Can Inflammation Cause Female Hair Loss?

Losing hair can affect our self-esteem unlike anything else. Some of the psychological effects of thinning and balding can be highly devastating and affect the quality of a woman’s life. Hair loss is caused by many factors, including genetics and nutrition.

Many of these medical causes of hair loss have one thing in common: inflammation. Interestingly, inflammation causes hair loss in the ways highlighted next.

The Role of Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation is often seen as a necessary evil, but it can actually play a positive role in the body.

So, what is inflammation?

In short, inflammation is the immune system’s way of protecting the body from injury, illness, and ‘invasion’ (1). It’s a complicated cascade of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators that play a crucial role in protecting your cells and organs from damage.

Unfortunately, it’s possible for inflammation to become a chronic issue. This occurs when the inflammatory response is improperly regulated which can be triggered by various factors (2).

Can Inflammation Cause Hair Loss?

In short: yes. Normally, and generally, inflammation occurs when the body has to fight off intruding microorganisms (3). In some cases, the body’s immune system will interpret the body’s cells and organs as foreign organisms and fight them.

The hair follicles can be interpreted as intruding elements and are often destroyed by the body’s immune system. This results in the medical condition alopecia, or inflammation based hair loss.

During this time, the scalp will be damaged by the immune system, and the hair roots will be unable to obtain proper nutrition (4). This is the link between inflammation and hair loss.

A scalp that is damaged by inflammation will usually have a burning sensation and some red itchy spots. Also, the scalp may experience flaking and other skin irritation.

Symptoms of Hair Loss Due to Inflammation

A notable symptom of inflammation is a rise in temperature. This is usually because of the increased flow of blood at the inflamed part of the body. Other signs of inflammation include:


This is caused by the accumulation of fluid at the site of inflammation.


This is also caused by the increased flow of blood in the area.


This results from the release of chemicals that stimulate nerve endings.

Loss of Function at the Site of Inflammation

On the scalp, this can mean thinning, and an eventual reduction in hair growth.

Digestive Problems

Inflammation, while it may be largely present in one area of the body, can also be a systemic problem. This means that many or all bodily systems are affected.

This may result in gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and nutrient malabsorption.

There may even be reason to believe that poor gut homeostasis leads to systemic inflammation, so the link between inflammation and the digestive system isn’t that difficult to believe (5).


As evidenced by the latest research on the topic, inflammation and chronic fatigue go hand in hand (6).

As such, you may experience inexplicable fatigue as a result of untreated inflammation.

Another possible cause of hair loss due to inflammation is due to a more serious, longer term problem.

Chronic inflammation, which is a constant and non-temporary state of information, occurs when the body tries to heal damaged body tissues, but the damage continues to take place on a regular basis.

Chronic inflammation can manifest in a variety of ways and present itself as different conditions. These include:

• Asthma
• Sinusitis
• Active hepatitis

And while this is incredibly annoying, it’s also true: experiencing inflammation with none of these signs being present is possible.

What Causes Inflammatory Hair Loss in Women?

Since inflammation and hair loss are closely linked, women should take steps to prevent the cause of the problem. They can do this by first learning about the causes of inflammation.

Bacterial, Viral, or Fungal Infection

One key cause of inflammation is low-grade bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the bloodstream and certain organs in the body. One species of bacteria that is known to cause inflammation is H pylori (7). Besides inflammation, this bacteria causes ulcers.

It is estimated that about half of all adults over 40 have this bacteria in their guts (8). As mentioned before, the body’s defense system will try to combat these elements and will end up causing harm to the body.

In some cases, the immune system will simply react because of an imbalance of bacteria and fungi in the gut (9). This will not usually cause notable symptoms. This imbalance can usually be cleared up by a good diet, a colostrum supplement, and high quality probiotics.

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions also cause inflammation in the body. This condition overworks the immune system and forces it to flush out the allergen. The perplexing thing about allergies is that they are can develop and change over time. You can go from being able to eat an omelet every morning to being allergic to eggs (yes, really). So, don’t assume right off the bat that this isn’t a concern for you, merely because it hasn’t been in the past.

Physical and Emotional Stress

Also, women who experience a lot of physical, psychological and emotional stress (which is most of us, right?) are likely to end up with inflammation. This is because stress increases the production of cortisol, a hormone which sets off a chain of negative reactions in our body (10, 11).

(To learn more, check out my post on stress and its effects on hair loss here.)

Exposure to Toxins

Toxins from the air, water, and metals such as mercury and chlorine can also lead to inflammation (12). These toxins should be avoided as they cause many other health problems. Clean eating is one way to reduce exposure to toxins. Another quick fix is adding a reverse osmosis system to your water sources at home.

(Do you want to learn more about how chlorine causes hair loss? Check it out here!)

A Sedentary Lifestyle

Our unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles can also cause this problem. They should embrace an active lifestyle and always get enough sleep at the end of the day. Also, eating a balanced diet and drinking sufficient amounts of water will prevent inflammation in the body.

The best diet for hair loss contains lots of vitamins and minerals

Poor Diet

Poor diet can also spike physical inflammation. Women should also eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Some foods that can control the condition of excessive inflammation include broccoli, hemp oil, fermented foods and liquids, onions, garlic, pineapple, spinach, tart cherries, and spices such as ginger and turmeric.

We can take a multi-pronged approach to prevent inflammation, as it comes into our lives from all of these different areas.

Alopecia Areata: Beyond Standard Inflammation

There are numerous types of alopecia, but the one most closely linked to inflammation is alopecia areata.

Alopecia Areata (AA) is a hair loss disorder that’s believed to be an autoimmune condition (13). It occurs in both men and women, and it’s characterized by patchy balding spots on the scalp, head, and/or body.

The true cause of the condition, while largely believed to be autoimmune, isn’t exactly known.

But inflammation is known to play a major role in the condition.

Similar to an allergic reaction or other inflammatory condition, AA is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction which targets foreign invaders aggressively. However, these ‘invaders’ are actually hair follicles.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact understanding of why certain follicles are attacked while others are left unscathed. Though flares can be caused by stress, illness, and even seasonal changes (14).

What Can Women Do To Reduce Scalp Inflammation?

It is best for us to tackle this problem at the moment we notice hair beginning to thin. Of course, for those not yet experiencing hair loss, preventative measures are also great ideas.

First, eliminate the causes of stress. Eliminate exposure to toxins, Clean up your diet. Get checked for H pylori.

Next, treat the hair loss.

There are many topical treatments for scalp inflammation, but it is advisable for women to consult their doctors before starting off with any particular treatments.

First, I’ve reviewed and recommended two popular Minixodil treatments including Rogaine and Lipogaine (which is less irritating), as well as all-natural DHT blocking treatments like Just Nutritive Grow New Hair Faster, Grow Gorgeous Hair Intensity Serum, and my favorite (and cheapest) topical treatment, Rosemary essential oil.

Most of these treatments will simply reduce the severity of the condition and not necessarily get rid of it. This sucks, but hair loss treatments are almost necessary to continue throughout the rest of our lives, as the causes of our hair loss, including inflammation, never go away entirely.

Next, I recommend supplementation. Nutrafol has been my go-to, because it has all of the pieces – DHT Blockers, stress reducers, and collagen. For a budget-friendly alternative hair loss supplement, I recommend Hairfluence by Zhou Nutrition, which has a MASSIVE following of both men and women.

Third, I recommend even more aggressive collagen supplementation.

Fourth, we give it over to science and give in to the latest promising research for low level laser therapy, which stimulates follicles to produce faster and better hair, and is a mess-free option. Invest in an awesome laser therapy helmet or comb.

Besides these treatments, we should lead healthy and stress-free lifestyles so that the root causes of inflammation are eliminated.

Overall: Even With Chronic Inflammation, There Is Hope for Female Hair Loss.

To answer the question – can inflammation cause hair loss, one needs to understand that it does it by depriving the roots of nutrients and also weakening the hair follicles. This condition will generally lead to the thinning and eventual loss of hair, loss of self-confidence, and any number of beauty-related crises.

Inflammation is meant to eliminate foreign elements from the body, but it usually results in unwanted effects – because hair is not a foreign element!

For this reason we should try to lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid the causative elements of inflammation. I’ve covered some primary causes of inflammation: accumulation of bad bacteria in the gut, stress, and allergic reactions, and poor lifestyle choices.

If any of this resonates with you, and you think inflammation might be playing a major role in your hair loss, step back and take a deep breath.

Don’t tackle all of your problems at once. Start with one thing, like your diet, and then move onto another, like your stress. Then add a hair loss treatment to your routine. When that becomes a comfortable part of your routine, introduce another.

It is possible to gradually remove these problematic layers, and make small choices that make a huge difference in your physical health, and your hair heath.

34 thoughts on “Can Inflammation Cause Female Hair Loss?”

  1. This is great information. I’ve had H Pylori and a bad gut in the past. I can see where this inflammation would contribute to hair loss/alopecia and all sorts of ailments. Very important to have a healthy diet and nix the carbs and processed foods. Thanks Penelope, another great article! 🙂

  2. Great post and very informative. I had no idea that chronic inflammation can also cause hair loss, along with all the other nasty side effects it has. But it makes absolute sense when you explain it. It actually explains also why many years ago, I had a patch of hair loss on my scalp in a perfect round smooth circle and I never could understand it. It freaked me out as you can imagine but the doc said it would grow back within 6 months, and it did. I guess this was due to the inflammation you’re talking about in your post.
    By the way, I really can recommend the rosemary oil treatment that you say is your favorite. I have been doing it only a couple of times a week and I can see an improvement. I also give my scalp a good stimulating massage at the same time. My next step though, which I may need to take things to the next level, is to try the lazer comb as that does sound truly awesome and I have had it recommended to me by a friend also. Thanks for your wonderful website, you really are a godsend 🙂

  3. It makes sense that inflammation would cause hair loss!

    I find people who have certain genetic traits also find themselves with receding hair from an early age.

    Finding ways to prevent inflammation with your lifestyle is the key, like you stated.

    Thanks for the great post 🙂

  4. I love this post and the whole idea of this website, i completely understand the devastating effects hair loss can cause, particularly with women and self esteem,
    I personally use my hair as a comfort blanket, i feel most comfortable when i have it down and around my shoulders, which i’m sure some women can agree with!
    The fact that stress and inflammation can influence hair loss makes a lot of sense, and you are so right when you say that taking a step back and taking things once at a time is a good place to start.
    It can feel so overwhelming when you feel like you have to do everything at once and a great way to move past this is to take things one step at a time.
    Great post as always!

  5. I like your suggestion of tackling each problem individually and not all at once. I think one thing that holds many women back from truly achieving healthy hair is finding a good hair routine and maintaining that routine for the long run. It takes effort and a greater awareness of the causes of hair loss in order to prevent it, and I think you did an excellent job of highlighting one of the major causes of hair loss in women – inflammation and stress.

  6. Thanks for all the great positive feedback, Colleen! I can absolutely relate to having my hair feel like a comfort blanket, which is why it was so scary when I realized the situation was taking a major fallout nosedive a few years back. It’s been really good for me to have more hair confidence again recently, and I attribute some of that to making changes in my life related to chronic physical inflammation.

  7. Hi Stefanie, thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I would have freaked out with the bald spot, I’m super glad that the doc reassured you and it grew back. I’m also glad you’ve been having luck with the rosemary oil. Give the laser treatments a shot, they’re pretty groundbreaking. If you’d have told balding people even 20 years ago that for a few hundred dollars they could buy a machine that would bring dormant follicles back to life, you’d have gotten a big fat NO WAY!

  8. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Tammy! It is definitely important to clean up our diets as we are, distinctly and literally, WHAT we eat!

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and positive feedback, Sarah! When under the stress of lost hair, it can be scary to think of all the changes needed to get it growing again…so one step at a time is really the best way.

  10. Hello Penelope,
    I have inflammation and it causes many symptoms from my eyes to my feet and everything in between. I have food allergies, hormone imbalance, thyroid issues, and probably psoriatic arthritis.

    I take probiotics which help a lot, as well as mineral and vitamin supplements since I was deficient in them. I have learned nutrient deficiency is very common but misunderstood.

    I don’t have hair loss so I am lucky there I guess. My husband is getting thin hair on the top of his head however. I was wondering if any of the natural supplements you recommend here can be used by men or only women?


  11. This post is great! I always love reading your articles because they provide me with new information I was never exposed to before. Inflammation can cause a lot of issues such as pain and swelling but not you may have to worry about it causing hair loss, that is crazy. Prevention plays a big role in our health and I love how you provide many different products that can not only treat but prevent. Thanks for this info!

  12. this is crazy, hair loss? who would have thought. Makes me wonder if thats why I’m losing my hair…..just kidding…getting older, but hey it was a good thought. Its interesting how stress and all sorts of mental thinking creates such problems for us in our lives. This is an excellent read. Thank you 🙂

  13. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you appreciated the preventative help approach, and yeah, inflammation is a five-headed bear of a beast…but at least we have a better understanding of it now thanks to science, and more tools to combat it in this day and age.

  14. Hi thank you for sharing very useful and well informative article. I recently experience hair loss from a fungus and it made me feel so awful knowing I had a bald patch and fungus in my hair. I believe that in order to maintain healthy hair we should consume healthy food and look at our hair and she what it desires. The hair and skin get the what left nutritents when we comsume food . To give our hair the quality nutrients its recommended to massage the scalp for circulation and the flow of nutriention; also giving the hair direct protein helps as well.

  15. Hi Sharna, thank you for sharing your experience with us, and the unfortunate fungus. Did you know that dandruff is caused by fungus? it’s tremendously common, but I’m sorry to hear it got so extreme for you. It sounds like you were able to heal through food which is always a good strategy, especially since so many of us eat like garbage all the time 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  16. This is great information about the relationship of hair loss and inflammation. I remember when I was in college, I ate mostly junk foods and I am sure my body was inflammed. I experienced the symptoms you mentioned. I also had hair loss as a result of that. Now everything makes sense. I also like the solution you provided for the hair loss problems. Thank you so much for the education.

  17. I watched an Aunt of mine go through this and what it did to her. Of Course she had her collection southern bell wigs, She always made sure she looked nice. But there was a kind of sadness to her once it started happening to her.. I think your post is just amazing and helpful to anyone who might be need it. And you offer so many solutions to help others that are dealing with this. It’s nice to see people like yourself willing take the time to write about something that will truly help others. Prevention is key. Nice read

  18. Thanks for sharing your experience with inflammation and hair loss. Junk food and the stress of exams will do it! it’s kinda sad that things like inflammation and stress (and the toll they take on our scalps) don’t really discriminate for age or gender. There are young women, even under 20, losing hair all over the place!

  19. thank you for sharing your perspective on what happened with your aunt. Wigs…yeah, for some, they become a necessity. My hope is that I get to most of my readers before they reach that point and work together to find solutions that salvage our natural hair. However, if my hair loss ever got to the point where it was unsalvageable – large bald spots, totally dead and not dormant follicles – I’d have to go the wig route too. And I, too, would have a sadness! We women associate so much of our beauty with our hair, like it or not.

  20. Wow, thanks Penelope for this very informative article. Though the article speaks to women, I can totally relate too. Experiencing hair loss can truly be from several factors. Thank you for giving us a rundown. We actually sometimes tend to ignore this as major health concern when we are still feeling healthy and only deal with it when the hair fall has worsened. I am glad you gave us these advice and several supplements and devices on how to keep us healthy. Super thanks again Penelope =)

  21. It makes sense that inflammation can cause hair loss. Are there any specific foods that leave you more prone to inflammation?

    I know that my diet probably isn’t the best. I eat a lot of beef and pasta. If you do decide to go the probiotics route how long does it usually take before the inflammation subsides?

  22. Wow, what an important factor for hair loss you have mentioned here which a most of the time ignore. Inflammation can cause hair loss and loss of strength also. Usually we link hair loss with diseases, weakness and hormonal problems but inflammation is also one of the leading cause. Tank you for such a great and useful read.

  23. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, JR! Yeah, this is a genderless issue unfortunately – both men and women experience inflammation-based hair loss!!

  24. Well, you need to adjust what you’re eating (white foods like wheat and sugar cause inflammation, and some argue that excessive animal protein like red meat also does), and then use probiotics. I think everyone’s different, in terms of timing and how long it takes to shift into a more alkaline state. Thanks for the questions!

  25. I got to say, it makes sense that inflammation causes hair loss. I tend to develop allergic reactions to any type of shampoo after 2 weeks of im constantly changing them, if i don’t i get a rash on the back of my neck and ears and it get swollen and itchy…and of course i notice the increase in hair loss.
    Not only that but I think i have all the causes for it, but as you mention, one must tackle one problem at the time.
    Thank you for this info, I will start by making a list of bad habits i need to change and will look into the supplements you mentioned. My doctor already told me i should take a colostrum supplement, is there any you could recommend me?

  26. Inflammation causes all manner of dis-ease within the body, I can totally get how it could manifest through hair loss. Very informative post and I think you’re right on the money when you say start by addressing the diet. Healing the gut can heal so many problems and it’s a great start to reversing hair loss induced by inflammation.

  27. Great read! Scalp inflammation is very common. I’ve experienced it after using a relaxer. I tried the Lipogaine you mentioned because I have a sensitive scalp and suffer from dandruff and it has helped me. What helped me more was changing my diet and exercise more (for better blood circulation).

  28. I agree with you, no one wants to admit that it all starts in the gut but even at our most distal points – hair follicles – it does! Cutting down inflammation is so important not only for this concern but overall mental and emotional health as well as body health.

  29. Great feedback, thank you for sharing your experience with lipogaine, and diet and exercise changes! That will definitely make a difference in overall body inflammation.

  30. Hi Jessica, thanks so much for sharing about your experience with inflammation and how you’ve been treating it so far. And for the excellent question…the short answer is YES, what I’m recommending works for men, too. The supplement I take, Nutrafol, has a great version for men, and you can read more about that on this site. Your husband should also consider nightly scalp massages with Rosemary essential oil, which is by far the most budget-friendly of my recommendations. Finally, he should consider investing in a good DHT blocking shampoo.

  31. Thanks for the great comment and feedback, and I wonder…have you tried the no poo method? That can be a good way to regain control of your scalp – just wash with baking soda and rinse with vinegar water, don’t use any commercial products for a good long while.

    I use this colostrum supplement and have noticed huge improvements in my health since starting it. It’s made from a company about 60 miles from me, and I’ve known people who work for the company. They’re good people 🙂

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