Although hair loss is normally considered a male problem, women can suffer from hair loss as well. Women are almost just as likely to experience hair loss or encounter 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 growth is 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. Typical hair care, such as washing, 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 hairline, 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 bald spots when you put your hair up. Type of hair loss commonly called female pattern baldness.
Causes of Hair Loss
There are a few different causes of female hair loss. It often develops after menopause, so hormonal changes may also be a contributing factor.
Some women may have a combination of two female pattern type of hair loss. Androgenic alopecia in women is because of androgens, male hormones, typically present in very small amounts. A variety of factors can cause androgenetic alopecia tied to the actions of hormones, including, ovarian cysts, the taking of high androgen birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. Like men, the hormone DHT appears to be at least partially to blame for the miniaturization of hair follicles in women suffering from female pattern baldness. Heredity plays a major factor in the condition as well.
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 female hair loss is androgenetic alopecia (androgenic 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 medical condition may be the cause.
Female pattern baldness is largely thought to occur due to genetics. However, it may also develop due to an underlying condition that affects the production of the hormone androgen. Androgen is a hormone that plays a role in pattern baldness. Tumors of the pituitary gland or ovary, which secrete androgen, may also lead to hair loss.
Your doctor will also check to see if hormone levels, hormonal imbalance, nutrition, stress, or skin disorders could be at fault. You may be directed to have your iron levels or thyroid hormone levels tested as well.
- Autoimmune disease. Alopecia areata is a rare autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the hair follicles leading to hair loss.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Illness. Hair loss may develop after a significant illness, such as severe infection, high fever, or surgery
- Low Iron levels (Anemia)
- Excess of vitamin A
- Thyroid disorders
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Dramatic weight loss
- Emotional stress
- Certain medications. Those that are used to treat cancer, can cause hair loss as a side effect. However, hair usually regrows once medication ceases.
- Traction alopecia. This is hair loss that occurs when one frequently wear hairstyles that pull the hair too tightly.
Treatment for Hair Loss
Visit your doctor for medical advice if you are concerned about the loss of hair. 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 the loss of hair, 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 transplant is a treatment that takes small pieces of the hair-bearing scalp and transplants them to bald patches. Several sessions may be required to reach your desired fullness.