Unfortunately hair loss is a fact of life for 40% of women. Sometimes it’s a temporary condition, instigated by medical, environment or lifestyle influences, and can be reversed. Other times it is genetic and only a lifetime course of medication can stabilise the process. But if you are affected and know the facts about women’s hair loss and the treatment options available, you’ll be in a better position to manage and control the outcome.
What Causes Hair Loss in Women?
There are no reliable statistics of prevalence, but like men, hair loss in women can be hereditary. It starts out as thinning hair, mainly centered at the top of the scalp, rather than the sides or back. You might not notice excess hair shedding, per say, instead your hair gradually becomes finer. This is called female pattern hair loss.
Like men, women’s genetic hair loss is caused by an off-shoot of the male sex hormone testosterone. When in the presence of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It’s usually harmless, but in those who have the genetic predisposition to hair loss, DHT attaches to the receptor sites in the cells of the hair follicles and restricts the blood and nutrient flow, causing the follicles to shrink. With each hair growth cycle, the new hair becomes finer because the follicle is smaller, and it becomes weaker because the blood and nutrients can’t reach the cells to nourish the hair growth.
Often women don’t realise they’re thinning until they’ve lost half the hair density they used to have. To monitor your hair’s thickness, part it in the centre and observe the gap which shows your scalp. If it is wider than it used to be, or if you can see a considerable amount of scalp through your hair, you may wish to consult a hair loss specialist for a diagnosis. Another marker may be your hair tie, for instance, if you have to loop it around your ponytail another notch.
A number of medical and nutritional problems and medication often list hair loss as a side effect, such as:
- The contraceptive pill
- Anorexia and bulimia
- Iron-deficiency anaemia
- Under- and over-active thyroid
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Accutaine, Roaccutaine or isotretinoin
Hair loss as a result of medical or nutritional problems and medications leads to diffuse hair thinning, similar to female pattern hair loss but not restricted to the top of the head, but can also result in excessive shedding.
A woman’s hair is in its prime condition during pregnancy, but after the birth hair loss often causes anxiety among new mothers. The reason for the excess hair shedding is actually due to the rebalancing of hormones. While pregnant, a build up of oestrogen retains the hair strands that would normally be shed during the course of the hair lifecycle. When the hormones level out following childbirth, the strands that are overstaying their welcome are shed. However, they are replaced by new ones unless the ordeal has triggered female pattern hair loss.
What are the Treatment Options for Women’s Hair Loss?
Minoxidil is an easy-to-apply topical hair loss treatment and a licensed medical product. It has been conclusively proven to stabilise hair loss and generate growth in the majority of users, by stimulating blood flow and opening up potassium channels to allow the transportation of nutrients to the hair follicle. Although, the exact mechanism of how minoxidil works is not known for certain. The fact however is, that minoxidil is the only hair loss product that is most likely to produce the best results for women.
Hair transplantation is safe and suitable for women, but generally for a woman to be a candidate for the procedure, the type of hair loss needs to be scarring alopecia (caused by burns or surgery), traction alopecia (a form of scarring), or other extreme hair loss conditions. For these conditions, transplants may be a viable option, but because female pattern hair loss is the result of DHT, there would be no guarantee that the hair would continue to grow after the procedure since the follicles would still be susceptible to that chemical.
Low-Level-Laser Therapy (LLLP) is a medical treatment that uses light-emitting diodes to stimulate cellular function at the root of the hair follicle. The HairMax LaserComb is the only version of laser therapy that has the clearance of the FDA for the use as a hair loss treatment device. It helps speed up and generates stronger hair growth. Although it is safe to use, specialists at the Belgravia Centre do not recommend it as a stand-alone treatment. Rather, it should be used to augment the clinically proven hair loss treatments such as minoxidil for one to receive maximum benefits.
Women are often recommended natural and herbal supplements for a variety of reasons and hair supplements specifically are often recommended as part of a comprehensive and holistic, if you like, hair loss treatment programme. While no hair supplement will actually stop hair loss or generate new growth, they can ensure the body receives the right vitamins and minerals to help improve the strength and quality of the hair.
Hair loss can be a stressful experience for a lot of women, but it is not always permanent and there are ways to control and even reverse the process. For more information, or to arrange a free consultation, contact The Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email. Alternatively, for a free remote diagnosis complete the online diagnostic form and a specialist will contact you with the results and advice.