Everyone looses strands of hair every day – it’s a normal part of the hair growth cycle. In countries (like the UK) where the length of the day changes over the course of the year, seasonal hair thinning has been observed. However, while some hair thinning is completely natural, hair loss in females often takes the form of female hair thinning – so how does one know if hair thinning is an issue or not?

In order to understand the issue off female hair thinning, it is important to understand how hair grows in the first place. Hair growth works in a cycle, with hair growing for a certain period of time, then resting. The Anagen stage is the stage in which hair grows. It lasts between 2 – 5 years, and at any one time around 85% of our hair is in this stage. It is the length of this cycle that limits how long you can grow your hair. Following this comes the Catagen phase, which 1% of your hair is usually going through. This is a resting phase that lasts 1 – 2 weeks, which prepares the hair for the next stage in the cycle. After this comes the Telogen phase, during which the hair is shed. 10% of hairs are going through this phase at any one time, and the phase lasts 3 – 4 months. When the Anagen phase cannot keep up with the Telogen phase hair thinning occurs.

On average, 50 – 150 hairs are lost each day in women, though the number varies depending on your ethnicity. Being within the range of normal hair thinning doesn’t always mean you can rest assured that no female hair thinning is occurring. Each individual is different – for some, 50 hairs a day is the norm, and so loosing 150 hairs a day would still be considered normal, it would represent a dramatic change for them. Additionally, female hair thinning will only become apparent if the hairs lost are not replaced by new hairs growing, as they should in the natural cycle of hair growth.

The wide range of normal or acceptable hair fall (hair fall that will nor result in female hair thinning) can be narrowed a little by looking at the different types of hair – different hair types have different average hair densities and growth rates, so much of what is normal or abnormal in hair thinning depends on ethnicity. Caucasian hair has a fairly high growth rate and the highest density, meaning that loosing close to 150 hairs is normal and is less likely to cause any hair thinning issues. Of Caucasian hair types, blondes have the highest density (though usually the thinnest hair follicles), follower by people with black hair, then brunettes, and lastly, red heads. Afro-Caribbean hair is the next most dense, often with the shortest growth cycles, followed lastly by Asian hair, which often has the longest growth cycles, but the lowest density. Because of this, normal hair fall in Caucasian hair types can be more than in Asian hair without causing a female hair thinning problem.

Female hair thinning does not only occur in the form of fewer hairs, but also in the actual hairs themselves becoming thinner in diameter. Thinner hairs will not grow as long, so this female hair thinning also affects the length of hair possible. With this form of female hair thinning, hair can often take the appearance of “baby fuzz”. This is something that can often only be identified by the individual, as hair diameter varies between each person and each ethnicity. Afro-Caribbean hair is the thickest in diameter, followed by Asian hair. Caucasian hair varies, and usually lies somewhere in between. This form of hair thinning is more common in Caucasian and Asian hair types, as opposed to Afro-Caribbean hair.

Clearly, in the early stages of female hair thinning, before the hair thinning becomes distinct, it can be hard to tell whether to worry or not. In this case the best thing to do would be to consult a doctor. There are various tests that can be run to detect some of the causes of thinning hair. Ninety percent of hair loss is genetic – known as Androgenic Alopecia. Female hair thinning can also happen as a consequence of hypothyroidism hyperthyroidism, lupus and iron deficiencies, all of which can be tested for. There are other causes of female hair thinning, such as stress, which cannot be tested for, but these causes tend to be more noticeable to the sufferer, and so can be detected in this way.

Female hair thinning can be an alarming experience, but once the causes are identified it can often be fixed, if not with medication then with hair systems whose quality as grown greatly with recent advances in technology. Detecting female hair thinning before it becomes obvious can be difficult without the help of a medical professional who can test for some of the causes, so if you suspect your hair fall lies out of the normal range, or you have noticed a dramatic change in the appearance of your hair, consulting your GP is the best way to be sure.