We see a lot of women at the Hair Sciences Center, which is not really surprising. Why women lose hair is a topic of great concern. While male pattern baldness is a very visible and well known phenomenon, women are nearly as likely to suffer thinning hair by the time they reach their 50’s. Many of these women watched their husbands struggle with hair loss, sometimes starting in their 20s. First there was recession at the temples, then the bald spot appeared. These women have seen firsthand the aging effects of hair loss, but when it begins to happen to them it’s often startling, demoralizing, and in advanced stages, devastating. Much more than a bundle of fibers, hair is an expression of your style, personality, sensuality, sex appeal, and your youth. It’s no wonder that prospect of losing hair is so fraught with emotion.
What is “normal” hair loss?
A head of hair is comprised of approximately 100,000 strands. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most adults lose between 50 to 100 strands of hair each day. This sounds alarming in and of itself, until you consider that those strands are all replaced with new growth, in a continuous cycle. However, when hair begins to thin, the lost hair is not replaced at the same rate. In women, this is known as female pattern baldness.
What is female pattern baldness?
Female pattern baldness is a somewhat misleading name for hair loss as it generally occurs in women, which does not tend to create “patterns” like the receding temples and balding at the crown that characterizes male pattern baldness. By contrast, hair loss in women occurs most frequently at the center of the scalp, and can progress to include the entire top of the scalp, behind the frontal hairline. It is generally most visible where the hair parts in the middle. The Ludwig Classification System describes hair loss patterns in female pattern baldness, which ranges from stages I to III. This is a simplified illustration:
What’s at the root of your hair loss?
There are many causes of hair loss in women, ranging from stress and diet to hormones and genetics. If hair loss seems dramatic, it is highly advisable to get tested for thyroid problems, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, or other health issues. If it is falling out in clumps or patches, you may have a rare syndrome known as alopecia areata, in which your immune system attacks healthy hair follicles by “mistake.” This is an alarming but usually reversible condition. Other causes include hormone changes from the birth control pill, or drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease arthritis and depression. Chemo and radiation therapy to treat cancer can cause complete hair loss, but the will grow back once treatment concludes. Wearing hair in styles such as corn rows, braids, or tightly pulled pony tails can also cause permanent hair loss called “traction alopecia,” and should be avoided at all times. Wearing hair extensions can also pull on the hair causing permanent loss. Starvation diets, severe emotional distress and extreme stress such as from a major surgery can all contribute to hair loss.
Is female hair loss measurable?
In a word, yes. If you are experiencing gradual, all-over thinning it may be time to get a Hair Check®. A patented new device measures the area of a bundle of hair in a specific scalp area and provides a number, the Hair Mass Index. This number can be compared from one year to the next with great accuracy. Measurements are made in three specific areas of the scalp and the index values are recorded to compare against future measurements in the same locations.
OK but what can I do?
The first step to halting or reversing female hair loss is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Harris. He will help determine the cause and recommend a treatment course. The good news is that there are many avenues available to women, starting with the Hair Survival Program, which helps you keep the hair you have. Furthermore, you may be a candidate for a female hair transplant.
Contact my clinic for a consultation or ask me a question about your unique situation and how we might treat it.
Dr. James A. Harris is an internationally renowned hair transplant surgeon, inventor of patented follicular unit excision technology, published author in the field of hair restoration and an advocate for patient care. Learn more about Dr. Harris or read rave reviews from his patients.