Female hair loss: 5 ways women lose their hair (and how to regrow it)
What is female hair loss?
Female hair loss seems to happen for a wider variety of reasons than male hair loss. Where male pattern baldness is an inherited condition and there's a female equivalent, women are more susceptible to hair loss due to hormones and to stress. In by far the majority of cases something can be done to stop hair loss and encourage hair growth, but the approach requires a rather more holistic approach for the best chance of success.
Female hair loss
Female hair loss conditions
Female pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia) is a woman's equivalent to male pattern baldness and it has the same cause. Testosterone (which women do produce, albeit in much smaller quantities) is converted by the body into a chemical that interferes with the hair follicles, but only if your hair follicles are genetically susceptible. Whereas in men it causes receding temples, a balding crown, and receding hairline, in women it causes a general thinning of the hair over the top of the head (with the sides unaffected).
Another condition, which can come as rather a shock, is telogen effluvium .. the loss of hair up to three months after a severe stress such as childbirth, pregnancy termination, or therapy. Another possible cause is changes to the hormone balance such as new birth control pills or drugs for weight loss. The three month period is because under stress the hair follicles enter their resting phase en masse and, three months later, the hairs fall out. Usually the resting phases of each follicle occur at different times, causing the normal hair loss of about a hundred hairs a day. The condition tends to clear-up on its own once the stress is over, but if it doesn't one way forward is to try to address the underlying cause.
Diffuse hair loss also requires a holistic approach, starting with blood checks for hormone levels and gland function and followed by lifestyle adjustments where necessary and possible.
Patchy hair loss, alopecia areata can also be triggered by stress but has links to the autoimmune system too and it's not uncommon. Patches may appear and disappear naturally, but the condition may also develop to affect the whole scalp.
Finally, traction alopecia is where continuous tension on the hair damages the hair follicle and can often be found associated with certain hair styles such as braiding.
So, what's the treatment for female hair loss?
There's no single action you can take to treat hair loss yourself. The first thing is to get a correct diagnosis by a professional trichologist (a hair specialist). Next, is an assessment of all the factors that may be contributing to the condition.
An effective treatment programme to stop hair loss and encourag regrowth addresses all possible causes by all effective methods, together with monitoring to ensure good progress. This can be done by recording scalp photographs. It's the mixture of treatments in a professionally developed, custom treatment programme and the regular monitoring that is most effective in treating hair loss.
What are the most common elements of a female hair loss treatment plan?
One element of and effective treatment plan is likely to be Minoxidil, an FDA approved hair loss drug that improves circulation. Applied topically to the scalp it effectively promotes hair re-growth after about four months, reaching its maximum effectiveness after eight.
Women should not take the male hair loss drug Propecia as it's not been cleared for women, however they are compensated by the fact that Minoxidil is more effective for women than for men.
Where the hair loss treatment centre is able to prescribe, Minoxidil may be supplied in a stronger form and also combined with Medroxyprogesterone (MPG) or Azelaic Acid (AA), both of which work to inhibit the negative effects of testosterone on hair follicles.
Other possibilities include the HairMax LaserComb (which is also FDA cleared), infra-red light therapy, specially developed shampoos and conditioners and nutritional supplements.
Summary so far
Female hair loss is most often treatable, but not by any magic pill or potion. The effective treatment of female hair loss is the result of a combined approach that aims to tackle all the potential causes, together with ongoing monitoring to ensure treatment is progressing satisfactorily. When that's in place, hair loss is routinely stopped and often reversed.
Your plan of action
You need to make a decision. For men it's a little easier, they can just 'go bald' and it's cool. It's cool for women, too, but that's not the prevailing attitude. So the decision is this: what are you going to do about it?
You could wear more hats of course. Or your doctor can help and is usually a good starting point to check for any underlying medical issues. But a cure for simple genetic hair loss isn't available on the UK NHS.
Most people would search the Internet for a local hair loss clinic. Try it (it will open in another window, so this article will remain open). If you want, try adding your location to the search, eg, hair loss clinic London.
The problem is, how can you tell the good from the expensive and not-good?
There is a lot of junk information on the Internet especially about hair loss, much of it just rehashes of Wikipedia, and you have to know that there are plenty of people who will sell you things because they can, not because it works. Take great care, more in this area than usual.
- Make sure the site you are dealing with has full contact information. If they don't want you to know where they are or how to contact them, that's a problem.
- Look for a good 'about us' page that makes sense.
- Think about the photographs on a site, could they have been bought from a photo library?
Above all, you really have two choices. Either you go with a proper, effective, professional and scientifically proven course of medical treatment providing a demonstrable benefit, or you try your luck with alternative treatments, usually herbal and nutritional. The latter is certainly cheaper, but since their efficacy is unproven, you could spend lots of time suffering hair loss unnecessarily. The professional advice will always be to go with the proven treatments through a proper hair loss clinic.
- The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is Europe's largest hair loss clinic, successfully treating thousands of people every year. Established in 1991, Belgravia's goal is to provide the most effective treatments and professional service at the best price.
- Alopecia World
For woman with complete hair loss there are lots of very beautiful support groups out there, and here's one.