Hair loss in women

Hair loss in women

It was the winter of 1989 when I went bald.

And although I knew in advance that I would lose my hair from chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, nothing prepared me for the feeling of being completely stripped of a significant part of my identity. Chemotherapy has made every strand of my hair a psychologically painful afterthought.

Luckily, a few months after chemotherapy ended, my experience with baldness ended as well. Just as the buds were blooming with the promise of spring, fluff-soft hair sprayed my scalp and in no time I had a full head of hair. I embraced and celebrated every last strand, feeling whole once again.

Today, decades later, I am dealing with hair loss again. Thankfully, this time it’s age — and not chemotherapy — but the unexpected shedding still stings. It’s distressing to find handfuls of hair left in a hairbrush or clogging up the shower drain.

I’m in good (but unhappy) company: Hair loss affects about 1 in 3 women at some point in our life. And while it’s natural to lose about 100 hairs a day, age and other factors have their own agenda and can accelerate loss while slowing gain.

To get to the root of the problem, we spoke with Elizabeth Liotta, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council, about hair loss and treatment options if you need help.

Who is affected by hair loss?

Any woman can be affected by thinning or hair loss, especially women over the age of 40, when hair growth slows down and eventually hair follicles stop producing hair.

This can be really difficult. “As women, our hair is so important to our concept of beauty. Hair loss or thinning hair is very traumatic,” Liotta said.

What causes hair loss in women?

There can be many different causes of hair loss for women. Besides aging and chemotherapy, other reasons include:

Androgenic alopecia. This condition is known as female pattern baldness. It is a common form of hair loss that follows a specific pattern. In women, the pattern is progressive widening of the area where the hair separates and thinning of the hair on the top and upper part of the scalp.

Fatigue. Physical and emotional stress, including chronic illnesses, injuries, and relationship issues, can lead to temporary hair loss by putting hair follicles into a “resting” phase. and stop the production of new hair strands. This is called telogen effluvium. “When the body is stressed, hair growth phases get thrown out of sync,” Liotta said.

Medicines. For some people, hair thinning or loss can be a side effect of some medications, which can include blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants.

I’m leaving. After you give birth, your estrogen levels drop and your hair comes in the resting phase of growth. Hair loss usually peaks four months after deliveryand for most women, hair will grow back within a year.

Menopause or hormonal imbalances. Lowering estrogen and progesterone levels can increase androgen (male hormone) levels. Narrowing of hair follicles can cause hair to become thinner, slow down hair growth and accelerate hair loss.

Vitamin deficiencies. A lack of biotin, iron or zinc can affect the hair folliclesleading to thinning or loss of hair.

Hair dyes and other hair processing agents. Over-processed hair is vulnerable to breakage, damage and subsequent loss.

Traction alopecia/traumatic alopecia. Over time, wear your hair in tight braids or other styles that make it look pulled hard away from the scalp can cause damage and loss. The great news: Your hair usually grows back once you switch to a gentler form of styling.

Alopecia areata. This autoimmune condition is a skin disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks its hair follicles. Sometimes the hair grows back on its own, while other times corticosteroids or other treatments are needed.

Read “How I Learned to Love My Bald Self” >>

Thyroid disease. If thyroid levels are too high (hyperthyroidism) or too low (hypothyroidism), it can cause hair loss. This type of hair loss is reversible if you treat the underlying condition.

Genetics. Both men and women can inherit hair loss genes that affect their hair follicles. Genes can come from your mother, father, or both.

Covid hair loss. A prolonged period with many illnesses, including Covid-19, can act as a stressor and push in more hairs than normal in the shedding phase (known as telogen effluvium). Hair begins to fall out two to three months after the illness, and the loss can last six to nine months before stopping.

How can you know what is causing your hair loss?

Hair loss often has more than one reason. For this reason, Liotta suggests that a healthcare professional (HCP) should evaluate you thoroughly to understand what’s going on.

They should review your medical history, medications, nutritional status, and hairdressing habits (tinctures, gels, relaxers, hot irons) as well as give you a physical exam. Additionally, blood tests and scalp biopsies can give your doctor a more in-depth look at what may be behind your thinning hair or baldness.

Hair loss treatments

While some hair loss can be cured or reversed, other times it can be permanent, depending on the cause. Hair loss treatments include:

  • Topical or oral minoxidil
  • Spironolactone
  • Hair transplants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunotherapy
  • LIKE inhibitors
  • Antiandrogens
  • Low-level laser therapy or platelet-rich plasma (PRP)

Do natural hair loss remedies work?

Some people swear by natural hair loss supplements. Others claim ingredients like saw palmetto, iron, onion juice or pumpkin seed oil. Some studies show promising results for natural remedies but the numbers are small and more research is needed to know if they really work. It’s also important to note that too much of some nutrients (like vitamins A and E and selenium) can actually cause hair loss.

If you are worried about losing your hair, try to treat it gently, eat a healthy diet and talk to your healthcare professional for treatment ideas and options.

From articles on your site
  • Alopecia areata: losing hair? Do not despair ›
  • Hair loss affects many aspects of life ›
  • Is it female pattern baldness or normal hair loss? – Healthy women ›
  • What to know about hair loss treatments for women ›
  • Menopause and Hair Loss ›
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