvaRing)
Oral contraceptives sap vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant stores while simultaneously promoting oxidative stress [7,8]. This can leave women nutrient-depleted and at risk for inflammatory conditions like heart disease and cancer .
There’s a bit of complicated hormone talk in the next two paragraphs. If you want to skip it, the TL;DR version is that hormonal birth control can cause hair loss through a variety of shifts in your hormones. If you love biochemistry, here’s a technical explanation of why hormonal contraception can cause hair loss.
You may have heard that people with higher testosterone tend to go bald. It’s actually more thanks to higher dihydrotestosterone (DHT) . Stress and inflammation from pure estrogen birth control decrease the effectiveness of progesterone, which increases conversion of testosterone to DHT. That can cause hair loss and a host of other side effects. When birth control companies discovered this, they began adding synthetic progesterone to counter the side effects…
…but synthetic progesterone can increase sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a hormone transport protein that makes sex hormones available throughout your body . A rise in SHBG often decreases your available thyroid hormones, which can make your hair fall out and also diminish energy, mood, digestive function, and a healthy sex drive . Altered SHBG, testosterone, and thyroid hormones could be one reason why women on hormonal birth control report significantly higher rates of depression than those who aren’t taking the pill .
Note that the pill is also prescribed to prevent hair loss in women with low estrogen. If you’re in that boat, fix the underlying problem with a functional medicine doctor, or better yet, an anti-aging doctor (they tend to be experts in balancing hormones).
Birth control is, of course, very individual. Consider trying more Bulletproof forms of birth control, or if you know the pill works best for you, try one that’s lower on the androgen index to decrease side effects.
3. Minimize stress for stronger hair
Stress is one of the biggest causes of hair damage and graying . It causes systemic inflammation and rapid aging in your whole body, including your hair. In fact, there have been a few cases of extreme stress causing baldness overnight. Make it a priority to manage your stress. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Meditate. Take 5-20 minutes every morning or night to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. For more meditation hacks, check out this post.
- Take adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that increase your body’s ability to deal with stress. Here’s a complete guide to them. Ashwagandha is an excellent option.
- Try one of these six other ways to manage stress.
Any other hacks to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Subscribe below for weekly articles about how to upgrade your body and mind, and for more beauty hacks, check out this guide to Bulletproof skincare. Thanks for reading and have a great week!
[expand title=”Click to read the complete list of references.” swaptitle=”Click to hide references.”]