While 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:
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.
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.
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!”