Hair loss is a facet of aging unpleasant to all those who experience it. While some balding men embrace their hairlessness—think Dr. Phil—the vast majority bear it grudgingly. But this grudgingness is lined with an added layer of embarrassment when it is a woman experiencing the loss of her hair. And contrary to popular belief, many women are indeed affected by hair loss. In fact the American Hair Loss Association, or AHLA, issued a statement to the effect that approximately 40% of persons impacted by balding are females.
For many years, balding in women was treated as a minor aesthetic issue: something to be sympathized with but not necessarily treated. However researchers are increasingly realizing the profound ways in which hair loss, in women, can disrupt both their self-esteem and quality of life.
Dr. Amy Michael, associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, comments: “Women are much more affected socially by hair loss than men.” In addition she notes that, “women judge themselves harshly and have fewer coping mechanisms associated with hair loss than men.”
Because women’s self-esteem is (unfortunately) so closely connected to our physical appearance, hair loss in women is something that we ought to take seriously as a condition deserving of treatment. The following are some of the primary causes and coping mechanisms for hair loss in women.
1) Fluctuations in Hormones: Pattern baldness has been linked to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT derives from testosterone and is therefore much more prominent amongst the male population. While women certainly have less testosterone than men, menopause can often produce an influx of testosterone in women and therefore a corresponding influx in DHT: producing unwanted hair loss.
2) Birth Control and the Androgen Index: The AHLA has linked certain types of birth control—including the patch—to hair loss. Therefore, it is advised to take a type of birth control with a low androgen index, or better still, non-hormonal birth control measures.
3) Stress, Stress, Stress: Stress has been proven to have a profound impact on our bodies. Whether the stress is brought on by childbirth or malnutrition, our bodies respond to such pressurized situations by producing something called telogen effluvium: something closely linked to hair loss. Diminish stress and you diminish the likelihood of losing your hair.
4) Chemo: Chemotherapy causes, in essence, a harsh attack on growing hair follicles. This often results in complete hair loss, or baldness.
5) How we style our locks: Women often style their hair in ways that cause it stress. High, tight ponytails and braids are extremely detrimental to the health of our hair. This does not even touch on the destructive things we do to our hair with curling irons, and chemicals meant to relax it.
1) Medications that Block Testosterone: In the years leading up to menopause, women experience a dip in estrogen levels and an increase in testosterone levels. Because testosterone is linked to hair loss, treatments that prevent this hormone from entering the hair follicle—like Eulexin or Aldactone—are always beneficial.
2) Addressing Related Causes: Oftentimes, there are related or underlying causes for hair loss in women. One example of this is inflammatory disorder. By coping with the underlying causes of hair loss you are benefiting your body in various and unanticipated ways.
3) Injected Cortisone: Injected cortisone has been proven to do so much as reverse hair loss in women, and is certainly worth looking in to.
4) Rogaine: Rogaine is actually the only treatment for female pattern baldness that has yet to receive approval by the FDA. Better still, this treatment is easily accessible over the counter and has proven highly effective in stimulating hair growth.
5) Laser Phototherapy Treatment: A new innovation in the realm of hair loss treatments is that of laser phototherapy. This light therapy aims to stimulate hair growth. But this is a treatment still in the process of being developed and assessed for both its effectiveness and safety.
The Take-Away Message for Women Facing Hair Loss
While hair loss in women is something that can erode self-esteem and disrupt one’s quality of life, women should not despair. Indeed, research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that those facing hair loss are not incapable of re-growing their hair-as was once feared. Treatments for hair loss are being developed all the time, and there is much to be hopeful about in the arena of hair loss.