Hair loss is an equal opportunity concern. Although people tend to think of it as a problem that only affects middle-aged and older men, female hair loss is not uncommon. About 30 million women in the US have female pattern baldness, while many more suffer from other forms of hair loss, or alopecia. Figuring out what to do if you’re a woman experiencing hair loss means finding the cause of your thinning hair and learning more about available treatments.
Understanding Hair Growth and Loss
Before you dive into female hair loss and the potential causes of it, it helps to understand what a normal hair growth cycle looks like. Each strand of hair goes through three stages of life. In the anagen phase, the hair actively grows. The active growth stage varies from person to person, but can last any where from two to eight years.
After that, the hair moves into the catagen phase. During that phase, the follicle shrinks. Catagen lasts a very short amount of time, just two or three weeks.
Finally, the hair shifts into the telogen or resting phase. During telogen, the hair doesn’t do much, but does remain on the scalp. At the end of the telogen phase, which can last for about four months, the hair falls out.
A woman who’s not dealing with hair loss tends to shed about 50 to 100 hairs each day. When there’s no problem with the hair growth cycle, it’s common for about 10 percent of a person’s hair to be in the telogen or catagen phase, while the remaining 90 percent are in the anagen phase.
Figuring Out the Cause of Female Hair Loss
When noticeable hair loss occurs, something has gone wrong with the hair growth cycle. In men, male pattern baldness is often behind hair loss. In women, female pattern baldness is often to blame for hair loss, too, but there are several other causes.
For example, telogen effluvium, which occurs when more hair than usual moves into the resting phase and ultimately falls out, is common in women after pregnancy or menopause. The good news about telogen effluvium is that its effects are usually temporary. Once the hair falls out, new hair grows to replace it. The bad news is that it can be very surprising and upsetting to suddenly lose a considerable amount of hair. Along with menopause and pregnancy, any condition or incident that stresses a person’s body can cause telogen effluvium, such as dramatic weight loss, illness and high levels of stress.
Female pattern baldness is a more permanent type of female hair loss. Similar to male pattern baldness, when a woman has female pattern baldness, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone, causes the follicles to shrink. The hair from those follicles becomes thinner and thinner and eventually stops growing altogether. In men, pattern baldness usually causes hair loss from the crown of the of the head or a receding hair line. In women, pattern baldness causes a more diffuse thinning, usually with more hair loss along the part.
Aside from telogen effluvium and female pattern baldness, there are a number of things that might be behind female hair loss. For some women, wearing tight hairstyles can be enough to put a lot of pressure on the hair follicles, pulling the hair out. For others, medical conditions, medications, and auto-immune disorders might behind the hair loss.
Treatment Options for Female Hair Loss
The treatment options for female hair loss are similar to the treatment options for male hair loss. In the early stages of hair loss, minoxidil, a topical medication, can help encourage hair growth and can help the hair grow more thickly.
Another treatment option for hair loss in women is platelet rich plasma therapy, or PRP. PRP can be performed on its own or along with another treatment to improve the chances of restoring hair. The plasma comes from a person’s own blood, so treatment with PRP first involves having blood drawn. The blood sample then goes through a centrifuge, which separates the plasma from the other materials. The plasma is then injected into the areas of baldness.
PRP tends to work because the plasma contains growth factors, which stimulate the hair follicles and cause them to become larger, allowing for new hair growth. Occasionally, PRP is used with a hair transplant to help ensure that the transplanted grafts thrive.
A hair transplant is the more permanent option for restoring lost hair. During the transplant, a surgeon takes hair from an area of the scalp that isn’t susceptible to pattern baldness and moves it to the area where hair has been lost. Hair restoration is often the best option for permanent forms of hair loss, such as female pattern baldness, as there is no other chance for the hair to regrow.
Hair restoration surgery might not be the best option for every patient, or it might not be the right option for you at the moment. Speaking with a facial plastic surgeon who specializes in hair restoration, such as Dr. Kyle Choe in Virginia Beach, can help you better understand the cause of your hair loss and the options available to you. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe, call 757-389-5850 today.