Female Hair Loss, Why It Happens and How to Treat It
What Is Female Hair Loss?
Hair loss in women occurs when a woman experiences heavy and unexpected loss of hair. While hair shredding takes place in a natural balance (the hair will naturally fall out while other hairs grow in), female hair loss occurs when the balance is interrupted and more hair falls out while less grows in.
Hair loss differs from hair shedding. In medical terms, hair loss is called alopecia.
Signs of female hair loss include:
- More hair falling out daily, such as on a brush, the floor, pillows, or in the shower or sink.
- Noticeable patches of missing or thinner hair, particularly a widening part on the top of the head.
- Scalp skin appearing through hair.
- Hair breaking off.
- Smaller ponytails.
Who Can Experience Female Hair Loss?
Any woman or girl can experience hair loss, but certain factors make hair loss more common. Women more likely to experience female hair loss include:
- Women over 40 years old.
- Women who have recently given birth.
- Menopausal women.
- Women who have had chemotherapy or take other medications.
- Women who wear their hair in styles that pull on the hair (such as tight braids or ponytails) or use harsh chemicals on the hair.
Many people believe that hair loss only affects men. In fact, about one-third of women experience hair loss at some point in their lives due to female pattern hair loss.
Types and Causes of Hair Loss
In general, a few factors may contribute to hair loss, including:
- Genetic factors.
- Vitamin deficiency.
- Diet, including dieting for rapid weight loss or restrictive diets.
- Over-processed scalp hair causing breakage.
- Hairstyle that pulls on the roots, causing traction alopecia.
Three main types of female hair loss exist: anagen effluvium, telogen effluvium, and female pattern hair loss, or FPHL.
Toxic substances that poison the growing hair follicle cause this type of hair loss. Anagen effluvium affects hair in the growth stage. Sudden hair loss can happen anywhere on the body and can be permanent if the hair follicles are damaged. Substances that can cause anagen effluvium hair loss include:
- Radiation therapy.
- Some medications.
The telogen phase is when hair falls out. This type of hair loss occurs when an increased number of hair follicles reach that phase. Telogen effluvium hair loss can be caused by:
- Extreme emotional stress, such as from the death of a loved one, mental illness, etc.
- Extreme physical stress or shock, such as from giving birth, illness, anemia, surgery, or losing a lot of weight.
- Hormonal changes, such as from birth control pills, pregnancy, or menopause.
- Medications and supplements, such as gout medicines, blood pressure medicines, or high doses of Vitamin A.
- Abnormal thyroid.
Androgenetic Alopecia (Female Pattern Hair Loss)
Androgenetic alopecia, better known as female pattern alopecia or female pattern hair loss, is the most common type of hair loss in women. Women experiencing female pattern hair loss will notice hair thinning on the top and sides of their head.
Causes of female pattern hair loss include:
- Aging: Hormonal changes due to aging can lead to hair loss.
- Genetic factors: Family genes can cause hair thinning along the top of the head.
- Menopause: Female pattern hair loss tends to get worse when menopause leads to estrogen loss.
Female Hair Loss Treatment
A dermatologist may treat hair loss. The best hair loss treatment for female hair loss will depend on the cause.
Taking Certain Supplements
If hair loss comes from nutritional deficiencies, a physician may advise taking supplements. For example, women may take a multivitamin and biotin as advised by a doctor.
Stopping Styling Practices
Hair loss may occur because of hair styling practices like tight ponytails or braids or the use of certain chemicals. Treatment in these cases means not styling hair in the way that causes the damage.
Minoxidil is approved for treating female pattern hair loss. However, users must follow instructions exactly and continue to use the product indefinitely. Women should not use minoxidil if they are pregnant, plan to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Minoxidil may irritate the scalp and lead to dryness, itching, redness, and/or scaling. The product can also cause hair to grow in places other than the scalp, such as the forehead or cheeks, so users need to avoid other areas and wash their face after applying.
Laser therapy is indicated to treat androgenetic alopecia and may help with telogen effluvium and effluvium. Cleared by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), HairMax Laser Devices can promote hair growth in women and men with androgenetic alopecia (commonly known as pattern hair loss and hereditary hair loss).
Laser treatments are non-invasive, safe, and easy to use. These treatments work by gently energizing hair follicles to stimulate hair growth. Laser therapy is the only NON DRUG treatment option for female pattern hair loss and there are no harmful side effects. Laser therapy can treat menopause-related hair loss, postpartum hair loss, and aging hair.
How To Prevent Hair Loss
Women can protect their hair from damage that can eventually lead to hair thinning. Hair dryers, curlers, and straightening products, tight braids and ponytails, and hair dyes and permanents can lead to hair that is dry, brittle, or thinning.
To prevent hair damage, women can leave hair its natural color and texture, or give hair time to recover between chemical treatments and blowouts. Women can choose a shampoo designed for their hair type and brush hair properly by applying full strokes from the scalp to the tips of the hair. Moderately stiff natural-bristle brushes are less likely to tear hair. Women should avoid brushing wet hair and use a wide-toothed comb instead.
Various causes of female hair loss exist. Depending on the cause behind their hair loss, women can look to different ways to prevent hair loss or fix it once it has already started.