New York Hair Loss

New York Hair Loss
October 20th, 2010

new york hair lossWhile in New York City last week, I noticed an epidemic of female hair loss! I’m not trying to be rude, but I felt like everyone had thinning hair, and it made me feel “normal” for a few days. Whenever I go out in public, all I look at are women’s heads (I know this is horrible), and here in Las Vegas, I’d say 5-10% of women have noticeable hair loss (noticeable to me, which doesn’t even mean anyone else would notice it).

In New York City, 20-30% of the women I saw had thin hair, and these were women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s – not just post-menopausal women (when hair loss is much more common). What’s going on? I wasn’t in the real touristy parts of town, so most of the women I saw probably live in New York. So many women there had wide parts and thin hair that it was rare when I actually saw someone with thick hair (which is super common here in Las Vegas). Have you seen Mahsa on “The Apprentice?” by the way?

Why is female hair loss so prevalent in New York City? I have no idea for sure, but I have some theories:

1) Stress
This is obvious, but living in New York City is more stressful than a lot of places. Between the expensive cost of living, the crowds and crowded living quarters, the pressure to succeed, etc. – it’s stressful! I felt tense the entire time I was there because there were so many people to deal with, and just crossing the street and almost getting hit by cars every 5 minutes freaked me out. Some doctors say stress is a huge factor in hair loss, while others say it plays a negligible role, but I’m sure ongoing stress does contribute to hair loss – I just don’t know exactly how much. Stress also depletes Vitamin B12, which is necessary for hair growth.

2) Lack of Vitamin D
New York City, like large parts of the United States, doesn’t get enough sunlight most of the year for people to produce adequate Vitamin D. It’s also extremely hard to get enough Vitamin D from your diet, which is why 75% of people in the US are deficient in it! Guess what – lack of Vitamin D causes hair loss! It also contributes to a lot of serious health problems (like Diabetes and autoimmune diseases), which can cause hair loss! The best thing to do is ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels via a blood test, and then take supplements as needed. I will write more about this in the future.

3) Lack of Nutrients
Weight-wise, most of the female New Yorkers I saw were on the normal to thin side. But in most parts of the country, 2/3 of people are overweight. Currently my weight is normal for my height, but in order to not gain weight (and I’m always trying to lose some weight), I can’t eat a lot. It’s hard to get all of your required nutrients (like iron) when you have a limited amount of calories to work with, unless you are really disciplined. Of course being overweight sets you up for diseases or need for medication that can cause hair loss, so it’s a fine balance! And since New York is expensive, and fresh produce isn’t as plentiful as a lot of places, it makes it even more difficult to eat well. 

4) Pollution
Given the amount of people, buildings, and cars crammed into such a tiny island, New York City is bound to be full of unhealthy pollution. I don’t know if pollution directly causes hair loss, but anything that is unhealthy for your body can have a negative impact on your hair. It wasn’t until I was walking through Central Park that I realized what a breath of fresh air (literally) it was to be around trees and nature.

5) Maybe it’s the water?
When I first moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, that’s when I first noticed I had a hair loss problem. A lot of people report first experiencing hair loss upon arrival in a new city. While temporary hair loss could be from the stress of a new city, people always speculate – maybe it’s the water! New York City has some of the best tasting water so you would think that the water is good for your hair – but maybe it’s not. I don’t know what’s in the NY water, but it’s hard to imagine drinking it and showering in it is worse than the LA and Vegas water (which tastes like a swimming pool), but you never know…

6) The Pill?
It’s from watching too much “Sex and the City” that I got this idea. Maybe more New York women are on the pill, or other forms of hormonal contraception? Birth control pills don’t necessarily cause hair loss, but pills that are high in androgens can cause hair loss (at least temporarily). If more women are on the pill in NY, then more women will inadvertently be on pills that cause hair loss. And going off the pill can cause temporary hair loss, and of course some women report having permanent hair loss from the pill.

7) Lack of Wig stores
Before I went to NY, I spent hours researching wig stores online. Because of its size, I assumed New York would be the mecca of supplemental hair. Either very few stores know how to advertise online, or there aren’t a lot of places to buy hair in New York. I found a place called “Wigs and Plus” and it had a fair selection of wigs. Macy’s had a wig salon, which had a small selection of wigs. Otherwise, I couldn’t find any other stores to visit! I wanted to go to Dov Salon, which is supposed to be the premiere place in NY to get a custom topper made, but the cost prevented me from making an appointment. Similarly, Design By Flora in New Jersey is supposed to be a great, but expensive place to get a custom hair piece.

Other thoughts:

New Yorkers aren’t big on Big Hair
Everyone has hair extensions in Las Vegas and Los Angeles – okay not everyone – but it’s extremely common. Half of the female celebrities in Hollywood wear hair extensions to make their hair longer and thicker, and since so many people do it in Vegas too, it skews my sense of what normal hair looks like. Hair extensions can’t hide a thinning scalp very well, though, but they can camouflage it to some degree. I didn’t see a single New Yorker with hair extensions. So that could be a small reason I saw so many women with thin hair – they weren’t trying to supplement it like they do here.

But what about genetics?
Most doctors and hair loss experts agree that genetics plays the biggest role in hair loss, and they believe that Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA – genetic hair loss) is the most common cause of female hair loss. This is where I get tripped up with my New York discovery. Since I supposedly have AGA, why does my hair look exactly like every other woman’s hair in New York? I have a receding hairline, a large part, and very thin hair – just like the 1000 other young women I saw. So do we all have AGA at a young age, or is something else going on? Do we all have Chronic Telogen Effluvium? Or does the combination of several hair loss-causing factors bring out AGA sooner than it would normally? Or do more New Yorkers have hormone imbalances due to stress, xenohormones from pollution, etc.? 

My other far-fetched idea is that maybe more people that are prone to genetic hair loss live in New York. Genetic hair loss spans all races, but I wonder if it’s more common in certain ethnic backgrounds? And maybe that ethnic background is more common in NY. I sort of doubt it, since NY is such a melting pot, but you never know. My dad is from NY, so that’s what got me thinking about this.

Do you have any insight into the New York – female hair loss connection?
After my New York City weekend, all I can say is “Screw big hair – thin is in!”

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Tags: Categories: Female Hair Loss

11 ResponsesLeave a comment
  • Sarah
    October 20, 2010 at 12:52 am

    This is an interesting observation. I never thought about whether hair loss would be worse in some cities than others. The next time I travel I will see if I notice any differences in hair.

  • B.
    October 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Hi Jen,

    It’s been awhile. My TE did stop, but now I’m experiencing a new problem: bad dandruff and a splotchy red scalp that is sore to the touch. I have been trying topical steroids and anti-dandruff shampoos with no luck. Think you could write a post on inflammatory scalp conditions and how these can contribute to hair loss?

  • J.
    November 8, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Hi, I’m new to your blog and I’m in the same situation that you are – thinning hair that is becoming more and more noticeable. :(

    I wanted to comment that I’ve been noticing more and more young women with degrees of hair loss too, and I’m not sure if it’s b/c I’m more sensitive to it or if there’s a growing problem? I’m wondering if possibly there is some pollutant in our environment that make certain women more susceptible to hair loss? Just a theory on my part. Anyway, here’s hoping for a cure!! Thanks so much for this blog, and for keeping us posted on your experiences!

  • T
    February 19, 2011 at 7:27 am

    You’re right! I started experiencing hair loss when I moved to NYC (25 y/o) and then I started looking around and saw the same observation you did-20-30% of the women had the same thinning on top of their head as I did. It stopped when I started back on birth control (it sheds when I stop it, not start it) and moved to a huge, polluted European city. I stopped birth control again and my hair started thinning again. I contribute it to hormones more than anything, but have often thought about the pollution theory… Here in Europe I notice about 20% with thinning hair. Great post. Thanks so much.

  • molly
    June 26, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I live in NYC and also have noticed an alarming amount of young women with hair thinning (including me). it’s hard not to notice when you’re standing above a bunch of heads on the subway! It makes me wonder if there is a common environmental cause that is contributing. or perhaps there are just a lot of women on high-androgen birth control, and their hair is paying the price.

  • istillhope
    November 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I have recently moved from a big city to my hometown which is a smaller city and my hair problem got a lot worse, probably due to a combination of extreme (hardcore!) stress and playing around too much with birth control.

    But what surprised me was that looking at other women’s hair and scalps (don’t we all…) I noticed that there was a very high incidence of thinning hair, even in younger girls that I have not seen anywhere else, and I have lived and traveled to lots of places.

    Genetics? Dietary traditions and culture? Lack of sunshine? Or maybe, possibly it has something to do with the industrial past of the city, the water piping? I am thinking that maybe it is not so outlandish to request a blood test to detect heavy metals…

  • Mimi
    December 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I just came across your blog and love all the info and observations! For anyone with a thinning hair problem, you will inevitably notice EVERYONE else who has the same problem, and have a million questions as to why others do not. ;) I also have tried EVERYTHING, with the exception of a few…I initially came across your blog when I Googled “mercury hair loss” as I also have amalgam fillings and have wondered if there is a connection. There is definitely a connection with mercury toxicity and thyroid, and the thyroid as you know is a big player in hair health. I want to get my fillings removed, and I will report back! I do know that I have a borderline low thyroid, but I was interested to see that you didn’t have any luck regrowing hair after ‘fixing’ the problem.

    It is very interesting to see women in other cities and towns and check out the hair situation there. ;) I noticed in the UK (big cities included) I saw a lot more women with THICK hair, or at least normal. Think Kate Moss style, they seemed to have A LOT of fine, glossy hair. When I moved to Los Angeles in the mid nineties, I was in my early twenties and first experienced regular increased shedding, sometimes massive shedding, which over time led to a dramatic thinning of my hair. I would say my hair is 30-60% thinner than when in my teens, but it appears to have stabilized, but not gotten better or ever stopped entirely, so I am not able to grow my hair back to it’s original thickness. Whe n I gather my hair to make a braid, I could swear that the whole ponytail feels like what used to be ONE of the three sections – meaning my hair is almost 2/3 thinner than it used to be. To make you feel better, I was NEVER ON THE PILL which hopefully eases your concern that the pill is causing your hair loss; if it is, I would say that the hair loss would not be permanent. I have noticed that CAFFEINE (more than one cup of tea/weak coffee) and ALCOHOL (more than one glass of wine/bear/drink) make the problem dramatically worse, but I have had a problem moderating these things sometimes! Sugar, gluten, dairy are also culprits, but it is SO hard being perfect! Stress/lack of sleep also a killer. I eat a mostly organic, high percentage of raw foods, drink lot’s of water, take a TON of high quality vitamins, but I still have not gotten to the bottom of the problem entirely. I have seen improvement, however, and when I can eat almost perfectly (no caffeine/alcohol/sugar) I see a huge improvement, but I can’t seem to stick to it! I never had a problem with my skin and could eat/do any of the above and not have any adverse reactions – so I think this hair thing may just a genetic weakness…ugh! THANK YOU for all the insight and info. It is very helpful, informative, insightful, and so nice to know that we are not alone! I vow to report back when I notice any improvements.

  • Rhia
    October 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I have the Fergie-type hair loss and it makes me crazy. I’m 45, my hair has been gradually thinning since my mid to late 20s. I have the wide part and I usually wear a small clip in the front to try to hide it, but lately the smallest of clips barely stay in place. I am from NYC as well. I used DR. Klein’s Remox for years and took Saw Palmetto and the hair loss slowed down, and then stopped. I always had baby hairs coming in but my hair never did fill in completely. I am noticing more loss again so I am considering going back on the Saw Palmetto.

  • mahboob
    November 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Hello, I was actually searching to see why new yorker females are all bald, then I found your post. In NYC almost All 40+ women are bald and younger ones are getting bald. I moved here a year ago when I was 36, and my hair dresser always got excited or frustrated by the amount of hair I had before, but during this one year or so stay, my hair is much thinner and I actually have seen the patterns of baldness in the front of my hair.I have no idea what is going on,But for sure something is wrong here environmentally. I have never seen this huge crowd of bald women in my life and I am also going to join the crowd soon.So awful that the doctors have not noticed this pattern so far and nobody cares about what is going on in this HELL.

  • Colleen
    May 31, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I thought I was losing my mind going paranoid. Just moved here six months ago and my hair went thin immediately. People kept saying it was the stress of the move, but 80% of women on the subway seem to have hair that’s thinning in the same way. What on earth is going on. I am and am not glad to be in the same boat with everyone. At least others have noticed too. It’s enough to make me want to leave, as much as I love it here!

  • Laura
    January 21, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I live in Dallas, Fort Worth and I have noticed more now than ever before many women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s suffering from hair loss. I am a black woman however I have noticed this with women of all races. I am seeing it a lot. Just like you I have wondered what is causing this. I started noticing the hair loss after I started suffering hair loss. I believe I have AGA as well. I am 36. Of normal weight for my height. My frontal scalp experienced extreme itching after a serious illness and next thing I knew I had bald spots, widening parts and severe thinning at the temples and frontal region. The parts will grow back in and then come right back out. But the temples are continuing to recede.

    Dallas is stressful. Traffic is awful. Life here has been the most stressful I’ve ever experienced and I have lived in several different states. The wages are lower than average and there appears to be a very hostile workforce here for all employees. I guess its those right to work laws. Lots of abuse and employee mistreatment. I’m thinking this has something to do with the hair loss. One thing is for certain. I was born and raised in a small rural town and the folks in my town don’t have the same degree of hair loss as the folks here in Dallas. I’m guessing its from the stress. Has to be.

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