Although it sounds contradictory, a widow’s peak is generally a term reserved for men. However, as more people become aware that hair loss is not just a male domain, it’s becoming clear that some women also experience a receding hairline. The female version, however, is called frontal fibrosing alopecia.
What is it?
Frontal fibrosing alopecia is a form of scarring alopecia, characterised by a band-like pattern of hair loss on the front and sides of the scalp. It’s a progressive condition that appears as a receding hairline – similar to that in men – and can cause women to lose up to five inches of hair. The eyebrows are often thinned or may even be absent and there have been cases of associated eyelash and abdomen hair loss, but these are rare.
Unlike most forms of hair loss, which can be mainly attributed to heredity, scientists believe frontal fibrosing alopecia is caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles and causing inflammation. This damages the stem cells within the follicle and if they are damaged, hair is unable to grow back. The skin in the affected area may look normal but is usually pale or mildly scarred. There may also be mild redness and inflammation around the hair follicles.
Frontal fibrosing alopecia can be confused with other forms of hair loss like female pattern hair loss or traction alopecia , and although it is a form of scarring alopecia, it is not like other forms of scarring alopecia such as discoid lupus erythematosus and folliculitis. That is why an expert diagnosis from a hair loss professional is always recommended for any type of alopecia.
Who is at risk?
Also known as post-menopausal frontal fibrosing alopecia, it mostly affects post-menopausal women over the age of 40, although it has been reported in men as well and may occur before menopause.
Because the vast majority of women who suffer frontal fibrosing alopecia are post-menopausal, it is thought that there may be a hormonal link. Genetic factors are also possible and because it’s a fairly new condition, an environmental trigger is thought to possibly be at work also.
What can be done?
Diagnosis is usually verified by the presence of the typical whitish, scarred strip of hair loss at the hairline and possibly reddened, inflamed hair follicles. However, other evaluation methods may include a complete blood count, a thyroid function panel and other hormone tests.
Oral steroids and antimalarials may temporarily slow the progression of hair loss, but they could have side effects such as depression, insomnia, abdominal pain, skin rashes and retina damage. And despite the assumed hormonal link, hormone replacement therapy has not been shown to be of any benefit.
Treatment is based around trying to control the inflammation causing the damage to the hair follicle. Some surgeons will also carry out hair transplants on the scarred areas of hair loss in frontal fibrising alopecia.
Up to 50% of women experience hair loss after menopause and most of the time it’s presented as diffuse-spread hair all over the scalp, or thinning hair at the crown. Clinical hair loss treatments have demonstrated to be many a girl’s saving grace when it comes to maintaining hair growth, be it pre- or post-menopause.
If you’d like to find out more or would like to arrange a free consultation with a hair loss specialist, call the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email. Or, if you can’t make it to the centre you can still take advantage of the online diagnostic form. Be sure to attach a few photos (see before and during treatment photos for guidance) and once you’ve submitted the form, a treatment advisor will contact you to discuss your results and personal recommendations.