Serious hair loss affects an estimated eight million women in the UK and many more suffer from more minor hair thinning. Many factors cause hair loss in women but in any situation there are things you can do to cope and proven, reliable treatment options that can help restore hair.
Female Pattern Hair Loss
This type of hair loss normally starts with gradual thinning across the top of the head and is caused by an abnormal reaction to the male hormone testosterone. It’s quite common and affects around one in ten women although after menopause it’s far more common and your risk is higher if it runs in your family.
What to do: The earlier you start treatment, the greater your chances of preventing further hair loss. Talk to a hair loss specialist and find out about the proven hair loss treatments for women. You may be prescribed minoxidil which stops hair loss in most women and helps hair grow back, but it is a dosage-dependant medication that should be administered at the right strength for each woman. Various hair growth boosters can also improve its effectiveness in treating women’s hair loss.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
You’re hair will probably be about the healthiest it’s ever been during pregnancy. The increased levels of oestrogen affect the hair growth lifecycle and the follicles remain in the growth phase (anagen) longer than usual. Hair appears thick, shiny and full of vitality, but after the birth thinning occurs as all the hair that’s hung around in the anagen stage falls with the rest during the telogen phase. Your hair will temporarily take a back seat as your body’s resources are used to replenish the rest of your system.
What to do: The disruption to the hair growth lifecycle and hair loss after childbirth generally won’t last long. As hormone levels start to return to normal, so does normal hair growth. Hair supplements may be helpful during this time but consult your doctor first.
Illnesses and Drug Treatment
Cushing syndrome, coeliac disease, diabetes, thyroid disorders and polycystic ovarian syndrome have all been linked to hair loss. Along with various other symptoms, thinning hair is quite common in people with these conditions. Some drugs can also cause hair loss as a side effect but you should never stop taking prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.
What to do: Hair loss treatments can assist the body to help reproduce hair whilst it’s recovering from a crisis but the underlying cause also needs to be dealt with. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and discuss tests to diagnose or rule out these conditions. They can be controlled and some can even be treated with the right therapy. If you’re concerned that your medication is causing your hair to thin, ask about alternatives.
Women have always dealt with stress but these days more and more women are taking on two full-time jobs – motherhood and a career. The constant physical stress of leading almost two lives has seen the number of cases of hair loss in women double in the past ten years. Emotional stress also affects the hair whereby increased cortisol levels induce the hormone changes that are responsible for hair loss.
What to do: Stress can be hard to pinpoint as the culprit because often hair loss is delayed by up to three months. If the stress was a one-off event, the situation will generally correct itself but hair supplements could be beneficial to improve the health and quality of the hair. Taking time off work could be helpful in the short term if you’re continually feeling stressed, but you need to start allocating more time to yourself and incorporating stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation into your lifestyle.
Poor Nutrition and Extreme Dieting
A lack of iron is the most common nutritional deficiency, especially in women. Iron deficiency anaemia can lead to thinning hair as can extreme dieting. If you’re losing weight at a rate of more than two pounds per week, it’s not just your body that will be getting thinner and weaker.
What to do: Iron deficiency anaemia can be diagnosed by a simple blood test and if this is the problem, your doctor can prescribe iron tablets while you attempt to replenish your stores naturally. You should aim for two servings a day of foods such as red meat, fish, eggs, bread, fortified cereal and green, leafy vegetables. And if you’re excessive weight loss is causing your hair to thin, consider a more sensible approach of eating five small meals a day which incorporate the foods for healthy hairand regular cardio workouts.
Certain hairstyles such as ponytails, braids, dreadlocks, hair extensions or even the regular use of tight rollers can cause hair loss. The constant, tight pulling on the hair could be damaging the follicles and where the hair is being pulled is where you’ll notice it starting to disappear.
What to do: The most common mistake people make when experiencing hair loss of this kind is that they cover it with weaves or add hair extensions rather than deal with the problem but it’s the worst thing you can do as sometimes it can stop new hair follicles developing and lead to permanent hair loss. If the pulling is stopped before there is scarring of the scalp and permanent damage to the root, hair usually grows back normally. However minoxidil may be needed to induce hair re-growth and you should consult a stylist to recommend a safe styling regime.
This is an autoimmune disease that affects around one in 100 people but it tends to run in families and can be triggered by stress. It presents as small patches of hair loss on the scalp when your immune system goes into overdrive and starts attacking the hair follicles. In very rare instances it can lead to complete loss of hair on the head (alopecia totalis) as is the case with Gail Porter, or even the body (alopecia universalis).
What to do: Inform your doctor and talk to a hair loss specialist. In majority of cases the hair grows back itself within a year, but if hair hasn’t started to grow back after six months it may be worth considering treatment. There’s a wide range of treatments that include steroids, transplant surgery and medical hair loss treatments but it’s always advised to try the medical treatments first before resorting to steroids or surgery.
Contact the Belgravia Centre for more information about women’s hair loss or call 020 7730 6666 to book an appointment with a hair loss specialist.