You might have heard of patterned hair loss, but have you heard of hair loss in a Christmas tree pattern? Unlike your Christmas tree, this type of hair loss can remain visible for much longer than just the Christmas period, but we are here to help.
If you have Christmas tree pattern hair loss (also known as Olsen pattern), you will notice gradual thinning of your hair across the top of your scalp. When you part your hair in the middle, you may see your scalp more easily through the hair. Your parting will be wider at the front part of the scalp, giving the hair thinning a triangular shape resembling a Christmas tree with the stem of the tree at the very front of your scalp, and the top of the tree around your crown. However, your hair will be thicker at the lower sides and back of your head.
This pattern of hair loss is more common in women and is also called female pattern hair loss, or androgenic alopecia. Each woman is different and not everyone’s hair loss will resemble a Christmas tree. Some women may lose hair mainly on their temples and crown; others may only experience hair loss on their crown and preserve the front hairline. The Christmas tree pattern is just one possible presentation of female pattern hair loss.
Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is very common. It is a genetic type of hair loss that can start at any age after puberty. For some women, it starts in their late teenage years, whilst for others, it may not start until after menopause.
Your genes will make you more susceptible to this type of hair loss however, there is a lot more to it. The hormone responsible for FPHL is dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Your male sex hormone testosterone converts into DHT in the presence of 5-alpha-reductase enzyme that is found in the scalp. DHT is the most potent type of androgen, or male sex hormone. When DHT is produced in the scalp, it starts attaching to androgen receptors found in specific follicles that are distributed across the top of your scalp.
This process causes many changes in the affected follicles and they start miniaturising. This means that these follicles become smaller over time. If they used to produce 4 hair strands before, they may only make a single hair strand now that is also thinner in diameter. The affected hair will grow slower and may fall more easily before it reaches its usual length. Then the follicles may remain empty for longer before they produce new hair.
All of this can worsen over time and often some follicles can be permanently lost. The more the miniaturisation process progresses, the thinner the hair looks on top of the scalp, resembling a Christmas tree pattern.
For many women FPHL does not have any obvious medical trigger apart from a family history of hair loss. However, for others, certain medical conditions and hormonal changes may aggravate the FPHL further.
The cells in your hair follicles require energy to divide and make hair fibre. This energy is coming from the nutrients you absorb from your diet. Any deficiency, especially iron and vitamin D deficiencies, can have a negative impact on the hair growth cycle, slow down hair growth, or cause telogen effluvium. FPHL is often aggravated in the presence of telogen effluvium, a condition that causes excessive hair shedding.
Some medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. Common examples include retinoids, immunosuppressants, and some hormonal treatments. In most cases, this is only temporary but sometimes, this can aggravate underlying conditions such as FPHL
Calorie deficit diets or unexplained weight loss can result in poor nutrient intake and multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as low ferritin, iron, vitamin D, B12, and folate. All of these are important for a healthy hair growth cycle, healthy skin, and healthy hair.
Emotional stress can affect you in many ways and can cause a change in your hair growth cycle. If you have an extremely traumatic experience, you may notice increased hair shedding two to three months later because many follicles may prematurely shift to their end stage of the hair cycle, causing excessive hair shedding. This is often temporary, however, multiple stressors can prolong the shedding period.
High levels of androgens, or male sex hormones, may result in more testosterone and therefore, more DHT being converted in the skin. This can cause symptoms such as acne, increased facial or bodily hair, as well as hair loss. When androgen excess is left unmanageable, it is likely to speed up the FPHL progression.
PCOS is common and can cause irregular menstrual cycles, high levels of androgens, oily skin, acne, weight gain, facial hair, polycystic ovaries, and hair loss. The type of hair loss most commonly seen in women with PCOS is female pattern hair loss because both conditions are associated with the same hormones. There are genetic factors that can make you more likely to develop PCOS and FPHL, and often changes in lifestyle can be helpful to manage the symptoms.
The function of your thyroid gland is vital for your energy, metabolism, and overall functions of your body. When your thyroid gland is overactive, you may experience excessive hair shedding; and when it is underactive, your hair wouldn’t have enough energy to grow. Either way, this can result in hair loss and a number of other unpleasant symptoms such as changes in your weight, energy, mood, and appetite.
This is a time when your body goes through significant hormonal changes. Your oestrogen reduces and the balance between the male and female sex hormones changes. This comes with an array of symptoms such as dry skin, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, weight gain, hot flushes, and often – hair loss. FPHL is commonly seen after menopause and if you already had mild signs of FPHL, the hormonal changes associated with menopause may aggravate this further.
If you notice any signs of hair loss, always consult with a specialist before you start any medication. They will help you diagnose your hair condition, and discuss suitable treatment plan for your specific case.
Topical minoxidil is the only MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved medication for female pattern hair loss.
When applied to the scalp, it increases blood circulation, bringing more nutrients and oxygenated blood to the hair follicles. Minoxidil helps the follicles to remain in their actively growing phase of the hair cycle, encouraging stronger and longer hair growth. It helps the follicle grow bigger and therefore produce multiple hair strands, increasing the hair count across the scalp. The Belgravia Centre’s pharmacy offers various minoxidil preparations in liquid or cream forms, with different formulations, minoxidil strengths, and added hair growth supporting ingredients. This helps us tailor the treatment to each individual case, depending on medical history, lifestyle, and severity of hair loss.
The HairMax Laser products are FDA-cleared devices that use photobiostimulation technology. The laser light penetrates the scalp and reaches the bottom of the hair follicles, called derma papillae. The laser light helps to grow fuller and thicker hair, and reduce the hair thinning process in cases of androgenic alopecia.
Hair Vitalics for Women are a food supplement that can help you get various vitamins, minerals, and amino acids daily to support a healthy hair growth cycle. They contain zinc, selenium and biotin that contribute to the maintenance of normal hair; copper which contributes to normal hair pigmentation; amino acids which are integral components of the hair proteins such as keratin; grape seed extract which is an excellent source of antioxidants; and soy isoflavones, plant-derived phytoestrogens.
Once you are on the journey of improving your hair, it is important to have someone that you can contact at any time for support. The Belgravia Centre offers regular check-ups with qualified hair loss specialists who are available 7 days a week. Regular contact with your specialist is vital to give you support, help you if you have questions, or review your treatment plan if something changes in your life. Additionally, regular clinical treatment therapies can be included to help you maintain your scalp and hair in a healthy condition.
If you have any medical conditions, such as PCOS, thyroid problems, or dietary deficiencies, it is important that you discuss these with your GP so you can get further support. After all, keeping yourself in good health will be positively reflected in your hair, too.
If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation in our Central London clinic with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world and we will talk to you on Zoom. Take a look through our hair regrowth photo gallery – which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world and contains over 1,000 sets of hair growth photos and verified reviews from patients of The Belgravia Centre.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.