Female hair loss is real! The number of women who have full hair on their head throughout their lifetime accounts for less than 45% of the world’s female population.
Be it medical conditions, stress or hormonal imbalances, the contributing factors to hair loss in women are aplenty. In this article, let’s take a look at all the different types of female hair loss, their causes, symptoms and treatment options.
Types Of Alopecia (Hair Loss) In Women
1. Androgenetic Alopecia
If you have a family history of hair loss and you’ve started to notice abnormal amounts of hair fall, chances are you’re dealing with androgenetic alopecia. Also known as female pattern hair loss, this is caused by genetics and is the highest cause of hair loss in women.
You may notice excessive hair fall between the ages of 12-40 with this condition. You will also notice that your hair starts to fall right from the middle of your scalp.
2. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition causes hair loss on the scalp in patches. This may even progress into alopecia totalis or universalis. Alopecia totalis involves balding of the entire scalp. Alopecia universalis is rare and affects the whole body.
3. Cicatricial Alopecia
Cicatricial alopecia is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, thereby interfering with the growth of new hair. This condition may result in irreversible hair loss. When your hair falls out, it is replaced with scar tissue.
4. Traumatic Alopecia
This happens when your hair is traumatized by styling products that may damage or break it. Products that produce heat, hot combs and certain chemicals can result in excessive dryness and frizz.
They may strip away your scalp’s essential oils and moisture required by your hair. The damage caused to the hair shaft leads to easy breakage.
Signs Of Hair Loss In Women
- Overall thinning on the top of your head. Men notice bald spots more commonly, while women will see a difference in density.
- Bald patches can be seen in some cases.
- If you have gone through emotional trauma in the recent past, you may notice your hair falling in clumps in the shower or while brushing it.
- Complete hair loss can also be seen post a few medical treatments like chemotherapy.
What Can Cause Hair Loss In Women?
1. Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions can cause hair loss in women, from Hodgkin’s disease to Scelorama and Addison’s disease. The most common conditions are listed below:
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormones (1). Thyroid hormones help regulate how much energy your body uses. Any change in the levels of your thyroid hormones can affect other processes in the body, including the growth of new follicles and hair strands.
The pituitary gland is situated in the brain and regulates nearly all the hormones that your body produces. Any disturbance in secretion can affect various processes of the body, including hair growth (2).
C. Hashimoto Disease
This disease is characterized by an attack on the thyroid gland by the immune system. It may affect the secretion of the thyroid hormone, resulting in hair loss.
D. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
This is another autoimmune condition in which the body triggers immune system responses, attacking healthy cells that it perceives as foreign.
E. Lichen Planus
This is an autoimmune disease that results in raised bumps, usually around wounds. It sometimes may even affect the mouth (3). Lichen planus may be quite itchy and can result in hair fall and scarring due to constant itching.
F. Tinea Capitis
A fungal infection that affects the scalp, it causes circular, itchy patches that are even contagious (4). The infection can cause hair loss if not attended to in its early stages.
G. Celiac Disease
Gluten is a protein that is found in some foods. Celiac disease is a condition in which gluten triggers intestinal damage (5). This may result in malnutrition, affecting the growth of your hair as well.
It is always better to address the underlying cause before treating a symptom. If you are experiencing hair loss because of any of these conditions, treat the condition first.
2. Hormonal Imbalances
Hormones play a major role in determining the growth of your hair. Women go through a series of hormonal changes throughout their lifetime. A fluctuation in these hormones can result in hair fall.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that is found in female bodies as well. High levels of this hormone is associated with hair fall. Dihydrotestosterone is a derivative of testosterone and is majorly responsible for hair loss. It binds to receptors in your hair follicles, interfering with the hair growth process (6).
A. Postpartum Hair Fall
This occurs due to a reduction in female hormones - estrogen and progesterone - after giving birth. A fall in these hormones occurs because the body is preparing itself to come back to normal. This is when you may notice a sudden loss of hair strands to a large extent.
Hair fall occurs in menopausal women due to a reduction in estrogen and progesterone hormones. Your child-bearing years are coming to an end, which is why the body does not require these hormones at such high levels.
PCOS is a condition in which androgen levels tend to be high in women. This can be the cause of your hair fall as well.
Stress may even trigger hair fall in both men and women. Anything that may stress out your body mentally or physically can slow down certain processes like the production of hair follicles.
This is a temporary state of hair fall that occurs when the body is traumatized by something. It could be a stressful event like a loss in somebody’s life or a prominent change like childbirth.
This may disrupt the hair life cycle and slow it down, causing you to experience loss of hair (7). If you do notice thinning of your hair, it is likely that you’ve been taking too much stress. You may even notice a 3-month delay in the rising levels of hair fall after a stressful event.
High fever, stress, infections and diet can also cause telogen effluvium. Some medications may contribute to telogen effluvium hair fall as well. These include retinoids, antidepressants, beta blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
4. Vitamin Deficiency
Lack of some vitamins and minerals may contribute to hair loss in women (8). Research suggests that low Vitamin D levels are linked to alopecia areata in men and women. Some studies also suggest that if you are low on iron and Vitamin B, you may experience hair loss.
In case you think that your hair loss is associated with any of these deficiencies, you can try consuming foods rich in these vitamins and minerals or visit your doctor for supplements.
Treatments For Women’s Hair Loss
Minoxidil comes in the form of foams and other liquids. It has to be applied directly to the scalp. Minoxidil is usually prescribed to patients with alopecia (9) (10). It may have to be used for months together for you to be able to notice an improvement.
2. Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement is an option for those experiencing androgenic alopecia. This method focuses on supplying female sex hormones and increase their levels in a woman’s body. This may help to stimulate hair regrowth in women.
3. Topical Tretinoin
This may be recommended in combination with minoxidil by your doctor (11). Topical tretinoin can sometimes worsen hair fall. So it is important to follow-up with your doctor if he/she has recommended the same.
These medicines can be topically applied or consumed orally as well. However, the most effective treatment is to get them injected in different parts of the scalp. You may notice hair regrowth in a few weeks. Treatment can be repeated every 4 to 6 weeks.
Corticosteroids can sometimes result in skin atrophy and thinning of the scalp. If you do notice any of these side-effects, consult your doctor for an alternative.
Anthralin is used to treat alopecia areata and is considered safe and effective in treating hair loss (12). You can apply it to your scalp once a day. Starting with a few minutes, you can gradually work it up to a few hours.
Post-application, make it a point to rinse it off with cold water and soap.
In case you don’t see improvement after topical and oral forms of medication for your hair loss, you can even talk to your doctor about the various invasive methods available. Hair transplant and hair restoration can be an option for you as well.
However, hair transplants are more common to men than women. This is because hair loss in women is not as noticeable and prominent as that in men. Talk to your doctor about the risks involved before you go in for surgical methods.
A change in hormones, stress and genes contribute to hair loss in women. Certain medical conditions that involve the disruption of hormones can also cause hair loss. However, topical, oral, and invasive treatments are available to stimulate hair growth and help improve such conditions. It is always recommended to address the underlying cause before treating its symptoms. If you are dealing with any medical issues, addressing them may even help in reducing your hair fall.
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