For women, hair loss doesn’t really cross the mind. Unlike men, who are pretty much expected to loose their hair, women think they’ll keep their hair well into old age. But female pattern hair loss effects 40% of us by the age of 50 and only 45% of women have a full head of hair at 80 years old. Those are scary statistics. We pride our hair. It can make us feel beautiful or unattractive; our confidence weighs heavily on how we feel about it. Losing most of our hair can be psychologically damaging, causing low self-esteem and depression. But education may be helpful. If women know why this happens and that it is actually very common and normal, maybe we won’t be as embarrassed by our inevitable loss of hair. So let’s talk about it.
What exactly is female pattern hair loss? Like male pattern hair loss, it is the thinning and loss of hair; though it does happen a bit differently in women. In men the hair loss starts with a receding hair line followed my balding on the top of the head. They can also loose all of their hair. Women experience thinning of the hair in the center parting and crown of their head and it rarely results in complete baldness. It can affect women in any age group but more commonly affects women after menopause. The hair loss also occurs over time but is not constant. You’ll usually experience periods of hair loss followed by months of none.
The cause of female pattern hair loss is not fully known but there are a few things that it is likely to be related to. Age is number one on that list. As we all know, a lot of things change as we age. And unfortunately, this is one of those changes. Over time our hair follicles shrink which causes thinner, shorter hair to grow from them. Though the follicles do not die, they can eventually stop growing new hair. Your folks could also be to blame. Another potential cause is genetics. So, if one or both of your parents suffer from hair loss, chances are, you will too. Finally, higher levels of the male hormone androgen could be another cause. This hormone is always present in females but levels can increase after menopause causing the hair on your head to thin.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent female pattern hair loss from happening. But don’t be discouraged. There are treatments that can help. Though there is no cure, there are ways to help slow the progression of female pattern hair loss. The most common treatment is minoxidil. This medication comes in a 2% solution and a 5% foam that you apply to your scalp. It can cause hair growth in a small percentage of people but more commonly can slow the progression of hair loss. Hormone medications are also commonly used. They can counteract the effects of increased androgen levels. Vitamins are another option that can be used to make thin hair thicker. There are many different brands of pills that combine different types of B vitamins which are supposed to help with hair and nail growth. They often have hair and nail in the name so they are easy to find.
If you don’t want to go down the medicine route, you do have some other choices. There are colored sprays and bulking powders that can cover the areas of thinner hair. Changing your hairstyle so that thinner areas are covered could be an easy answer or even investing in a good quality wig or hair weave. Hair transplants can also be done. The results of this treatment are permanent and often look very nice and natural. But be warned, it can cause skin infections and be expensive depending on the amount of hair loss.
All of these options are for cosmetic purposes only. If you have female pattern hair loss and you don’t mind how your hair looks than none of these things are necessary. It is not a sign of any underlying medical problems. Just a normal part of aging. But if you are unhappy with your appearance, you don’t have to feel that way. Talk to your doctor and find the best option for you and your health.