Hair Loss in Men and Women (Alopecia)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideHair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Is hair loss in women different than men?

Female-pattern baldness

Women lose hair on an inherited (genetic) basis, too, but the female pattern tends to be more diffuse, with less likelihood of the crown and frontal hairline being lost. Although some women may notice hair thinning as early as their 20s, the pace of hair loss tends to be gradual, often taking years to become obvious to others. There seems to be a normal physiologic thinning that comes with age and occurs in many women in their early to mid-30s. More women have underlying causes of hair loss than men. These include treatable conditions like anemia and thyroid disease and polycystic ovary syndrome. These conditions are diagnosed by blood tests along with a historical and physical evidence. Although a few studies have suggested that baldness may be inherited through the mother's family genes, these theories require further testing. Current studies are inconclusive.

While stories about hats choking off follicles or long hair pulling on the roots may be more folklore, repeat hair trauma like tightly woven hair pulled back and consistent friction can potentially worsen or cause localized hair loss in some individuals. Individuals who pull their hair tightly back in a rubber band can develop a localized hair loss at the front of the scalp.

Hair loss "myths" of special concern to women

  • Longer hair does not necessarily put a strain on roots.
  • Shampooing does not accelerate hair loss; it just removes those that were ready to fall out anyway.
  • Coloring, perming, and conditioning the hair do not usually cause hair loss. Burns or severe processing may cause hair loss and breakage. Styles that pull tight may cause some loss, but hair coloring and "chemicals" usually don't.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2016

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