Hair loss: Why more women are experiencing thinning hair and what to do about it

After a spate of celebs being papped with less than full heads of hair, we asked an expert if female hair loss and balding is on the rise - and can we stop it?

Thinning hair and balding used to be one thing men suffered over us ladies, but it seems the tables are turning and more and more women are experiencing the confidence-shattering effects of hair loss.

According to a recent survey, the majority of GPs in the UK have noticed an increase in women seeking treatment for hair loss in the past five years, and a significant number have reported an increase in the past year alone.

A year before this photo Naomi was seen with bald patches ©Rex

Yet we still see it as an (often inevitable) male problem. And though it will affect around 60 per cent of us during our lifetime, almost half of the women polled in the survey by hair supplement brand Nourkrin, who had experienced thinning hair, suffered in silence.

Experts believe that stress can be a major cause of hair loss for women and while it's usually middle aged women affected, women in their 20s and 30s are beginning to be more vocal about their experiences.

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At just 26, Malika Smith from Leeds was one of these women.
"I have lovely, dark thick hair and have always thought of it as one of my best features. I don't really need to do anything with it - backcombing, dyeing, layering - it has just always been lovely and thick and so keeping it shoulder length was all I needed to do. However, last year I experienced hair loss and thinning for the first time and it was a very scary thing to happen.

"I didn't realise not just the physical, but also the emotional effect that losing my hair would have on me. After a few weeks of noticing more falling down the plug hole, I realised that something was really wrong when I went to put my hair into a ponytail and couldn't believe how thin it felt, it was as if half of my usual hair was missing."

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"I looked in the mirror at my scalp and could see that it was hair loss from the root that was causing the problem, and my hair was falling out rather than breaking off which I never thought would be the case as I have always had very good hair. My first reaction was embarrassment - I hated the fact that my hair was thinning - I feel much less confident and less attractive."

It wasn't until a few months later that Malika asked her hairdresser for advice and ended up being referred to a hair specialist, a trichologist, to tackle her hair loss.

Malika's hair was noticeably thinner in photos before treatment (l). After treatment (r)
"He asked me about my general health and wellbeing, but he also asked me about the past year of my life, had I had any big changes, was I stressed at all? Suddenly it all clicked into place. I had moved to London in the last six months, after a break-up, and had started a new job.

"While I didn't realise it at the time, yes I probably was extremely stressed and had a lot of new things to deal with all at once, but my hair didn't start falling out until after this and so what was the problem?"

"My trichologist explained to me that hair usually takes about three months to react to what is going on in the body and so when I did the maths, this all made perfect sense. It was stress that had done this to my hair, and then the stress of worrying about my hair loss was making the problem even more of an issue!"

Celebrity hairstylist and Nourkrin ambassador Jo Hansford MBE agrees that there's a feeling of embarrassment around women losing their hair, which is particularly worrying as it hits our self-esteem dramatically.
January Jones experienced hair loss but was snapped recently with a healthy-looking mane ©Rex

"It's our primary accessory and we can never take it off so leaving great-looking, well kept and healthy hair is really integral to our self-image," she explains.

"I see women come in who are really devastated by the effects of thinning hair but don't know who to turn to. We act as stylists, advisors and counsellors!"

                                    [Related: Five celeb hairstyles to try at home]

Jo tells us she saw a similar rise in women suffering from thinning hair in the last recession and believes modern stress levels have a lot to answer for.

"Stress, nutrition, hormones - there are a lot of reasons but stress is a big one."

"I always reassure my clients that there are things you can do and seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of."
Gail Porter's hair fell out following a stressful divorce ©Rex
We asked Jo what she advises these women to do if they notice their hair thinning, both in terms of temporary fixes and long term solutions.

"To help make the hair look better while you look for the root causes and give any treatment a chance to work there are a few things to do to make your hair appear thicker and give you more confidence.

"Use good salon-quality products specifically recommend for fine hair. It's worth spending more on a professional grade product so ask your hairdresser for a recommendation because the same grade of ingredients just aren't available on the high street. There are some amazing products nowadays, you don't have to go and sit in the salon for an afternoon for a treatment, everything's much more instant."

Jo's second tip is to invest in a quality cut.

"Get your hair cut regularly and talk to your hairdresser about a style that works to hide any particularly thin areas. There are some very good stylists out there who cut a brilliant, snappy hair cut that gives the impression of thickness."

And when it comes to colour, don't be taken in by highlights.

"Definitely don't go for highlights on thin hair, solid colour makes it look more bulky," she explains.

"The best thing you can do is give yourself a head massage to encourage the blood flow and in turn hair growth. While you're shampooing, give yourself a really good, stimulating head rub.

"And wash it more often than less. If you wash it less often, it gives the hair follicles more time to be impacted by oil. That blocks the follicles so when you wash it you end up losing more hair than if you washed it more regularly.

"But you do need to replace the oil's moisturising protection so use a good conditioner or hair masque to replenish. And don't go for all-in-one products. Your shampoo should simply be for cleaning."

As well as seeking professional help and tackling the causes of hair thinning, Jo recommends adding a supplement to your diet.

"It doesn't work for everyone but I have seen it work for many of my clients. It's not an overnight fix - there isn't one. But you can see real improvement in six months to a year."

If your concerns your hair is thinning, make an appointment to see your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist.

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