Until recently, it was believed that the problem of hair loss in women was rare. However, recent research has revealed that it is much more widespread than previously thought. Some estimates say that as many as 25 million American women (or more) experience noticeable hair loss and the distressing effects that often accompany it. The causes of hair loss in women are somewhat different than those normally found in men, and the emotional effects can be quite different as well.
Appearance of hair loss in women
The appearance of hair loss in most women is usually different from that of men. Women generally do not go bald or partially bald, and they generally do not have bald spots on the crown of the head. In women, hair loss usually manifests as an overall thinning of the hair, both in the amount of hair on the head and in the thickness of each individual hair. Some women do have a receding hairline, but it is rarely as pronounced and noticeable as that experienced by many men.
Emotional effects of hair loss in women
A woman’s self-esteem and sense of identity are often much more dependent on her appearance than is the case for men. Of course, men find losing their hair distressing, but for women the emotional effects can be particularly devastating.
When you think about how much money and effort goes into advertising women’s hair care products, styling products, cosmetics, and hair care gadgets like blow dryers and curling irons, it’s easy to understand why women find it so distressing to experience hair loss. Our society places so much emphasis on appearance, especially for women, that female hair loss can cause a great deal of emotional pain, anxiety, and even trigger bouts of depression.
Medical causes of hair loss in women
The most common causes of female hair loss are related to medical conditions and hormonal changes. While many are similar to those experienced by men, many more are specific to women.
hormones – Women experience much more hormonal problems than men and much more frequently. Pregnancy, labor and menopause are conditions unique to women that can affect the amount and duration of hair loss and cause baldness.
Medicine – Several medications can cause or contribute to female hair loss, including antidepressants, blood thinners, birth control pills, cholesterol drugs and chemotherapy drugs.
Illness/Surgery – Many common diseases can cause hair loss in women, such as diabetes and an overactive or underactive thyroid, as well as conditions that put stress on the body, such as a high fever or major surgery.
Other causes – Anemia, anorexia, bulimia, excess vitamin A, fungal infections and deficiency of zinc or fatty acids can also be the cause of hair loss in women.
Genetic causes of hair loss in women
Female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is estimated to occur in 15% or less of American women. The chemical process in the body is similar, as hormones and dehydrotestosterone (DHT) combine to cause hair follicles to close. Although the chemical process is the same, the appearance of hair loss in women is generally different, with women experiencing an overall thinning of hair rather than the bald patches or pronounced hair loss so common in men.
Some experts theorize that differences in hair follicles between men and women may contribute to differences in the appearance of hair loss. In men, the hair tends to grow upwards out of the follicle, causing oil and other secretions to build up on the scalp and block the follicles. However, in women, the hair tends to grow out of the follicle at an angle, which allows oil and secretions to flow more easily out of the follicle.
Everyday causes of hair loss in women
Women subject their hair to many everyday stresses that can lead to hair damage and hair loss. Some of these causes of female hair loss include:
o Harsh shampoos
o Hair coloring
o Hair bleaching
o Permanent waves
o Frequent use of blow dryers, curling irons and other heated appliances
o Improper or harsh brushing and/or combing
o Frequent wearing of tight ponytails, braids, and other hair restraints
While these things don’t usually cause immediate or permanent hair loss in women, they often lead to dry, damaged hair that’s more likely to break and therefore look thinner and more brittle. In women whose hair is already thin due to the hormonal changes that come with aging, actions like these can have a huge impact on the appearance of hair.
Women experiencing hair loss should see their doctor for an accurate diagnosis of what is causing their hair loss. In the case of an undiagnosed condition, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, treatment of the medical condition can often stop and even reverse hair loss problems. If the doctor finds that hormonal problems related to menopause and aging are the cause, then he or she is the best resource for information and advice on effective solutions for female hair loss.
Topical treatment for hair loss
There is only one topical female hair loss treatment approved by the FDA for use by women: minoxidil. This drug is marketed under the name Rogaine and is available without a prescription at most pharmacies, supermarkets, and online.
Rogaine is effective in restoring hair growth and diminishing the appearance of thinning hair in women, but it often takes several months for results to be noticeable in most women. It is quite easy and convenient to apply in the privacy of the home, but must be continued indefinitely to maintain hair growth. If the use of Rogaine is discontinued, any hair that has regrown will be lost once again.
Surgical Hair Restoration
Surgical hair loss treatments, such as hair grafting, are quite effective for male pattern baldness, but because the nature of hair loss is different in women, women are generally not good candidates for hair loss. said treatment. Hair grafting is a process of harvesting hair from actively growing parts of the head and transplanting it to areas of thinning and dormant growth. Because women tend to lose their hair all over their heads rather than in one concentrated spot, grafting usually doesn’t have much of an effect. However, for those women who have defined spots or patches of baldness, surgical treatment may be an option. It is best to consult an experienced hair restoration surgeon who will diagnose the cause and suggest an appropriate solution.