It’s just not fair. Men can lose their hair and it’s sexy? Women start to lose their hair, and nobody ever says, “Wow that balding lady is really hot.” It’s the epitome of the proverbial double standard. And worse, thinning hair can take an emotional toll leading to poor self-esteem and body image issues that can negatively impact a woman’s social life and feelings of attractiveness.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology as many as 30 million American women currently suffer from female pattern hair loss.
We don’t totally understand hair loss in women, but there are several likely culprits: heredity – a family history of male or female baldness; changes in hormone levels; physical and mental health conditions and aging.
• Female Pattern Hair Loss The most common form of hair loss in women is called FPHL (Female Pattern Hair Loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia). With this condition, hair thins mainly on the top and crown of the scalp. It is characterized by a reduction in the size of hair follicles, which become smaller and produce shorter, thinner, more brittle hairs. Eventually the follicles stop producing hair. Unlike with men, women with FPHL don’t usually have thinning hair at the hairline. Hair loss around the hairline is an eventuality for all of us as we age.
• Medical Conditions According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hair loss is often caused by an illness or underlying medical condition. Thyroid disease, diabetes, lupus and anemia are just a few of the diseases or conditions that may cause sudden hair loss. Medications for the treatment of cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation can also cause hair loss.
• Bad Nutrition When you don’t eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet your hair can suffer. Nutrients needed to support vital organs like your heart or brain, are diverted away from the hair. A diet insufficient in protein, iron, vitamin D and calcium will negatively affect hair quality and quantity.
• Traumatic Situations A stressful or traumatic event can cause excessive hair loss for several months after the unsettling incident occurs. A few examples of traumatic events that can trigger hair loss are, loss of a spouse, a divorce, or a serious injury. Sudden weight loss, a very high fever or surgery may also prove to be stressors.
• Unkind Treatment Hair, like any other part of the body, can suffer from ill treatment. Tight ponytails and buns, curling irons and hot rollers can put extra strain on the hair and result in hair loss. The use of dyes, relaxers, bleaches and permanents can also take their toll.
• Menopause Thanks to menopause, around half of all women experience some degree of hair loss by age 50 as a result of the changes in the hormone levels (namely estrogen) that support hair growth. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help.
The average person loses between 50 and 100 hairs a day. When there seems to be significantly more than that over an extended period of time or if areas of the scalp where hair is thinning are noticeable, there is reason for concern. If you are experiencing hair loss that is making you self-conscious, it’s time to see a dermatologist.
Miloxidil, marketed under the brand names Rogaine or Theroxidil are over-the-counter medications approved by the FDA for female pattern hair loss. They are topical products, which may help or stop hair loss in about one in four or five women, and may produce some new growth of fine hair in others. It usually takes about a year to see how well they are working and require strict compliance to application instructions or hair loss will start again. New products are being developed all the time that may provide additional options. Your dermatologist can advise you about the availability and potential appropriateness of other treatments for your specific form of hair loss.