04 / 03 / 14

Factors that Lead to Hair Loss: Is It More Than Just Your Genes?

One prominent hair loss theory, proposed in 1913 and supported across the decades, suggests a balding gene that predicts whether a person will or will not go bald. According to this theory, the balding gene is stronger in women who bald since balding is less frequent in females. Many people talk about the genetic component of hair loss, especially for men.

Hereditary baldness in women, also called female pattern alopecia, is genetic and can come either from the mother’s or the father’s side of the family. Often, discussing the genetic factors of hair loss leaves women feeling out of control and despondent. You may find yourself saying, if it’s all in my genes, what can I do about it? Aside from the gene discussion, there are other factors at play for many women when it comes to hair loss.


The hormone that is most directly involved in andogenetic alopecia (female pattern baldness) is dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT builds to a receptor site on the hair follicle, which creates a change in the integrity of the follicle that leads to balding. The presence of certain hormones such as DHT can permanently damage the hair follicle and eventually kill it entirely. Unfortunately, blocking DHT in women hasn’t been shown to prevent or reverse hair loss or hair thinning. There are other medical treatments that seek to reverse hair loss through hormone therapy. The results of such hormone therapy have been generally shown to be inconclusive.


When the body experiences chronic and/or acute stress, the rate of hair loss may in certain instances be likely to increase. Stress alone cannot cause your hair to fall out. Rather, it is a combination of stress and genetic predisposition that leaves highly stressed individuals at a greater likelihood for hair loss. Stress impacts female hair loss more dramatically than in men. According to the American Hair Loss Council, stress related hair loss is generally not permanent.


Selenium is something that is found in foods and beverages all over the world. Water even contains selenium. Jennifer MacFarquhar, RN, reports that selenium is a natural mineral that is necessary for good health. However, when an intake of selenium reaches a point of selenium toxicity, hair loss may follow. Other environmental factors that contribute to hair loss are lead, cadmium, mercury, iron, aluminum, and copper. These substances are found in foods, drinks, and other products that you likely use. When taken in moderation, these substances are important for your body. However, when they are found in excess in the body, some forms of hair loss may be an indirect result. Causal relationships between hair loss and these substances have not been determined in the scientific literature. If you are concerned about the presence of these minerals and substances in your body, talk to a physician or a dietician to learn more about how they may be impacting your health.