Millions of women worldwide are affected by hair loss at some point in their life. According to the international society of hair restoration surgery (ISHRS), female comprise 14.2% of hair restoration patients. Compared to men, women are more likely to be devasted emotionally because of hair loss. If women have little or no hair, the emphasis on looks pressures women to be attractive.
What is female pattern baldness?
Female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia is the common cause of hair loss in women. It is a condition inherited from parents that can be triggered by hormonal imbalance. Hair loss can vary from thinning to complete baldness regardless of age and gender. Some of the hair loss reasons differ completely from men that include - poor diet, styling habits, harmful chemicals, menopause and more. These causes can result in severe hair loss and thinning.
Causes of female pattern baldness
Female pattern baldness is caused primarily because of hormonal changes and is hereditary. It affects more than 50% of the women over the age of 65. The key difference lies in the pattern of hair loss and how it progresses.
There are different types of female hair loss. Women produce a hormone called DHT dihydrotestosterone that is the main culprit of genetic female hair loss. This hormone shortens the growth phase by shrinking hair follicles and destroying healthy hair.
Patterned hair loss in women is seen in three forms in hair miniaturization, as below -
- Androgenic alopecia
This type of hair loss is linked with female hormones that show an imbalance between 14 to 40 years. When the function of androgen is less specific, other hormonal factors may be a behind hair loss.
- Alopecia areata
Patients with alopecia areata lose small patches of hair around the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic area. This could be the result of underlying skin conditions like - autoimmune diseases, cancer, Addison’s disease, vitiligo etc.
- Telogen effluvium
This type of hair loss can be developed when the body undergoes extreme stress due to triggers such as childbirth, pregnancy, major surgery etc.
Other causes of hair loss in women can include medications, regular use of chemical treatments, contraceptive use etc.
Can menopause or pregnancy cause female hair loss?
As said above, female pattern hair loss is all about hormonal changes. Women tend to experience hormonal changes during menopause. After menopause, women may notice a significant increase in testosterone due to the absence of estrogen. As a result, the hair follicles tend to become smaller in diameter and lighter in color - the hair falls out in bunches.
A lot of women experience post-birth hair loss. During pregnancy, the estrogen levels increase significantly. After delivery, the estrogen levels tend to decline and the hair in the resting phase starts to fall out. These changes are temporary and the hair may start to regrow after a few months. This temporary hair loss doesn’t mean that you have a nutritional deficiency. It is just because of the hormonal during menopause and pregnancy.
How it female pattern baldness diagnosed?
Female baldness can be diagnosed and treated. Your doctor will examine the scalp and take detailed history before suggesting a treatment. If it is not easily diagnosed, your doctor will advise a blood test and a hair pull test along with microscopic examination.
What are the female hair loss treatments available?
A wide range of treatment is available for female hair loss. When seeking treatment, it is important to manage expectations. Your first aim should be to stop the progression of hair loss, rather than promoting hair regrowth. The results of hair regrowth in women differ from person to person. Hence, it is not possible to predict who may or may not benefit from the treatment.
The most common treatment for female hair loss is topical medication Minoxidil that stimulates hair follicle growth. It must be used twice daily for visible results.
Hormonal treatment is known to block the effects of androgens and improve hair regrowth significantly. Whether it is preventing hair shedding, improving hair density or protecting hair from damage - a combination of minoxidil and spironolactone can give effective results.
The treatments need to continue for at least 6 months for sustained benefits.
Where to seek medical help?
See your general practitioner first who can check underlying medical conditions to determine reasons for hair loss. Based on the result, your general practitioner can refer you to a dermatologist to manage female pattern hair loss. It may be necessary for your dermatologist to perform a biopsy to determine underlying conditions.
It is important to seek to advise from authoritative sources as there are many clinics that recommend treatments that don’t necessarily work.
Some females with hair loss may be eligible for hair transplant surgery, which is the only method proven to grow hair in completely bald areas. To check if you are a candidate and whether you are suffering from female pattern baldness or male pattern baldness, you are encouraged to consult one of the prescreened Top hair restoration surgeons recommended on the Hair Transplant Network.