Diet and other lifestyle factors - Female Hair Loss Guide

Other factors such as diet, stress, smoking or overuse of hair products can cause hair loss. This may sound strange but your hair acts as an indicator of your overall state of health and if your health is compromised in any way then this tends to show in the condition of your hair.

For example, if you are under a great deal of pressure or stress at work, your hair will reflect this by becoming dull or lifeless, or eventually fall out. Modern life is increasingly stressful and the effects of this are shown in not only our general health but the condition of our hair.


A poor diet can contribute to poor hair health or even hair loss. Most of us are well aware of the importance of a healthy diet and have seen information about the risks to our health from a diet high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.

But did you know that a poor diet affects your hair as well? The reason for this is that a diet high in junk food contains toxins which have to be eliminated by your body. These toxins are eliminated from all areas of the body, including the scalp which results in greasy, lank hair.

Junk food or processed food has no nutritional value but your body requires essential nutrients in which to function properly. Your body will then draw upon nutrients in other areas of your body, for example the ones used for hair growth in order to break down this food which impacts upon hair growth. The follicles will not be able to produce as much hair as per usual which can mean dead or thinning hair.

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ definitely applies here!

Dieting is another factor which tends to affect women more than men. Many women follow a diet and as long as it is a healthy one with sensible weight loss then their hair is unlikely to be affected.

But some women opt for a quick fix in the form of a ‘crash diet’ which results in dramatic weight loss but at a price. These types of diets are devoid of essential vitamins or minerals which are vital for hair health. If you avoid foods which contain these nutrients then your health and the condition of your hair will be affected. Hair will become dry, dull and lifeless or will start to split and break. A deficiency in any area can also result in hair loss so go for a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables, protein and wholegrains.

And don’t forget your fluids as well. Water helps to keep your skin and hair properly hydrated so ensure that you drink around 6 to 8 glasses a day. Your skin and hair will look smooth and literally glow with health!

Consider adding the following vitamins and minerals to your diet as they are good for hair health:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Manganese

These are either present in food or can be taken as a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.


This is a major problem in the Western world which is mainly due to our fast paced lives. Our jobs and lives have become much more demanding and whilst we have a good quality of life we can pay a high price for it at times!

Stress and hair loss has been discussed in some detail in the Lifestyle and External Factors section as part of Male Hair Loss. But stress affects both sexes mentally, physically and emotionally and can overwhelm us if it is not managed properly.

If you are stressed then your body reacts to this by releasing stress hormones – cortisol and noradrenaline which put your body into a ‘fight or flight’ state. This heightened alertness is a basic survival response which is useful as a short term measure but it can take a toll on you if it happens on a regular basis.

How does this affect your hair?

This heightened response means more hormones circulating in your bloodstream which enter the hair follicles and disrupt the hair growth/loss cycle. It can cause excess production of sebum – an oil produced by the sebaceous glands in these follicles which helps nourish the hair. But too much of this can lead to greasy, sticky hair.

Stress can deplete the body of essential nutrients which affects the health of our hair causing it to look dull or lifeless.

A moderate amount of stress is good for you as it keeps you active and alert; but the problem is when it threatens to overwhelm you to the extent that it affects your wellbeing.

Look for ways of reducing your stress levels such as yoga or meditation, taking some exercise and following a healthy diet. It is easier said than done but taking time out to look at what is causing your stress and then dealing with it will benefit you in the long term.


Smoking is proven to be bad for the health but evidence has found that it is bad for your hair as well. Smoking releases toxins into the bloodstream which enter the hair follicles and impair their normal function.

It also reduces blood circulation which is vital for the growth of new hair. Blood flow in the follicles helps to initiate and nourish new hair but if this is disrupted then new hair growth will be difficult if not impossible. It may affect the 3 stages of the hair growth cycle so that the follicles stay in a resting or shedding stage but don’t replace any loss with new hair growth.

Hair growth is dependent on a range of factors which includes an adequate blood supply containing oxygen and essential nutrients. Smoking can restrict the supply which negatively impacts upon hair growth.

The answer is to stop smoking but if you find this difficult then ask your GP about smoking cessation programmes.

Hair products

The relationship of these to hair loss is discussed in greater detail in our separate Hair Products section.

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