While many men expect some permanent hair loss when they get older, most women don’t. So for women, the first signs of hair loss are often a difficult experience to go through.
Unfortunately, hair loss in women is quite common. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, female pattern hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia) affects approximately 30 million American women. The process of losing hair tends to be different in women. Although men’s hair tends to recede from the forehead or the crown of the head, women tend to have thinning hair on the top third to one-half of the scalp. Often, the frontal line of hair at the scalp stays intact. Women with thinning hair often first notice a gradually wider scalp area when parting their hair or see more of their scalp than normal when their hair is pulled back.
Hair loss in women can be caused by a number of factors including family genetics and changes in the levels of hormones. Below are some of the most common reasons for hair loss in women:
Menopause – hormonal changes, such as those that occur around menopause, can often cause hair loss. However, hair loss in women can start at any age, often before menopause.
Pregnancy – Approximately 40 to 50% of women experience excessive shedding of hair one to five months after pregnancy. Fortunately, this is only a temporary condition and does not cause bald spots or permanent hair loss.
Genetics – If your mother, grandmother or aunt had significant hair loss as they became older, you could be affected too. Hair loss often runs in families.
Medications – Some medications can interfere with the normal growth cycle of hair and cause hair loss. It is well known that chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss but other medications can too, including antidepressants, blood thinners, steroids and many others.
Stress or trauma – dealing with a divorce, the sudden loss of a spouse, excessive or sudden weight loss, and even stressful events like surgery can cause noticeable hair loss.
Medical problems – certain medical conditions including diabetes, thyroid disease, anemia and lupus can cause hair loss. Excessive hair loss can be the first sign of a serious illness.
Poor nutrition – nutritional problems such as not enough protein, low vitamin D, and lack of calcium, iron or other minerals can cause hair loss.
Rough handling of hair – stressing hair from pulling it too tight in a bun or wearing cornrows or braids has been known to cause hair loss. Hair dyes, bleaching, relaxers, straitening irons and curling wands can also stress hair and cause it to fall out.
Don’t ignore hair loss – treatments are available
If you believe you are suffering from hair loss, you should first talk to your primary care provider. It’s important to first find out if the hair loss is being caused by a medical condition. Your doctor can also talk to you about treatments to alleviate your hair loss. Over-the-counter medications containing minoxidil are approved for female pattern hair loss. However, not all women respond to this treatment. Low-level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) has recently been approved by the FDA for hair loss in women. This treatment can be done at home and has been proven to prevent additional hair loss and can lead to hair regrowth in some patients. Certain medications prescribed by your doctor can also be used to counteract hair loss.
Find a doctor who is right for you
For women who have seen significant hair loss, hair transplants are also an option. This treatment works by taking hair from areas on the scalp that are not affected by hair loss and transplanting it to areas where hair is needed. You may want to see a plastic surgeon or hair transplant surgeon for advice on your hair loss even if you are not considering transplant surgery. These physicians are usually highly knowledgeable on the latest hair loss treatments and therapies.
If you are suffering from hair loss, remember that early treatment is best. Due to the cycles or stages that hair goes through in its growth, even the best treatments take time to see results. Although dealing with hair loss isn’t easy for men or women, there have never been more effective treatments than there are now. So always see your doctor or qualified healthcare provider at the first sign of a hair loss problem.