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10 Reasons Your Hair Feels Thinner and How to Treat It
Mr Sotirios Foutsizoglou (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Mr Sotirios Foutsizoglou (GMC)
Updated on February 16, 2024

If you are wondering why your hair feels thinner, you may be one of the 85% of men or 55% of women who experience hair loss or hair thinning at some point in their life [1][2]. It can be naturally concerning to discover that your hair density or texture has suddenly changed, but it isn’t always a reason to worry.

While some hair shedding is normal, if you are losing more than 50-100 hairs a day, your hair may feel thinner due to a type of alopecia (e.g. androgenetic alopecia or telogen effluvium). Or it may be caused by one of the many common scalp problems, a hormonal imbalance, a systemic illness or environmental and lifestyle factors.

Fortunately, whatever the reason your hair feels thinner, there is a good chance that a trichologist can provide you with appropriate treatment recommendations.

 Keep reading this article to learn more about:

  • How you can tell your hair is thinning
  • The main reasons your hair suddenly feels thinner
  • Ways to prevent your hair from thinning
  • Ways to treat thinning hair
Table of Contents

What does it mean if your hair feels thinner?

When you say that your hair suddenly feels thinner, there are two aspects you may be referring to:

A decrease in your hair diameter

You may have noticed that your hair texture has changed, with your hair fibres becoming finer or wispier, as they seem to have a reduced diameter. This is due to a process called follicle miniaturisation [3], which makes hair strands shorter, lighter and thinner, due to ageing or an underlying condition, such as androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness). 

A decrease in your hair density

You may have observed that your hair is not as dense, thick and full as it used to be. If your hair is getting so thin you can see your scalp, it can be a sign of hair shedding or hair loss.

This can be diffuse (spread all over your scalp), or it can be concentrated in specific areas (e.g. patchy bald spots or thinning around the hairline, temples or crown). There are a number of conditions which can lead to hair thinning, such as androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium. 

Why does my hair feel thinner?

Only a trichologist can tell you for certain why your hair feels thinner and whether your hair symptoms are reversible with or without treatment. However, if you are looking to get a better understanding of why your hair may be thinning, here are some of the main reasons why it may be happening.  

1. Ageing

older man worrying about his thinning hair

Hair usually reaches its peak diameter and density in early adulthood, then a progressive decline is often noted after the age of 30. Advancing in age brings about natural changes to your scalp and hair follicles [4].

Normally, your hair growth cycle is comprised of four stages:

Hair growth phaseProportion of hair follicles Duration 
The anagen phase (growing phase)80-90% of hair folliclesApproximately 3-10 years
The catagen phase (transition phase)5% of hair follicles2-3 weeks
The telogen phase (resting phase)10-15% of hair follicles3-4 months
The exogen phase (shedding phase)50 – 100 hairs shed per day2-5 months

However, as you grow older, your hair follicles start to become smaller and stop producing hair. This is known as hair follicle miniaturisation, and is partly due to hormone changes and a reduction in follicle blood supply as you get older.

Hair follicle miniaturisation causes a reduction in both hair diameter and density [5][6][7]. A miniaturised hair follicle creates shorter and finer strands and it may stop creating them altogether if left untreated. So your hair may feel thinner because it actually is getting thinner with age.

informational graphic showing how hair gets thinner overtime
Hair follicle miniaturisation leads to thinner, shorter strands

Hair follicle miniaturisation leads to thinner, shorter strands

Moreover, ageing can also have other negative effects on your hair, such as [5][6][7]:

  • Reduced hair pigmentation (greying)
  • A decrease in hair lustre
  • Reduced shaft strength 
  • More fragile hair cuticles 

Changes in hair fibre curvature

2. Androgenetic Alopecia

man picking at receding hairline

Androgenetic alopecia is a condition which affects approximately 85% of men and 50% of women by the time they are 50 [1][8]. This condition is caused by a combination of genetics, enzymes and androgenetic hormones. 

Androgenetic alopecia develops when a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) binds with your hair follicles, causing them to become miniaturised and produce thinner, shorter hair and eventually stop producing it completely [3]. 

In men, androgenetic alopecia usually affects the front and sides of the head initially, causing a receding hairline, an M-shaped hairline (receding hair at the temples) or hair thinning on one side of the head. Then, as the condition progresses, a bald spot on the crown may appear. 

Frontal hair loss is more common in men than in women with androgenetic alopecia, who lose their hair in a different pattern. While women are usually spared frontal balding, they experience more diffuse thinning. Your normal hair parting width becomes wider and you may notice a Christmas tree pattern along your midline part.

normal hair vs female pattern hair loss stages

3. Telogen effluvium

telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a temporary condition where you experience excessive hair shedding, as a result of stress and anxiety, illness or of having undergone physical or emotional trauma.  

While telogen effluvium can cause diffuse hair loss and make your hair seem thinner (it can even reduce the thickness of your ponytail by 50%), it will normally not affect your hair diameter [9]. 

This condition is self-limiting, which means it will usually resolve on its own in up to 6 months from onset, provided the causes which led to it are removed. However, in rare cases, it can become chronic and span over several years. 

4. Alopecia areata

alopecia areata

This autoimmune condition is characterised by abrupt onset round bald patches on the scalp. However, there is also a variety of this disorder called diffuse alopecia areata which causes hair thinning across the scalp, rather than the tell-tale patches, making it more difficult to diagnose [10]. 

diffuse alopecia areata

Diffuse alopecia areata [10]

Alopecia areata causes follicular miniaturisation, meaning it can make some of your hair thinner and shorter, while diffuse alopecia areata can also significantly reduce your hair density. However, unlike with androgenetic alopecia, miniaturisation is temporary with this condition and your hair has a good chance of growing back to its original thickness and density on its own after a while [11].  

5. Traction alopecia

traction alopecia

Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss caused by excessive tension applied to the hair follicle. Frequently wearing tight hairdos, such as braids or ponytails can cause hair loss around the temples and the fringe area. Prolonged wearing of heavy extensions can cause hair loss as well.  

You can see signs of hair follicle miniaturisation in the areas affected by traction alopecia [12][13]. This means that if you normally use tight or heavy hairdos and find your hair to be finer, thinner and shorter around the front and sides of your head or are experiencing temple hair loss, it could be due to this condition. 

6. Common scalp problems

infected scalp

There are a number of scalp problems which can cause hair thinning. The most common of these are dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. These are yeast infections of the scalp often caused by a fungus called Malassezia. They can make the scalp dry and flaky, and can cause hair loss through oxidative stress, which is often seen in patients with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis [23]. But they can also lead to hair breakage and thinning through scratching your itchy, irritated scalp.

Other scalp conditions which can cause hair thinning – often amplified by breakage from rubbing and scratching – include:

scalp psoriasis
  • Atopic dermatitis [13]
Atopic dermatitis
  • Tinea capitis (scalp ringworm)[13].  
scalp ringworm

However, while these conditions may lead to a decrease in hair density (on the entire scalp or just the affected areas), they are not likely to also cause a decrease in hair diameter.  

  1. Hormonal imbalances
woman brushing her hair worried

Since your hair health is connected to your hormonal activity, changes in its density and texture can occur when experiencing hormonal imbalances:

  • Hair thinning in women after menopause (both in density and diameter) is a result of the reduction in oestrogens. Lower oestrogen levels make the hair move more quickly into the shedding phase. They can also lead to the development of female pattern hair loss.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that manifests through abnormal hormonal levels, especially high testosterone. This can lead to hair thinning and hair loss [15]. 
  • Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to diffuse hair loss which affects the whole scalp [16][17].
  • Postpartum hair loss occurs due to the fact that pregnancy hormones make hair move more slowly from the growth to the shedding phase, only for this process to be accelerated postpartum. That is why hair appears to have higher density during pregnancy and then starts shedding more after the birth. 

8. Medication induced hair loss

Beta blocker induced hair thinning
Beta blocker induced hair thinning

Multiple medications can cause hair shedding, but fortunately, regrowth usually happens once treatment is stopped. 

The best known medication that can cause your hair to fall out is chemotherapy, which uses cytotoxic agents to combat cancer cells. It works by destroying cells, which divide rapidly, such as cancer cells. Since hair is made of rapidly dividing cells as well, it can also be attacked by these substances and balding can often follow [17]. 

However, while chemotherapy can cause hair loss, it is far from the only medication that can have this side effect. Here are some of the most common medication that may cause hair loss[17].

9. Systemic illness

There are several illnesses which can produce hair thinning, such as:

10. Lifestyle causes

woman styling her hair

Sometimes, you can experience changes in hair density and texture as a result of exposing your tresses to environmental damage, harmful chemicals or depriving them of their necessary nutrients:

  • Summer hair loss – exposing your tresses excessively to sunlight isn’t good for your hair. It can result in dry, brittle hair which breaks off easily. So sun-damaged, flat, lacklustre hair may be thinning by breaking more easily, or may simply feel thinner due to its dryness and lack of volume.
  • Excessive use of heat styling – applying heat frequently to your hair can dry it out and damage it, making it easier to break off.
  • Overuse of hair products containing harsh chemicals – excessive use of hair products such as bleach and dye can cause hair loss, as some of the chemicals found in them can cause structural damage to your hair fibres.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss [21][22]. 

Highly restrictive diets and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can cause your hair to feel thinner from the insufficient amount of nutrients it receives. Learn more about the link between Mounjaro and hair loss.

How can I tell if my hair is really thinning?

If you are wondering whether you are paranoid or your hair is really thinning, there are a few things that can point you in the right direction:

  • Put a piece of gauze over the shower drain before you wash your hair, then count the hairs trapped in it. While some hair loss is normal in the shower, losing more than 50-100 strands per day may be a sign of hair thinning.
  • If you are a man, look for a receding hairline – you may see an M-pattern hairline start to form.
  • If you are a woman, check to see if you have a normal parting hair width or if it has widened or developed a Christmas tree pattern.
  • Do a pull test – gently pull on a tuft of about 60 hairs from the areas suspected of thinning and count how many come out. If it is over 6, you may be experiencing hair thinning.
  • Take a photo of your hair every month and compare them. If you can observe progressive hair thinning, it may be time to see a trichologist.
Photo showing 100 hairs from a person with short hair (left) and longer hair (right).
Photo showing 100 hairs from a person with short hair (left) and longer hair (right).

How can I prevent hair thinning?

There are some causes of hair thinning that you cannot prevent, such as ageing or developing androgenetic alopecia. However, there are also some things you can do to keep your hair thick and healthy:

  • Keep your scalp and hair clean and moisturised at all times. Try to use a shampoo that is best for thinning hair.
  • Protect your hair and scalp from overexposure to the sun
  • Avoid wearing tight hairdos or heavy extensions for prolonged periods of time
  • Keep heat styling to a minimum
  • Take steps to reduce the levels of stress in your life
  • Eat a balanced diet, rich in minerals and vitamins that promote hair growth

Can my thin hair become thick again?

Whether your hair will grow thick once more without treatment greatly depends on what caused your hair thinning. You need to be examined by a hair specialist to be able to tell whether your particular condition requires treatment and what that treatment may be.

But as a rule of thumb, here are the conditions that normally need treatment and those that may resolve spontaneously:

Hair regrowth may occur without treatment Treatment will likely be required to experience hair regrowth
Telogen effluvium (once the stressor is removed)Ageing-induced hair thinning
Alopecia areata (mild cases, more severe ones may not even respond to treatment)Androgenetic alopecia
Traction alopecia (as long as tight and heavy hairdos are avoided)Common scalp problems
Medication-induced hair thinning (once treatment has stopped)Hormonal imbalances
Lifestyle-induced hair thinning (once the harmful practices are avoided)Systemic illnesses

How can I treat my thinning hair?

The best thing you can do to get the right treatment for your thinning hair is to book a consultation with a trichologist from the first signs of hair thinning and balding.

They will conduct a thorough scalp examination, perhaps perform some tests, such as a dermoscopy or a scalp biopsy and provide you with an accurate diagnosis. Then, they may recommend one or more of the following evidence-based treatments:

Hair thinning causeAvailable treatment
Ageing-induced hair thinning
Androgenetic alopecia
  • Minoxidil
  • Finasteride (not recommended to premenopausal women)
  • Dutasteride (not recommended to premenopausal women)
  • Anti-androgens for women
  • Hair transplant
  • Dermarolling for hair growth
  • Low level laser therapy for hair loss
Alopecia areata (if it does not resolve on its own)
Common scalp problems
  • Dandruff/seborrheic dermatitis: Ketoconazole, selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, salicylic acid, tea tree oil
  • Psoriasis: steroid creams, salicylic acid, emollients
  • Atopic dermatitis: emollients, topical corticosteroids
  • Scalp ringworm: antifungal medication (e.g. itraconazole, fluconazole)
Hormonal imbalancesThe underlying condition must be treated by an endocrinologist or gynaecologist. Once it is under control, hair regrowth may be achieved.
Systemic illnessesThe systemic illness must be treated by a medical specialist. Once it is under control, hair regrowth may be achieved.

 

Getting treatment for your thinning hair in a timely fashion is very important, as it can keep your condition from progressing to the point where medications are no longer enough to stop hair loss.

However, if that happens and your trichologist suggests a surgical option, there is no need to worry, as often a hair transplant can treat thinning hair with excellent results.

Regardless of whether you opt for a FUT or FUE type of procedure, the best hair transplant clinics in the UK will help you get a natural-looking hair transplant, as they have a success rate of 97-100%. And unlike medication which you need to keep taking, a hair transplant is permanent.

So if you are considering getting a surgical restoration, take a look at our before and after hair transplant gallery and see for yourself whether this could be the end of your hair thinning problems and the fastest way to thick, luxurious locks.

10 Reasons Your Hair Feels Thinner and How to Treat It, Wimpole Clinic

Mr Sotirios Foutsizoglou (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Mr Sotirios Foutsizoglou (GMC)Updated on February 16, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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