Although hair loss is popularly considered a male problem, women can suffer from hair loss as well. Women are almost just as likely to lose some of their hair or experience hair thinning as men. It’s more likely to happen to women in their 50s and 60s.
How Does Hair Grow?
You might be aware that on average, hair grows about a half-inch each month. It’s normal to lose around 60-100 pieces of hair a day, but women can lose twice or even three times that number when the hair is washed. This is healthy. Washing the hair agitates the strands that are about to fall out anyway.
Signs of Hair Loss
If you are suffering from abnormal hair loss, you may notice your hair starting to thin out at a faster rate than usual. Some women find clumps of hair on their pillows, and some find they are shedding more than usual into their brushes and combs.
While men usually see a receding hair line, women tend to lose hair from the top of their scalp. The gap on the part of your hair may widen, or you may notice patches of your scalp showing when you put your hair up.
Causes of Hair Loss
There are a few different causes of hair loss in women. If you are concerned about hair loss, visit your gynecologist for an exam to determine the cause of your symptoms.
The most common culprit of hair thinning in both men and women is genetics. The term for hereditary hair loss in women is androgenetic alopecia, and you are more likely to have it if your mother, grandmothers, or aunts have thinning hair. Around 30 million American women have androgenetic alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia usually starts to manifest between the ages of 50-70. Normally when thick strands of hair fall out, they are replaced by a strand of hair of the same thickness. With androgenetic alopecia, however, a thinner hair grows in its place. After a few years, the follicle simply stops growing new hairs. One of the ways your doctor can diagnose androgenetic alopecia is if the scalp has both thick and thin hair follicles.
If your hair loss is sudden, or if your follicles are roughly the same size, then it’s likely some other condition is the cause. Your doctor will check to see if hormones, nutrition, stress, or skin disorders could be at fault.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Anemia (iron deficiency)
- Excess of vitamin A
- Thyroid disorders
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Dramatic weight loss
- Certain medications (such as those for blood pressure, depression, or chemotherapy)
- Harsh styling practices. Cornrows or braids that are too tight, hair dyes and other chemical products, and vigorous brushing or excessive heat styling can thin hair or cause breakage.
Treatment for Hair Loss
Visit your doctor if you are concerned about hair loss. Different treatments are available and may include:
An antiandrogenic prescription medication that can reduce hair loss.
An FDA approved topical cream that you can apply directly to the areas of hair loss. Most patients find that Rogaine can slow hair loss, but only about 10-15% report new hair growth.
Supplements such as Biotin, Iron, and Zinc
Some people may be good candidates for hair replacement therapy. Hair replacement is best for correcting smaller, localized patches of hair loss. Hair grafting is a treatment that takes small pieces of hair-bearing scalp and transplants them to areas of baldness. Several sessions may be required to reach your desired fullness.