Women have long been told to look to mom or grandma for signs of the hair loss patterns they will likely one day inherit, but new studies reveal that a crop of external factors can have an even more damaging effect on the thickness and fullness of women’s hair.
In a study of 84 identical female twins, marital status emerged as the leading forecaster for thinning hair. Widows and divorcées experienced greater amounts of hair loss than their married counterparts—a phenomenon that scientists attribute to the effects of stress on the body. Researchers used sets of identical twins, as they would genetically carry the same possibility of hair loss. This makes other influences that might cause the siblings to deviate from a predetermined hair pattern clearer to discern.
“While genetics remain a strong predictor of some types of hair loss, introducing certain stressful or unhealthy factors into a person’s life can result in more hair loss,” says study co-author Bahman Guyuron, M.D., who will present his findings at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual conference this month.
Other factors that contributed significantly to hair loss included heavy smoking (tied to temple hair loss) and large weekly intake of alcohol (linked to thinning along the front hairline). Meanwhile, women who drank up to two alcoholic beverages a week showed significantly less hair loss than their twin, which one could conjecture to be the result of the calming effect of moderate amounts of alcohol consumption.
While the medical community may be marveling at the results of the study—which has documented many of the hair loss factors for the first time—hair stylists have long anecdotally known that emotionally-taxing experiences of heartbreak and loss can trigger hair loss in women.
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