It’s easy to assume that hair loss is a problem which only affects men, yet did you know that as many as six million women in the UK experience some form of hair loss? It seems that for many women, hair loss is still a taboo subject, rarely discussed. Many women spend large sums of money on ineffective treatments, rather than addressing the root cause of the problem.
What causes hair loss in women?
Women’s hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, from stress, which can lead to the development of a condition known as Telogen Effluvium, to Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune condition that can be triggered by extreme shock or trauma.
One trigger of certain kinds of hair loss in women is hormonal changes. These can impact your emotional and physical well-being, and for some women, the use of birth control pills can cause hair loss. Being prescribed male hormone treatments (often used to treat gynaecological problems) could also increase the amount of testosterone in the body, which can affect the hair follicles, causing thinning hair in those who have a hereditary sensitivity to DHT – the hormone responsible for androgenic alopecia (female pattern hair loss), which is formed from testosterone.
The menopause, PCOS and hair loss
Hair loss is common in women going through the menopause, and has been linked to falling levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body – after menopause, the body stops producing oestrogen. In fact, a study of 1,008 women revealed that 25% of women aged 50 to 69 and 28% of women aged 70 to 79 were experiencing hair loss.
Other conditions which can affect hormonal balance in the body, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which causes the ovaries to product too much testosterone, can lead to hair loss which usually presents as a bald patch on top of the scalp.
Pregnancy and terminations
Postpartum hair loss is a normal occurrence for women after giving birth. Whilst pregnant, hormone levels affect the hair follicles, pushing them into their ‘growth’ phase. This is why many pregnant women have thick, lustrous hair!
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After your baby is born, when hormone levels return to normal, some of your hair prematurely enters its resting phase and is subsequently shed.
Hair loss can also occur after a termination, when changes in hormone levels cause hair to enter the resting phase before being shed. Stressful life experiences such as pregnancy and terminations could also cause the stress-related hair loss condition, Telogen Effluvium.
A confidence issue
Any form of female hair loss can seriously affect your confidence, as Dr Harries, consultant dermatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, explains: “Our society is so focused on image, and hair loss is much harder for women than men. It does have a tremendous impact on self-confidence and quality of life. A study we did looking at a form of hair loss called scarring hair loss showed these women had higher levels of anxiety and depression.”
Tackling the cause
Blood tests can help identify or rule out an underlying condition, such as iron-deficiency anaemia or a thyroid condition, but for many women, a visit to a professional hair loss expert is the best move to get to the root of the problem.
Women may feel that they need to spend money on supplements, shampoos and other treatments promising to reverse or slow hair loss, but these won’t address the cause. The only proven medication licensed by the MHRA in the UK for the treatment of female pattern hair loss, and which has also provided welcome results in treating other hair loss conditions, is minoxidil. If you are experiencing excessive shedding and think your hormones may be responsible, it’s best to see a specialist who can prescribe a bespoke treatment plan.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.