We don’t blink an eye when it comes to men losing their hair, but in women, it’s not a topic anyone knows anything about or discusses. This is because the causes of hair loss in women can be more serious than in men, but it’s also far less understood.
Alopecia – hair loss – is the broad term we use to describe hair loss in anyone, anytime. Women lose hair for a variety of reasons, including hormonal, chemical, from drugs, surgery, anaemia, and dieting. The shedding of hair usually lasts a month or two, then recovers, but sometimes alopecia is long-term. This we usually call female pattern hair loss (FPHL).
Reasons for hair loss:
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Pregnancy (read more about pregnancy-related hair loss here)
- Thyroid conditions
- Losing a lot of blood
- Anaemia (iron deficiency)
- Alopecia areata (autoimmune condition)
- Female pattern hair loss (FPHL), a genetic condition
How do you know if you are losing your hair?
It’s usually very obvious, though it might only be obvious to you when you wash your hair. Most people are quite aware of just how much hair comes out in your hands with the shampoo each time. When that amount increases, even marginally, you know about it, but it can creep up on you.
Female pattern hair loss
Typically this sort of hair loss begins over the top and front of the scalp in a thinning pattern similar to that of men, with the more noticeable baldness happening in the middle. The crown is the most obvious area of thinning, however a ring can appear joining your ears. Your hair will start to shed before any baldness appears, though if you miss this cue, your hair will simply appear less full and thick. A thinning ponytail is a clue.
FPHL happens in fits and starts. An episode will appear, then disappear, over three to six months. It might take years for it to appear again. Episodes will start to get closer and closer together until you are losing hair all the time. Even though FPHL may become severe, some hair is always retained, unlike men.
Why does FPHL occur?
FPHL happens because your hair follicles shrink and become miniature. The hair follicles – now tiny – only produce a small, thin hair. Only a few follicles will be affected at the start, followed by more. Over time, many more follicles become miniature. This happens due to your genetic response to androgens, which affects cells at their growth stage. Hair follicles on the top of the head are more sensitive to androgens than follicles on other parts of the body.
You do not have any control over FPHL, sadly, but you can also rest assured that it is not because of your hair products, shampoo, conditioner, blow drying, straightening, washing, or not washing, or air, food, or stress. This is a largely genetic process, so you can thank your relatives.
Treatment of FPHL
The first year is very important in terms of treatment, so don’t wait to see your dermatologist. The sooner you seek treatment for female hair loss, the better the results. Treatments are available with varying degrees of success, to block androgens and/or help regrow hair. Don’t wait too long to seek help.
Losing your hair?
We can help.