Excessive loss of hair might be unpleasant whether you are a man or a woman. Although, in a survey, 1000 women were asked if they find a bald man attractive. A whopping 87.5% gave a positive answer. What percent of men do you think find a bald woman attractive? Exactly. Being a woman with partly or completely missing hair can be a pretty big issue.
Normally, a woman will lose about 50-100 hairs a day, which has reached the end of their 2-7 years long life. These hairs are, however, replaced by new hair. When the loss exceeds that number, it is not normal anymore. So, let’s see how and why women lose hair and ways they can deal with this highly unwanted condition.
What Causes Female Hair Loss?
There are many types of hair loss with a variety of potential underlying causes. A long list of medical conditions also count as causes of hair loss in women. Unlike men who mostly start losing hair on their forehead hairline, women’s hair loss is usually appearing on the top of head and is not that visible right away. How much and what quality of hair a woman has depends on genes she inherited. The tendency of losing hair can also be a matter of genetics. In women, it is rarely a total loss, but often becomes more pronounced after menopause, when the whole female metabolism slows down. The hair also slows down its growth, becomes thin, loses pigments and becomes gray or even white.
The most common type of hair loss (alopecia) is called androgenetic alopecia, or female-pattern baldness for women. A combination of genetic and hormonal factors is to be blamed for this condition. In short, an enzyme in the oil glands of hair follicles converts testosterone to a derivative of the sex hormone (dihydrotestosterone) which then, among other harms to body, makes random hair follicles to shrink and become less capable of supporting and keeping in place healthy hair. It can shorten the growth cycle and lengthen the process of growing new hair in the place of the fallen out one. Mostly it takes place at the top of the head in women and shows as thinning first, which progresses as time passes by. It rarely reaches the total baldness, though. This alopecia counts as hereditary condition.
Extreme stress situations, such as severe illness, trauma, bereavement, child birth, sudden, fast weight loss, new medication or hormonal changes can be a trigger for a condition named telogen effluvium. Normally, about 10% of the hair is always in the phase of falling out. This condition makes more than a third of hair interrupt the growth process and jump into the falling out phase, in a short several months, so the volume of hair is significantly reduced. It is much more frequent if accompanied by iron deficiency. The good news is that, once the cause ceased to exist, the hair will start to regrow, usually in a couple of months.
Anagen effluvium is the name of the condition where sudden shedding of much of or all of the hair occurs. It is not rare that it includes eyebrows and lashes, along with body hair. The most known cause of this condition is chemotherapy and radiation, followed by infection, intoxication and medication side effects. Once the cause is successfully treated, the hair usually regrows in a couple of months to half a year.
Scarring alopecias (or cicatricial alopecias) is a name for a group of disorders that literally destroy hair follicles. Out of not very well-known reason so far, as a result of inflammation below the skin surface a scar tissue develops in the place of hair follicles. In some progressive stages a burning, itching, even pain can occur, but often it can go on without symptoms and thus unnoticed, for a long time.
Traction alopecia is a condition that we can blame mostly ourselves for, as it is caused by overly and for a long time applied mechanical forces pulling the hair (tight ponytails, braiding, as well as hair extensions), which traumatizes the follicles. Continuous, long-term and repetitive pulling of the hair will negatively affect the development of new hair follicles, thus leading to permanent hair loss where the most pulling took place.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease and is known to be a hereditary condition in at least 20% of cases. As in all autoimmune diseases, the immune system erroneously attacks its own body cells, here the ones of hair follicles, causing an inflammation. This makes the hair fall out, usually in patches. In rare cases, it can go on until total baldness, or even further until all the body hair is lost. This is a condition that comes and goes in the most cases. The follicles luckily remain intact, so the hair can regrow, which does, in about 80% of cases, but it can come back any time again.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, autoimmune, is a common endocrine disorder, a hormonal imbalance characterized by high levels of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone) and affects women of reproductive age, between 15-44 years old. However, constant, long-term exposure to higher androgen levels in women, besides growing excessive facial and body hair, can have a lasting effect on hair loss, sometimes balding, even past menopause. Your doctor can prescribe some of the anti-androgen medications.
Lichen planus is the name of another autoimmune condition where the body mistakenly attacks its skin cells, including those on the scalp. This will lead to follicle damage resulting in hair falling out.
Hypo- and hyperthyroidism, the most known forms of which are also auto immune conditions, if prolonged several months untreated both may contribute to hair loss, mostly diffusely over the entire scalp.
Celiac disease, besides causing all other issues in response to eating gluten, might be the reason that stands behind hair loss. In fact, it is counted as a symptom of the disease.
Various infections of the scalp can cause itchiness and scaliness, which can make hair to fall out of infected follicles. The most known among these are the fungal ones, such as ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). This is a highly contagious infection that can be spread from person to person, either by direct contact or by sharing pillows, towels, combs, hats… Although it is most common in children, it can infect a scalp of any age.
Sometimes, however, doctors are not able to find out what causes hair loss, in women or men equally.
As you age, your body and face also lose hair, but in postmenopausal women, the remaining facial hair may get coarser, most often on the chin and around the lips, forming unwanted, pronounced “beard” and “mustaches”. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall, meaning that the effects of the androgens (male hormones) are increased, causing more male characteristics to appear, which might be a problem for itself. As for the female hair loss, hormonal changes usually just worsen it. Hair grows more slowly and falls out more easily, thinning, especially at the crown and top of the head.
Is There a Cure for Female Hair Loss-Any Good Hair Loss Treatment?
If you are dealing with the problem of losing or thinning hair, your eye will likely catch one or two of the many advertised “magical” female hair loss treatments, or remedies. Do not fall for it. It can’t be true, no matter how “magical” they are called or advertised. You may end up spending a lot of money, but with questionable results. You also need to know that some of the above conditions do not need a cure at all, just ending the underlying medical condition causing the hair to fall out (telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium, traction alopecia) and a suitable care after it regrows.
As we’ve seen, there are many potential causes of hair loss in women, including medical conditions, medications, and physical or emotional stress. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to exactly determine the actual cause in each case.
If there is an underlying medical condition, in most cases with the medical condition gone, the hair loss goes away, as well. The majority of the rest alopecia conditions, however, do not have a known cure currently (like alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, scarring alopecia…), but can be treated, so at least the progress of hair loss is slowed down or even stopped.
Topical Minoxidil (or Rogain) is quite often mentioned for androgenic alopecia as effective, but it also comes with possible side effects-redness, dryness, itching and the most important-hair growth on areas where you certainly didn’t want it.
Spironolactone blocks androgen production, so it may help regrow hair in women, but its main function is being a diuretic, so, it also has unwanted side effects, such as electrolyte imbalances, due to removing fluids from the body, fatigue, spotting between periods,irregular menstruation if you are not post menopausal yet and tender breasts. When you stop using it, the hair may go on falling out.
So, even where any of these can be obtained over the counter, what medication exactly you should take and how, is by all means a question for a dermatologist do decide.
Hair Loss Shampoo for Women
The most I’d advise you to do on your own, without consulting a specialist is to introduce to your hair care some of the shampoos and tonics that are designed to gently, but to a certain extent efficiently treat female hair loss, i.e. promote hair growth in women. Such shampoos have no side effects that could bring more harm than benefit, as it is a case even with some medication.
Hair loss shampoos and tonics are also not a magic wand, though. Your fallen out hair will not regrow overnight, nor will it after only a couple of times using it. Your persistence and patience are the key, if you would like to experience improvement in your hair growth. It will take a good couple of months.
Hair grows only just a little above 1 cm (about ½ inch) per month in a healthy person. If affected by health issues or age, this growth might be even slower. So, be patient.
Is Preventing Hair Loss in Women Real?
Unfortunately, you can do little or nothing to prevent it, when it is about a disease or when you inherited the predisposition. If the aging is the major reason, it is also unpreventable, at least directly. In case of stressing the body, thus triggering the hair loss, there is also not much you could do.
You can, however, maintain a healthy hair by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by eating a healthy diet that provides necessary nutrients, as vitamins and minerals, by not smoking… You could avoid aggressive chemical treatments of your hair. You should also avoid long-term aggressive hair styling. It may be the proper prevention of some types of hair loss.
Here are some vitamins and minerals which are important for your hair’s health:
–vitamin A is needed for growth, helps skin glands make sebum, which moisturizes the scalp, helping to keep hair healthy.
Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, kale, milk, eggs, yogurt, cod liver oil are all good sources of vitamin A.
–B vitamins-oxygen and nutrients are carried to the scalp and hair follicles by red blood cells, in creation of which B vitamins play a role. One of them, biotin has a direct role in the growth of hair. Sources of vitamin B12 are whole grains, almonds, and dark, leafy greens. Keep in mind, however, that the best sources are animal foods: meat, fish, seafood.
–vitamin C is a powerful substance that helps your body fight harmful free radicals, and is also a necessity for collagen creation, which is important for your skin, and for the hair, as well. This vitamin will help the absorption of a so needed iron, for hair growth. Citrus fruits in general, pepper and strawberries all provide us with vitamin C.
–vitamin D may play a role in hair production, helping to create new follicles. Human body produces vitamin D if exposed to sufficient quantity of sun’s rays. Also, can be found in fatty fish, cod liver oil, some mushrooms. Some industrial produced food is fortified by vitamin D.
-Very much like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can fight harmful free radicals. Avocado, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, are all good sources of vitamin E.
–Iron is a mineral that helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all cells, including those of hair, so it plays a role in its growth. Iron deficiency is a major reason of female hair loss. Clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach, lentils are the main nutritional sources of iron.
–Zinc is also important for hair tissue growth and repair. It also helps keeping the oil glands around the follicles maintained.
-Having enough protein is important for hair growth, and can be achieved by eating a healthy, balanced diet, as generally for your overall health.
We can safely say that food is the best source of the proteins, minerals and vitamins you need for hair growth. Yet, there are situations when you simply can’t get enough of everything only from food. You may get some help with supplements, but, keep in mind that too much of those can have a harmful impact. Do not overdo it.
Consider Hairstyles for Women With Thinning Hair
Hair loss can have an impact on quality of life and cause psychological consequences in women’s life especially.
Hairstylists usually can come up with a suitable hairstyle, when the loss is mild. There are plenty of possibilities to style hair so that it covers infected areas. Cleverly chosen and carefully done coloring, as highlights or layered colouring can visually add volume, making your hair seem fuller.
Many volumizing shampoos and conditioners can be found that might help it appear thicker. While washing it, you can stimulate blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles by a gentle massage.
Problems are greater when the hair loss is greater. First, you can try with hair weaves suitably attached to the thinning areas. You can choose a matching color, so it can completely blend in, unknown to anyone, or you can be creative and choose a pronounced color, so it could be taken as a fashion detail.
If that’s not enough, however you might dislike the idea of hairpieces or wigs, these can provide a good solution. If decades ago a wig or a hairpiece could be spotted from across the street, today’s production is very much improved, so good that you can easily mistake them for a real hair. With huge choice of different wigs everyone can find the suitable one. Be it a piece that you can freely swim with it on, or the one you can enter a heated sauna or the one you can play very active sports, or simply the style and color you like, you can find everything, and also in very different price ranges.
Hair Transplantation-The Most Radical Solution
Hair transplantation, being the most radical, is not always the most suitable solution. It involves removing a strip of scalp from the healthy parts and using it to fill in a bald patch. First, you need to have enough healthy hair where it can be taken from, to begin with.
Today, the mostly used technique is called follicular unit transplantation. The surgeon will divide the cut-out strip into hundreds tiny pieces, each containing just a few hairs. Each of these pieces is then planted into a blade-cut slit in the scalp, in the bald area, where it continues to grow, as if it was there originally.
However, it may have negative side effects, as well, such as scalp pain, itching, and swelling, infections may occur and inflammation of hair follicles. There can be visible areas of hair that don’t match the surrounding hair or are noticeably thinner, so don’t quite blend in. Some hairs may fall out. The quantity of fully regrown transplanted hair varies between 10 and 80%. The surgery can be costly.
There are many variations of female hair loss with many possible causes. In any more serious or progressive form, your first concern should be to visit a dermatologist. Only for very mild forms, you can do something on your own. If you are luckily not loosing hair yet, you still need to consider leading a healthy lifestyle, as more or less for everything concerning any part of the body or mind.
You might have some experience already. If so, I would be happy to see you sharing them in the comments. Also, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer to the best of my knowledge.
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