How To Deal with Female Hair Loss

Surprised woman with falling hair

The first impulse of a woman is typically to panic if she discovers hair loss.  Many men panic, too!  For women, the prospect of losing hair can be even more emotionally difficult.  But there are ways to deal with female hair loss.  With the right understanding of your condition and knowledge of available treatments, you can successfully rebound from hair loss woes and recover that confidence you have always enjoyed. 

A great majority of female hair loss can be attributed to three conditions. 

  • Androgenetic alopecia is by far the most common kind of female hair loss.  When you hear people talking about "female pattern hair loss," they're talking about this.  Female pattern hair loss can occur anywhere over the entire scalp.  Roots of hair in the area of thinning will continue to replace shed hairs with new ones, but they'll be progressively shorter until the hair is barely visible.  Though androgenetic alopecia can afflict women in their 20s and slowly begin even as early as puberty, the majority of women with female pattern hair loss experience it after menopause.
  • Women with alopecia areata will experience patchy hair loss areas scattered over their head.  The culprit?  Our immune system.  In this case, the body is actually assaulting the hairs.
  • Telogen effluvium spells similarly swift hair loss, but with a more predictable outcome of hair loss just behind the hair line and stretching back to the top of the head.

What kind of hair loss are you experiencing?  Is it a gradual thinning over a broad part of your scalp, or a swifter thinning in specific places?  Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or primary care doctor, so that you can diagnose the condition.  Just as female hair loss can present itself and behave in different ways, it can also respond better to different treatment methods.

  1. Genes and hormones. Many consider female pattern hair loss to be genetic, but genes and hormones are both at work.  Sometimes the hair loss does not respond entirely to treatment, but it can be slowed down dramatically with treatment. 
    • Rogaine, a product containing the medication minoxidil, has been successful to varying degrees in the treatment or slowing of this kind of hair loss.
    • Antiandrogens can combat female pattern hair loss as well.  Some hair is genetically more susceptible to the affects of certain hormones called androgens.  Though some antiandrogens are not available in the United States because the FDA has not approved them, others are prescribed to those suffering from this kind of hair loss.
    • Hormone changes brought on by pregnancy, birth control and menopause can all cause thinning hair as well.  Some hormonal swings are to be expected, as with pregnancy, and will correct themselves.  But if your doctor detects a more chronic hormonal imbalance, hormone treatment can be administered to restore balance and perhaps put an end to the hair loss.
  2. Stress.  Some women experience thinning hair because of an intensely stressful episode in their lives.  Telogen effluvium and alopecia areata often occur immediately following - or, in many cases, two or three months after - a really stressful event (though alopecia areata can sometimes occur seemingly out of the blue).  Doesn't seem fair, does it?  The good news is that this kind of hair loss can correct itself within a few months.

    The less pleasing news is that years can sometimes pass before the hair loss is reversed, and other times the condition is more chronic.  That's why women with these conditions often use Rogaine.  And in the case of alopecia areata, doctors sometimes administer cortisone injections into the thinning spots.  One of the biggest steps you can take to deal with these types of hair loss is to get rid of the stress!

  3. Diet.  Get your recommended daily dose of B-vitamins, folic acid and iron.  Just as diet can affect the health of other areas of your body, it can also affect the health of your hair.  Telogen effluvium can actually be brought on by protein-deficiency.
  4. Chemotherapy and prescription drugs.  Chemotherapy causes a form of hair loss known as anagen effluvium.  It usually only takes a few weeks for hair to return after chemotherapy.  But some prescription drugs, ranging from antidepressants to blood pressure drugs, can cause female hair loss as well.  Talk to your doctor about the medicine you take and study up on potential side effects.  It is very possible that a different, equally effective drug exists without the undesired potential side effect of hair loss.
  5. More serious medical conditions.  Hair loss can occasionally be a sign of another illness that requires medical attention.  Diabetes, thyroid conditions, lupus and HIV/AIDS can sometimes cause hair loss.  Talk to your doctor to ensure that the hair loss is strictly a cosmetic issue.
  6. Age.  Hair loss is also just a fact of aging for most of us.  Men and women tend to lose hair as they grow older.  Not many people realize that so many women gradually lose hair with age, but by some accounts half of all post-menopausal women experience hair loss.

Talk to your doctor to find the best treatment for you.  The doctor will want to hear about your menstrual cycle, your diet, what medications you take, and any recent illnesses or intense stress.  Diagnostic work may be conducted at that point to pinpoint the cause of the hair loss.

Aside from the treatments available to combat different forms of hair loss, you can find strength among others by joining forums or support groups.  Form a network of support as you deal with female hair loss.  By doing so, you can also learn about the many stylistic methods that mask hair loss quite effectively.  If done the right way, even something as simple as curling, can create the impression of thicker, healthier hair.  
Most importantly, don't ever be embarrassed or ashamed - hair loss is something many women experience and successfully treat.  You'll just rarely hear about it because most of those women were embarrassed or ashamed as well!  You're not alone, and today's knowledge about female hair loss equips you with some powerful weapons to regain your head of hair.    


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