Recognizing and Coping with Female Pattern Hair Loss
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on September 11, 2018 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common problem facing millions of women throughout their lives. In fact, only half of all women will have a full head of hair after the age of 65. While there are many forms and causes of hair loss, not all are preventable. One such condition is called female pattern hair loss, or female androgenic alopecia.
Both men and women can suffer from androgenic alopecia, but the patterns in which the hair thins can differ between the sexes. While men typically lose hair starting at the hairline and show bald spots across their scalps, women’s hair tends to thin across the whole head of hair, and bald spots on women are quite rare.
Even still, widespread hair loss can be an extremely embarrassing problem for many women. When caught early enough, measures can be taken to slow the process of female pattern hair loss, resulting in a thicker head of hair for longer.
What is female pattern hair loss?
Female pattern hair loss occurs when the hair loss is diffused across the crown of the head, resulting in wide-spread thinning hair. The condition usually begins after menopause but can begin in women as young as age 30, with the hair thinning becoming more noticeable by ages 40 and 50.
During the normal hair growth cycle, hair grows from a hair follicle and eventually dies. This dead hair remains in your head in the follicle for a few months and is eventually pushed out when the follicle begins growing new hair. This is why you shed hair routinely.
If you suffer from female pattern hair loss, your hair growth cycle gets interrupted and slowed. The time between when a hair is shed and when it begins to grow is lengthened, as is the time it takes to grow new hair out. The follicles also get smaller, which makes hair finer, shorter and more prone to breakage.
Hair also tends to grow in tufts of three or four. During female pattern hair loss, hairs will stop growing in these tufts, which is when you can really begin to notice the hair thinning. You may notice that your part is widening or that your hair does not have as much volume.
Causes of female pattern hair loss
Female pattern hair loss should not be confused with other forms of hair loss, such as traction alopecia, which is caused by pulling on the hair too harshly, or telogen effluvium, which is characterized by increased hair shedding due to hairs entering the resting phase prematurely.
Instead, female pattern hair loss is largely linked to genetics. The genetic predisposition to female pattern hair loss can come from either the mother or father. If your mom or dad is experiencing hair loss, there is a chance you will, as well.
Additionally, hair experts believe there is a link between hormonal changes and female pattern hair loss because the condition usually begins after menopause. An excess of hormones called androgens, which regulate hair growth as well as aid in the sexual development of males, may cause androgenic alopecia. This problem is typically related to an underlying endocrine disorder.
To diagnose female pattern hair loss, you should speak with your doctor and make sure your hair loss is not being caused by another type of condition before discussing treatment options.
Treatments and coping mechanisms
There is no cure for female pattern hair loss, but there are numerous treatments designed to help patients cope with the problem over the course of their lives. Most of these treatments seek to slow hair loss, but they can sometimes promote new hair growth, in some cases.
Topical medications like Minoxidil (Rogaine) may help stimulate new hair growth, while some oral medications help block the effects of androgens and slow the loss of hair. Additionally, people with female pattern hair loss may be able to get a hair transplantation to re-grow hair in particularly thin areas.
Some cosmetic products can help you camouflage the appearance of hair loss, such as sprays that cover places of the scalp where thinning is most apparent, or wigs.
If you have female pattern hair loss, you will want to make sure your hair is staying healthy to avoid any additional hair loss. Avoid using chemical-based products, try to use as little heat styling as possible and provide your hair with nutrients that help it remain strong and healthy. Taking supplements to support healthy, fast-growing hair may also help your condition.
By paying close attention to the way your hair is growing and how healthy it is over the course of a few months, you might be able to spot the early signs of female pattern hair loss and take steps to prevent it from getting much worse. If you are diagnosed, focus on keeping the hair that is growing healthy and strong.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan