Symptoms of hair loss
If you notice that you’re shedding a large amount of hair every day, you may be experiencing female pattern hair loss. If you suspect that you’re going through hair loss, you should seek out treatment from a dermatologist as early as possible.
On average, you lose somewhere between 50 and 100 hairs a day. Female pattern baldness is characterized by losing 125 hairs or more a day. You shed old hair so that new hair can grow in. Hair loss occurs when you lose more hair than is growing in to replace it. This is different from just shedding hair normally. The medical term for this, in both men and women, is alopecia.
You might notice more hair stuck in your brush or comb after brushing your hair. Hair might appear in other places, like on the floor, in the shower, or stuck to your clothing. Another symptom to look out for is hair thinning. In women, this usually appears as your part widening. Older women may also notice their hairline receding.
Other signs of hair loss in women include:
- Being able to see your scalp through your hair
- Hair breakage
- Smaller ponytails, or being able to collect less hair in your hand
- Circular or patchy bald spots
Women experiencing female pattern hair loss will notice that the thinning usually occurs at the front or on the top of their heads.
Hair loss in women is progressive, so it will continue. Women usually don’t lose all their hair the way that men do, though. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist. These doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating hair loss, so they can figure out the best treatment plan for you.
Causes of female pattern hair loss
Different kinds of female hair loss have different causes. Some factors that can contribute to hair loss in women include:
- A family history of female pattern hair loss
- Certain medications, including some birth control pills
- Heavy blood loss during menstruation
- Changes in levels of androgen, the hormones that produce typically male features
Each one of your hairs rests inside a follicle. This is a hole in your skin that holds the hair in place. As you age, your hair follicles shrink, causing hair loss. The follicles might not grow new hair, but they stay alive. Research suggests that it’s possible for these follicles to eventually grow new hairs.
Some women may also suddenly start losing hair because of physical or emotional stress or shock. You may notice your hair falling out in your hands when combing or washing. You’ll notice your hair getting thinner, but this kind of hair loss is usually only temporary.
Treatment for female pattern hair loss
Hair loss in women can be really frustrating since it’s generally more acceptable for men to experience it. It can take a toll on your well-being and confidence. However, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that one-third of all women experience hair loss at some point during their lifetimes. Two-thirds may also experience thinning and bald spots.
Minoxidil. The most common treatment for female pattern hair loss is medication. Minoxidil is a medicine that has been used by men for years to treat hair loss and is now approved by the FDA for women, too. Minoxidil can be bought in either 2% or 5% solutions and is sold over-the-counter.
This medication stimulates hair growth, so you might notice excess hair growth on your cheeks or forehead. Minoxidil can also cause discomfort on your scalp, including:
You might notice an increase in hair loss during the first two weeks as new hair growth is stimulated.
Iron supplements. If you have a heavy flow during your period or a history of anemia (low numbers of red blood cells), your doctor may ask for a blood test. If low iron levels are determined to be the cause of your hair loss, your doctor will suggest an iron supplement.
Anti-androgens. Androgens are hormones that can speed up hair loss in women. If you don’t notice a change after trying minoxidil, another option is a medicine called spironolactone. This is an anti-androgen that can be especially useful for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS usually have higher levels of androgens.
Coping with hair loss
Female pattern baldness can have an impact on your psychological and emotional well-being. Whether your hair loss is long-term or temporary, it can be difficult to accept. To make things easier, you can consider joining a support group or talking to your friends or family about it.
If you’re having a hard time with your new appearance, you can consider options like scarves, hats, or hair extensions. You might choose not to cover your head at all. Either way, focus on the qualities that you love about yourself and celebrate them.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "Female Pattern Hair Loss."
Cleveland Clinic: "Hair Loss in Women."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Treating female pattern hair loss."
Mayo Clinic: "Hair loss."
Mount Sinai: "Female pattern baldness."
NHS: "Women and hair loss: coping tips."
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