It’s a common misbelief that hair loss is a male problem, but in fact, most women will experience hair loss in their lifetime too.
Diagnosing hair loss in men is a fairly simple task – the large majority suffer from genetic hair loss, which presents in easily recognisable patterns. However, diagnosing and treating hair loss in women involves a lengthier elimination process to discover the underlying cause.
Women’s hair loss may present in many different ways depending on what’s causing it. Some types of hair loss go away on their own, while others require medical intervention or may even be permanent.
Here are the most common hair loss causes in women, how they present and what treatments are available for each.
Cause #1: Genetics (female pattern hair loss)
Unlike the common misconception, both men and women can have hereditary hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia or female pattern hair loss). In fact, androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women.
Female pattern hair loss doesn’t present in the distinct patterns of male pattern hair loss, but rather as overall thinning and a widening part. It’s caused by a genetic sensitivity to the hormone DHT which attacks the hair follicles, rendering them unable to support hair growth.
Female pattern hair loss doesn’t lead to full baldness, as it can do in men. However, it is a progressive condition, which means you’ll continue to lose hair as the years and decades go on.
Treatment: Prescription treatment can stop or slow down genetic hair loss. Out of the two types of approved prescription hair loss treatments on the market, one is suitable for women. The earlier you start, the better the results!
Alternatively, a hair transplant can help restore hair to areas where the scalp has become visible.
Cause #2: Tight hairstyles (traction alopecia)
Hairstyles that pull on your roots (think tight ponytails, buns, extensions, weaves, braids and so forth) can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. It can usually be reversed, but if the hair follicles are severely damaged, it can lead to permanent hair loss.
Treatment: Change your hairstyle and give your hair follicles time to heal. Avoid tight hairstyles and excessive styling and cut long hair shorter. If you think these changes won’t cut it (excuse the pun), speak with a dermatologist for personalised advice.
Cause #3: Stress or shock (telogen effluvium)
Stress-based hair loss is known as telogen effluvium. It’s not a permanent form of hair loss, as long as the underlying trigger is addressed. Many women experience telogen effluvium after childbirth, but it can be caused by any major shock to the body. A period of illness, a high fever, or even mental stress can lead to the body shutting down processes that are not crucial for survival, which includes hair growth.
There may be a considerable delay between cause and effect when it comes to telogen effluvium. If you’ve experienced a stressful event, the hair may shed about three months later.
Treatment: Rest, self-care and healthy habits to reduce stress. In most cases, the hair will grow back when the trigger that caused telogen effluvium is removed. Volumising hair products can help create a fuller appearance while the hair recovers.
Cause #4: Nutritional deficiency
If you follow a restrictive diet and have noticed increased hair shedding since, the chances are you might have a nutritional deficiency. Especially those on a vegan or vegetarian diet should make sure they get enough protein and iron. Biotin and zinc are just some of the other crucial nutrients for healthy hair.
Treatment: Speak with your GP and they can refer you to blood tests to check for any nutritional deficiencies. A daily supplement is a great insurance policy for covering your nutritional bases, but a healthy and varied diet is key to general well-being.
Cause #5: Hormonal imbalance
Hormonal changes and hormonal imbalance can also cause hair loss in women. Menopause, thyroid conditions and coming off hormonal birth control, among other things, can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
Treatment: It depends, so best to speak with your doctor! Depending on what is causing your hormones to go out of whack, the issue may resolve itself or you may need medical treatment.
Cause #6: Chemotherapy or radiation therapy (anagen effluvium)
Anagen effluvium refers to the loss of hairs in the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle. It’s typically caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Treatment: Hair growth usually returns 3-6 months after stopping the treatment. A topical prescription treatment may help speed up the regrowth.
Cause #7: Alopecia areata – an autoimmune disorder
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where round bald patches appear suddenly. The patches most often occur on the scalp, but alopecia areata can also affect eyebrows, eyelashes and facial hair.
Treatment: There’s no reliable cure for alopecia areata, but spontaneous regrowth is common. If you think you may suffer from alopecia areata, it’s best to speak with a doctor to get a diagnosis. If it’s causing you severe distress, your doctor may be able to refer you to other services, such as counselling.
What to do if you’ve noticed hair loss
When it comes to hair loss, better safe than sorry! If you’re noticing unusually heavy hair loss, it’s best to speak with your GP or a dermatologist as soon as possible. They’ll be able to guide you towards the right treatment.
If you are experiencing hereditary hair loss, you can book a free doctor’s consultation through the Gro Online Clinic to discuss prescription treatment. To get personalized advice on a hair transplant, book a free consultation with one of our Hair Growth Specialists.