Women’s Hair Loss: Causes and Solutions

While any girl or woman can be affected by hair loss, it is more common in certain groups. Normal hair loss amounts to about 50-100 hairs per day. Causes of excessive loss of hair range from heredity to medical conditions to styling issues.

What Is Hair Loss In Women?

Hair loss in women is just that—when a woman experiences unexpected heavy loss of hair. Generally, we shed approximately 50 to 100 single hairs per day. Hair shedding is part of a natural balance—some hairs fall out while others grow in as hair follicles cycle through three phases. When the balance is interrupted—when hair falls out and less hair grows in—hair loss occurs. Hair loss is different than hair shedding. The medical name for hair loss is alopecia.

Hair follicles go through three cycles:

• The anagen phase (growing phase) can last from two years to eight years. This phase generally refers to about 85% to 90% of the hair on your head.
• The catagen phase (transition phase) is the time that hair follicles shrink and takes about two to three weeks.
• The telogen phase (resting phase) takes about two to four months. At the end of this phase, the hair falls out.

How Common Is Hair Loss In Women?

Many mistakenly beleive that hair loss only affects men. However, it is estimated that more than 50% of women will experience noticeable hair loss over the course of their lives. The most significant cause of hair loss in women is female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), which affects some 30 million women in the United States.

Who Is Affected By Hair Loss In Women?

Any girl or woman can be affected by hair loss. However, it is usually more common in:

• Women over 40
• Women who have just had babies
• Women who have had chemotherapy and those who have been affected by other medications
• Women with thyroid conditions
• Women whose diets are poor and nutritionally deficiency
• Women who are under a tremendous amount of stress or have experienced a traumatic life event
• Women who often have hairstyles that pull on the hair (like tight ponytails or tight braids) or use harsh chemicals on their hair.

What Causes Hair Loss In Women?

Family history (heredity): Causes thinning of hair along the top of the head. This type of hair loss is female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), also called androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia. This type of hair loss often gets worse when estrogen is lost during menopause.

• Hair style: Causes hair loss when hair is styled in ways that pull on roots, like tight ponytails, braids, or corn rows. This type of hair loss is called traction alopecia. If hair follicles are damaged, the loss can be permanent.

• Extreme stress or shock to the body: Causes temporary hair loss. This category includes events like losing a lot of weight, surgeries, illness, job loss and financial stress, divorce or loss of a loved one, and having a baby. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. It happens to hair in the resting stage.

• Nutritional factors: Crash diets and caloric deprivation of less than 1,000 calories per day or sudden weight loss of more than 20 pounds have been associated with hair loss. The evidence of hair shedding can be noticed one month after the diet begins. Nutritional factors that are necessary for hair growth are: protein, fatty acids, Zinc, Iron, Biotin, Magnesium, and vitamins A, C, E, and B complex. Like any other body organ, the hair needs food to grow. Therefore, it is important to know about the quality and quantity of the various nutrients necessary for healthier hair. Tailoring of a diet to achieve a reasonable weight-loss goal must include appropriate levels of essential nutrients. Certain nutritional deficiencies are known to be specifically associated with hair loss such as:

• Iron deficiency
• Zinc deficiency
• Protein deficiency
• Biotin deficiency

Your daily food intake should contain adequate vitamins including: vitamin A 800mcg, biotin 50mcg, folic acid 400mcg, vitamin C 100mg, vitamin E 10mg and Zinc 10mg per day.

Recent studies suggest that FPHL can be associated with conditions that include metabolic syndrome and diabetes. If you’re genetically predisposed to androgenetic alopecia, it appears that excess sugar can exacerbate and accelerate the progression of hair loss by increasing inflammation and interfering with hormones insulin and DHT. Affected individuals should seek to limit their consumption of foods high in sugar, and pursue a diet which is lower in carbohydrates.

Should you decide to engage in a weight-loss program, you should discuss the intention with your doctor or a hair restoration specialist, taking caution to avoid diets that could cause or contribute to hair loss.

• Toxic substances, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some medications: Cause sudden hair loss that can occur anywhere on the body. This type of hair loss is called anagen effluvium. It happens to hair in the growth stage. Sometimes, this type of hair loss can be permanent if the hair follicles are damaged.

• Other medical conditions:

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease that causes patchy hair loss on the head and possibly other places on the body. It is usually not permanent.

What Is The Relationship Between Hair Loss In Women And Menopause?

During menopause, you might see one of two things happen with your hair. You might start growing hair where you did not have it before. Or, you might see the hair you have start to thin. One cause may be changing levels of hormones during menopause. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall, meaning that the effects of the androgens, male hormones, are increased. As mentioned, other factors such as stress, your diet, and genetic, may contribute to hair loss as well.

The aging process may mean that some women experience female-pattern hair loss (FPHL). This is also called androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia. This type of hair loss may get worse due to hormone changes.

During and after menopause, hair might become finer (thinner) because hair follicles shrink. Hair grows more slowly and falls out more easily in these cases. FPHL often means that thinning hair is centered at the crown and top of the head.

Our hair restoration specialist will do a thorough examination and take a detailed history to help you deal with changes in hair growth. You may be directed to have your iron levels or thyroid hormone levels tested. They may recommend speaking to you doctor about having your medications changed if what you take is found to affect hair loss or growth.

Antiandrogens might be recommended for either excess hair (hirsutism) or for hair loss, but the studies on usage are not clear. For hair loss, minoxidil lotion or shampoo combined with antiandrogen drugs like spironolactone is one approach. Another is to use antidandruff shampoos with ingredients like ketoconazole and zinc pyrithione. Hair restoration treatments such as growth factors, PRP, or ARTAS Robotic Hair Transplantation may be recommended. You might also be told to try things that do not actually repair hair loss but do allow you to hide it, such as hair extensions, lace fronts, wigs, etc.

If you are already taking hormone therapy (HT) for menopausal symptoms, you might see an improvement in the condition of your hair. However, HT is not recommended solely to treat hair loss.

What Are The Symptoms Or Signs Of Hair Loss In Women?

  • Seeing more hair fall out daily either on your brush, on the floor, in showers, on your pillows, or on the sink
  • Seeing noticeable patches of thinner or missing hair, including a part on the top of your head that gets wider
  • Having smaller ponytails

Seeing hair break off

How Our Hair Restoration Specialists Diagnosis Hair Loss in Women?

If you are experiencing hair loss, or are just generally concerned about this and looking to take preventative measures our hair restoration specialist can help. Our trichologist can help you diagnose or treat hair loss and will take a medical history, which will include asking about things like:

• What medications and/or supplements you take
• What type of food you eat (protein is important for hair growth) while excess sugar can exacerbate and accelerate the progression of hair loss
• What might be going on in your life in terms of stressful situations
• Which family members might have had hair loss
• What kind of hair styles you tend to have and what hair care products and processes you have used
• Whether or not you have a habit of pulling your hair out (trichotillomania)

After reviewing this information, additional tests may be required, including:

• Gentle hair pulling to determine how many hairs come out
• Blood tests to test for vitamin and mineral levels (like vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc, and iron), and hormone levels (including thyroid and sex hormones)
• Scalp examination under a microscope
• Scalp biopsy to remove and examine a very small piece of tissue

How Is Hair Loss in Women Treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of the hair loss.

• In cases where the loss is due to stress or hormone changes due to pregnancy, no treatment may be required. The hair loss will stop after a period of time.

• In cases of hair loss being due to hair styling practices, like tight braids or ponytails or certain chemicals, treatment entails the discontinuation of those practices that caused the damage and possibly hair extensions, lace fronts or alternative temporary solutions until the hair is able to grow back in.

• In cases due to nutritional deficiencies, you supplement recommendation will be made. For instance, you might be told to take a multivitamin and 3-5 mg of biotin daily.

• Minoxidil is approved for treating FPHL. The 2% or 5% solution can be purchased in stores. However, you have to follow directions exactly and use the product indefinitely. For information on Minoxidil, it’s method of action, and how to use it, see Rogaine vs. Generic Minoxidil.

∘ Women’s Rogaine® Hair Regrowth Treatment For Women – 2% Minoxidil or 5% Minoxidil
Equate ™ Hair Regrowth Treatment For Women 2% Minoxidil

iRestore® hair regrowth helmet is approved by the US FDA to treat FPHL. Pleij Salon offers Red and Infrared Light Therapy Sessions for hair restoration and regrowth giving you the opportunity to experiment with this therapy before committing to purchase a device for your at home use.

• Other medications that have been studied, but not approved, for hair loss in women include:

∘ Spironolactone and other anti-androgens
∘ Finasteride and other alpha-reductase enzyme inhibitors
∘ Estrogens
∘ Prostaglandin analogs
∘ Steroids

It is important to note that premenopausal women should not take medications for hair loss treatment without using contraception. Many drugs, including minoxidil and finasteride, are not safe for pregnant women or women who want to get pregnant.

• Hair transplant surgery is another option. Small pieces of scalp with hair follicles are taken from the back of the head and moved to slits in the areas of baldness. Potential problems with this treatment include the usual risks of surgery like infection, such as folliculitis, and shock loss—where the hair falls out in the transplant area. In cases where the bald areas are large, there might be trouble trying to find enough hair to transplant. In addition, the surgery can be costly and is usually not covered by insurance.

• Injections of something called protein-rich plasma (PRP) have also been done to encourage hair growth. PRP is generally made from blood drawn from a patient. The platelets are removed and concentrated and then added back to the blood for injection.

How can hair loss in women be prevented?

Preventing hair loss is not possible when it is due to disease, aging, heredity or physical stressors like injuries. You can delay hair loss in most of these situations the use of various therapies including: proper diet, exercise, scalp massage and Red Light Therapy, the use of Minoxidil, Growth Factors, PRP and Almi™ (Bio-Cellular Stem Cell Therapy). While hair transplantation is an option for women, only about 2 – 5% of women make good candidates for surgical hair restoration due to the fact women tend experience overall thinning in all areas of the head, including the sides and back, these being the areas that act as donor sites in men.

Women can prevent hair loss caused by caustic chemicals or tight hairstyles by avoiding these, and opting for more natural products and styles. Detox your beauty with hair and skincare products that are formulated without parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate. These chemicals as well as others like BPAs (from plastics in things like water bottles, receipts, canned foods, or the cap of your morning Starbucks) and fragrances (such as those found in laundry detergents, most perfumes, and plugin air fresheners) are known endocrine disruptors, that is chemicals that mimic hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and disrupt the body’s natural balance. Any system in the body that is controlled by hormones can be affected by hormone disruptors including hair loss.

You might be able to prevent some hair loss by eating a healthy diet that provides necessary nutrients in terms of vitamins and minerals. Your daily food intake should contain adequate vitamins including: vitamin A 800mcg, biotin 50mcg, folic acid 400mcg, vitamin C 100mg, vitamin E 10mg and Zinc 10mg per day.

Recent studies suggest that FPHL can be associated with conditions that include metabolic syndrome and diabetes. If you’re genetically predisposed to androgenetic alopecia, it appears that excess sugar can exacerbate and accelerate the progression of hair loss by increasing inflammation and interfering with hormones insulin and DHT. Affected individuals should seek to limit their consumption of foods high in sugar, and pursue a diet which is lower in carbohydrates.

Should you decide to engage in a weight-loss program, you should discuss the intention with your doctor or a hair restoration specialist, taking caution to avoid diets that could cause or contribute to hair loss.

You can stop smoking if you smoke.

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