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Blonde woman on beach


There are many potential causes for thinning hair, but heredity is usually the main culprit. Learn more about what that means for you.

Normal hair loss cycle or female pattern hair loss?

The most common reason for thinning hair in women is hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA) or female pattern hair loss. It’s a condition that causes changes to your hair follicles due to genetics, hormones, and age. There are many potential causes of hair loss in women, but heredity is usually the main culprit.

If you have hereditary hair loss, it will cause your hair follicles to shrink over time. So while your hair may still be growing, the quality of that hair will change — getting smaller, finer, and less visible — until new hair is no longer produced.

How female pattern hair loss happens

Every woman will experience a degree of hair loss, due to the hair loss cycle. If you experience female pattern hair loss, changes in your follicles interrupt or alter this cycle, leading to thinning hair and hair loss.

The hair growth cycle has four phrases.

1. Growth (or anagen) phase

For every hair on your head, the cycle begins with the growth phase, which lasts from 2 to 6 years. Women with androgenetic alopecia, whose hair follicles are still active, will experience growth, but the growth phase may be shortened.

If you are experiencing this hereditary hair loss, you may still notice your hair growing. However, your follicles will continue to shrink, producing finer, shorter, and harder-to-see hairs with each cycle until they are no longer able to make new hair.

2. Transitional (or catagen) phase

Next, the hair enters a 2- to 3-week transitional phase. This is when the cells at the base of the hair stop growing, just as they would in a healthy follicle.

3. Resting (or telogen) phase

After the transitional phase, the hair follicles enter a 2- to 3-month resting phase — as a healthy follicle would.

4. Attempting growth

Finally, the follicles shed the hair and attempt to make new ones. Since hair follicles in a person with hereditary hair loss are continuously shrinking, the damage to the follicles causes them to produce increasingly shorter and finer hairs until the follicle no longer grows hair.

Who’s to blame?

It’s a commonly held myth that genetic hair loss is only inherited from one side of the family or the other. In reality, you can inherit the thinning hair gene from your mother, your father, or from both of your parents. That being said, if a number of close relatives have thinning hair, your chances of experiencing it increase, though it is by no means inevitable.

Can I prevent female pattern hair loss?

While you can’t take the genetics out of androgenetic alopecia, it doesn’t mean you are powerless against hair loss.

Minoxidil, the active ingredient in Women’s ROGAINE® Foam, can help fight shrinking hair follicles at the root of hereditary hair loss.

Researchers believe the foam works in part by increasing the time hair spends in its active growth phase and by restoring the size of the inactive hair follicles so that they can return to producing thicker, longer strands of hair. Read more about minoxidil’s role in battling female hair loss.