Until recently, the problem of hair loss in women was believed to be uncommon. Recent research, however, has revealed it is a lot more widespread than previously believed. Some estimates say as many as 25 million American women (or more) experience noticeable hair loss and the distressing effects that often go along with it. Female hair loss causes are somewhat different than those typically found in men, and the psychological effects can be very different as well.
Appearance of Hair Loss in Women
The look of hair loss in most females is generally different from its appearance in men. Women typically do not go bald or partially bald, and they generally do not have bald spots on the crown of their head. In women, hair loss typically shows up as overall thinning of the hair, both the quantity of hair on the head and the thickness of every individual hair. Some women do have a receding hairline, but seldom as pronounced and noticeable as what many men experience.
Emotional Effects of Hair Loss in Women
A woman’s self esteem and sense of self are typically more determined by the way they look than is generally true for men. Of course, men find it distressing to lose their hair, but for females the psychological effects can be particularly devastating.
When you think of how much money and effort goes into marketing women’s hair care products, styling products, cosmetics, Pest Critter Control and hair care appliances such as 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 looks, especially for women, that female hair loss may lead to a lot of emotional pain, anxiety, and even trigger episodes of depression.
Medical Causes of Hair Loss in Women
The most frequent female baldness causes 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 far more hormonal issues than men do, and at a much greater frequency. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause are all conditions unique to women that could impact the amount and permanence of hair loss and lead to balding.
Medication – Many medications can cause or contribute to female hair loss, including anti-depressants, blood thinners, birth control pills, anti-cholesterol drugs and chemotherapy drugs.
Illness/Surgery – Many common disorders can cause female hair loss, such as diabetes and thyroid over- or under-activity, as can conditions that place the body under stress such as high fevers or major operation.
Other Reasons – Anemia, anorexia, bulimia, excess vitamin A, fungal infections, and zinc or fatty acid deficiency can also be the cause 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, because hormones and dehydrotestosterone (DHT) combine to cause hair follicles to shut down. Despite the fact that the chemical process is identical, the appearance of the hair loss in females is generally different, with women experiencing overall thinning of hair rather than the bald spots or pronounced receding hairline so common in men.
Some experts theorize that differences in hair follicles between females and males may lead to differences in the appearance of baldness. In men, hair tends to grow straight up out of the follicle, causing oil and other secretions on the scalp to build up and prevent follicles. In women, however, hair tends to grow from the follicle at an angle, allowing oil and secretions to flow more easily from the follicle.
Women subject their hair to a lot of everyday stresses that can cause hair damage and hair loss. A few such female baldness causes include:
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 typically do not cause instantaneous or permanent hair loss in females, they do frequently lead to dry, damaged hair which is more likely to break off and thus appear thinner and more brittle. In women whose hair is already thin due to hormonal changes that come with aging, activities like these can have a large effect on hair appearance.
Women experiencing baldness should consult their physician for an accurate diagnosis of what’s causing them to lose hair. In the case of an undiagnosed condition such as diabetes or thyroid problems, treating the medical condition can often stop and even reverse hair loss problems. If the doctor finds that hormonal issues associated with menopause and aging are the cause, then he or she is the best source for information and guidance on effective female hair loss solutions.
There is only one topical female hair loss treatment approved by the FDA for use by women – minoxidil. This medicine is marketed under the name Rogaine and is readily available over the counter in most drug stores, grocery stores, and online.
Rogaine is good at restoring hair growth and diminishing the appearance of thinning hair in women, but often it takes several months for results to become noticeable in many females. It is fairly simple and convenient to apply in the privacy of home, but must be continued indefinitely to be able to keep hair regrowth. If Rogaine use is discontinued, any hair that has regrown will be lost once more.
Surgical Hair Restoration
Surgical hair loss treatments such as hair grafting are very effective for male pattern baldness, but since the nature of hair loss differs in women, females are generally not good candidates for such therapy. Hair grafting is a procedure of harvesting hair from actively growing parts of the head and transplanting them to areas of thinning and dormant growth. Because females have a tendency to lose their hair all over the head instead of in a concentrated place, grafting doesn’t normally have much effect. For those women who have definite balding spots or patches, however, surgical treatment may be an option. It’s best to consult an experienced hair restoration surgeon that will diagnose the cause and suggest a suitable solution.