When we think of hair loss it’s usually men that come to mind. Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, isn’t just a man’s issue; it also affects many women in the UK and is called — you guessed it — female pattern baldness. In fact, Alopecia UK estimates that approximately 50% of women over the age of 65 are affected by the condition.
Losing your hair as a woman can be a traumatic experience, negatively impacting your confidence and making it difficult to talk about. For this reason, we’ve decided to take a deeper dive into the subject to better understand the causes of female hair loss and the effect it can have on those who suffer from it.
Common causes of female hair loss
The link between hair loss and menopause is common, due to decreased production of progesterone and estrogen. Because these hormones play a role in hair growth, when they decrease, hair may grow slower and begin to thin. This also promotes the increase of androgens (male hormones) found in small amounts in women, causing the hair follicles on the head to shrink, leading to hair loss.
Of course, hormones are often uncontrollable elements of hair loss. However, you can improve the health and appearance of your hair by staying hydrated throughout the day, keeping styling tools to a minimum and incorporating nutrients into your diet that promote hair growth.
Some women may experience hair loss after pregnancy due to the shifting of hormones. High levels of estrogen during pregnancy mean your usual hair loss rate is decreased. After giving birth, hormones begin to return to normal, meaning extra hair gained during pregnancy begins to fall out. Although you may feel worried about this, hair loss is unlikely to be permanent and usually resolves with time.
Hair loss is strongly influenced by your genetic makeup. Female pattern hair loss, for example, is a hereditary condition that involves the gradual thinning of the part line, affecting 20% of women. Even though there are many reasons for hair loss, if women in your family have experienced it, it may explain yours as well. The condition is very common, with the NHS estimating that 40% of women over 70 experience female-pattern baldness, possibly due to changing hormones after menopause.
Can stress cause hair loss? Unfortunately, yes — it is one of the biggest triggers of hair loss. Stress can increase levels of testosterone which, when converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), interrupts hair growth. When stress hormones are released to assist us in coping with situations, they can have a significant impact on the body. If the situation is ongoing excess stress hormones can result in hair loss.
Of course, women can take measures to avoid stress, meaning this hair loss probably isn’t permanent. Keeping a healthy lifestyle — eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a good work-life balance — can help reduce stress.
Your general health could be the reason your hair is thinning or falling out, with hair loss often being a side effect of medical conditions such as lupus, thyroid disease, and anaemia. Medications such as birth control and steroids can also cause hormone-related hair loss.
Styling your hair in tight ponytails or braids that pull on your roots can damage hair follicles, resulting in your hair falling out. This condition is called traction alopecia.
Hair loss in this form can be slowed and resolved if the problem is recognised quickly. However, if diagnosed too late, hair follicles may be destroyed, meaning regrowth is not possible.
Why don’t women talk about their hair loss?
Harvard Health Publishing suggests at least a third of women are affected by hair loss at some point in their lives. So why is female hair loss still a taboo subject?
Long, thick hair has been associated with femininity, youth, and fertility throughout history. Therefore, women often feel a loss of identity and damage to their self-esteem when their hair begins to thin or fall out. This is often a deeply upsetting and traumatic experience, meaning discussing it with others — or even admitting it to yourself — can be difficult.
Whilst men’s hair loss is widely accepted in society, female hair loss is not often discussed, with women often preferring to cover up with head scarves and wigs. Hair loss is nothing to be ashamed of and can be treated in many ways.
Treating female hair loss
Whilst hair loss is nothing to be ashamed of, hair transplants for conditions such as androgenetic alopecia can improve self-confidence in women and provide a permanent solution to hair loss. Find out more about what hair transplant procedures for women are available and whether you are a suitable candidate.
If you’re interested in speaking to our team of hair transplant specialists, get in touch today or take a free online consultation. Or if you want to learn more, head over to our FAQs for more information.