Hair Loss in Women: Types, And Causes
I wrote this article to assist with understanding why women suffer from hair loss. There are forms of Alopecia that can be temporary and others that can be permanent so the options of women’s hair loss products and choosing them can be daunting. The importance, when deciding on treatment for hair loss, of knowing what is the underlying cause is crucial.
For example, certain natural treatments such as Procerin, works great for treating hair loss in men, but do almost nothing for women. By determining this, you can make your choice so much easier and, in the best cases, you may not need hair loss treatments at all.
Types and Causes of Women’s Hair Loss
This type of baldness is common amongst both women and men and is largely inherited by parents or grandparents passing on the dominant genes. It can often miss a generation, although you would normally have a bald or balding parent. Not everybody inherits the gene that is responsible for the balding or thinning of hair, so your brothers and sisters may suffer from the condition and you may not, or vice versa.
In this case, the hair loss can be permanent but the extent of it depends on that of the relation that passed on the gene – by looking at their pattern of hair loss, whether male or female, you can generally see how you will lose your hair. Females generally lose hair from the top of the head, but rarely go totally bald unlike men who normally lose hair from the sides of the head.
Female Pattern Baldness
Men are the most common sufferers of pattern baldness although it is more often seen now for women to lose some of the hair on their head, partially or completely. This form of thinning may lead to balding but in most cases you will avoid this and just see thinning of the hair in places.
Pattern baldness is a cause of the body producing too much testosterone (a male hormone). It is normal for a female to product male hormones – we all have male and female hormones – although excessive production will cause a chronic thinning or balding of the hair.
This form of hair loss is temporary in most cases and any hair loss will normally return to the way it was before the event, the ‘Telogen’ is the resting phase that the follicles go through after such events. To outline events that can cause this type of Alopecia, they are:
- Extreme mental and emotional stress
- Surgery / shock to the body
- Pregnancy and child birth, and birth control pills
- Dieting and other drugs (cholesterol lowering drugs or anti-coagulants are well-known)
Severe mental stress can be a direct or indirect cause of women’s hair loss. The increase in loss of hair can be a result of a particularly stressful event like family bereavements, being involved in accidents etc. The body reacts by losing hair from parts of the head, sometimes other parts of the body (although rare), as the follicles weaken and the hair breaks before it can grow.
A major operation will sometimes cause hair to fall out as the body copes with regenerating other more important parts of the body. The body allows itself to repair and recover other areas so the hair follicles weaken and hair is lost. Some illnesses themselves can cause hair to fall out as the body concentrates on repairing damaged cells, one well known cause is the disease Lupus, and this can be a permanent loss of hair.
It is well known that hair and skin become much healthier during pregnancy, will the increased levels of hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) around the body and the mother being more conscious of their daily intake of healthy foods (by instinct, most pregnant women have cravings for certain foods that contain an essential nutrient that assists with the healthy growth of their child). After childbirth, the extra hair gained during pregnancy eventually sheds, this will happen around four to six months afterwards as the hair returns to normal. In a slightly similar way, birth control pills work by increasing hormonal levels as most have to contain slightly more male hormones to work as the contraceptive.
Sudden Hair Loss
It is one thing to lose your hair when you are older but quite upsetting to be in your late twenties or thirties and find yourself facing sudden hair loss. The younger we are the more concerned we can be about our appearance as we are still in our “mating years.” It can be rehabilitating to the self-esteem of a young woman and significantly impact her emotional well-being.
Normally hair grows about a quarter of an inch per month and continues to grow for six years. Then that hair falls out and another grows in its place. In a young woman the hair can fall out sooner and cause a thin or balding look to the hair. The good news is that most young women this happens to do not suffer either complete loss of hair or permanent hair loss.
In young women sudden hair loss can be caused by emotional strain, anxiety and worry. It can be caused by feelings of being overwhelmed, by taking onto many projects at once and not leaving enough time to recover from fatigue.
Relationship and social problems of all kinds can also cause a young woman to become emotionally unstable and cause a malfunctioning of the metabolism and hormonal systems. The result can be the hair coming out in clumps in the brush or in the hand. Many women discover the hair loss when they take a shower and watch the hair swirl down the drain or they notice that when they part their hair the the part seems a lot wider than usual.
Hormonal changes are usually the physical cause behind this in young women. Hormonal changes can cause a young woman to produce too much of the DHT hormone. This hormone clashes with estrogen in the body and can cause the hair to suddenly fall out.
Rather than rush out and buy wigs or get hair transplants younger women are advised to wait the hair loss out. This is mainly because it is usually not permanent. Once the source of the stress disappears, whether it be a life situation, emotional reaction or a health problem causing it, the hair often grows back. Hair will typically grow back in three to six months times.
Foods that a young woman should eat to help remedy the situation are liver, fish, eggs, brewer’s yeast, yogurt, liver, eggs, dates, raisins, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish.
A supplement rich in phytoestrogenic herbs such as black cohosh and nettle might also help restore hair. Phytoestregens stimulate the pituitary and endocrine glands so that the hormones in the body operate more efficiently and stimulate hair growth. However be aware that sometimes taking too many phytoestrogens.
To help the situation young women should be sure to take their vitamins, drink plenty of water and avoid crash dieting. They also need iron supplements and should stop being vegetarian as not eating enough meat can cause baldness as well.
Dieting And Drugs/Medication
Finally, dieting drugs and illegal drugs will have an effect on the thinning of hair as the drugs normally curb the appetite and cause a lack of nutrition in the diet. Some drugs increase the appetite but this sometimes leads to an increased intake of junk foods which, again, will cause a severe lack of nutrition.
In the cases above, the effects are usually temporary and the hair growth will begin to return to normal around three to four months after the event (or when the additional drugs or pills have ceased being taken). The hair follicles strengthen and allow hair to re-grow back to its normal condition.
There are three widely prescribed medications for arthritis, rheumatism and joint pain that are widely prescribed. These are Rheumatrex, Arava and Plaquenil. All three have thinning, hair loss and possible balding as a side effect. Unfortunately they are also very effective medications and it may be difficult to give them up and experience arthritis pain. Sufferers sometimes face a hard choice between enduring joint pain or having a beautiful head of hair. As there are not many solutions for this except to stop taking the drug…
Prescribed NSAIDS That Cause Hair Loss
The next classes of drugs that are prescribed or that you can get over the counter in your pharmacy are the NSAIDS. This stands for non steroidal antinflammatory drugs and they too cause hair loss. Many people do not realize that medications also prescribed for general pain, such as Tylenol 3 or Naproxin can actually cause hair loss.
Commonly prescribed drugs for arthritis that might cause thinning of the hair and baldness:
- Tylenol 3 and 4
Once again some of the drugs for very severe pain contain opiates which are notorious for causing hair loss, especially if you are on them a long time. People who take a lot of opiates may also find their hair thinning and turning white prematurely before it actually starts falling out.
Over the Counter NSAIDS
These drugs can be bought in a drug store and are widely available and used for arthritis pain. Unfortunately they also cause hair loss.
- Tylenol Arthritis
- Tylenol 2
There are over 100 drugs in total that are used for arthritis treatment and this article only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to determining which cause hair loss. The best thing to do when you are prescribed a drug for joint pain, rheumatitis or arthritis is to ask your doctor about the side effects and inquire whether or not your hair might be at risk. If the answer is yes and you have concerns about hair loss then ask for an alternative that may not cause a problem.
These medications are very strong and it is difficult to fight their side effects. However eating a diet that is healthy and supplementing with biotin, zinc and a good vitamin supplement might definitely help allay some of the hair loss symptoms associated with these drugs. It is also a good idea to be quite gentle with your hair physically while you are on these types of medications and resist brushing, tugging or pulling on the hair heavily or processing or dying it.
Not every woman taking bipolar medications experiences full hair loss. The hair can become dry, damaged looking and brittle.
If you are bipolar and losing your hair you might want to check to see if one of your medications is on this list. It could be the cause of your problem.
- Anafranil – Used for pain, mood swings and manic depression.
- Elavil – Used for headaches, mood disorders and depression.
- Lamictal – An anticonvulsant epilepsy medication that is also a mood stabilizer.
- Lithium – A mineral salt that is the classic remedy for manic depression. However it can cause thyroid dysfunction as a side effect which in turn causes hair thinning and also total permanent hair loss.
- Nortriptyline – Treatment for manic depression.
- Prozac – Used to control depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
- Senequan – Used for the treatment of manic depression.
- Tegretol – Used to control seizures, anxiety and nerve related pain.
- Tofranil – Antidepressant used for bipolar disorder.
- Trileptal – An epilepsy medication that also assist bipolar sufferers.
- Vivactil – Used for treating major depressive disorder and bipolar depression.
Living With Bipolar Medication Derived Hair Loss
Not everyone will be affected by the symptom of thinning hair or baldness when they take these medications but most people will. Unfortunately there is no real remedy for medication induced hair loss. Generally you either have to reduce the amount of the medication that you are taking and hope the side effect disappears or discontinue it entirely.
The other kicker to this is that the hair loss does not often show up as a symptom until three to six months after the drug is taken. By then the damage is done. After that the hair can take six to twelve months to recover fully if it does recover at all.
Yet another danger is bipolar episodes that cause extreme behavior such as pulling or tugging on the hair. During an episode of mania a female bipolar may ruin her hair by over processing or trying to style it. Keeping the hair short in the first place is a good idea if you have this disorder. You have enough to worry about if you are suffering from a psychiatric disorder like this and the hair can be a focal point of obsession during a manic episode.
Sometimes you have no choice but to take your medication in which case supplementation with vitamins such as A,C,E, B6 and B12 can be very helpful as can ingesting minerals such as iron, selenium and zinc. Eating a healthy diet, getting moderate exercise, and staying as stress-free as possible can also help a great deal if you are bi-polar.
Quite a few women going through menopause notice that they start to experience thinning hair or even balding. There are a couple of reasons why this might be happening during your menopause years.
The most common cause of hair loss during menopause is an under-active thyroid. This just starts to happen in conjunction with fluctuating hormone levels. Yet another cause can be an increase or decrease in hormones including an increased amount of testosterone.
Yet another culprit are progesterone levels falling due to the lack of ovulation that accompanies menopause. When this happens the body responds by producing more adrostenedione, which is like a steroid. It causes women to experience male aging issues like hair growth on the face and male pattern balding.
Many women also feel stressed out emotionally and physically during menopause and that too can cause hair loss. If this is suspected it is a good idea to look to three months ago as those would be the stressful events or the physical illness that might have triggered the hair to fall out.
A new medication can have the same effect especially if it is an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug that might be used to treat the emotional outfall from experiencing menopause.
As hair loss tends to happen three months after the traumatic event you can also expect restorative hair treatments to take about three months before they start to take effect.
Solutions for Menopausal Hair Loss
To combat the dropping progesterone levels that can cause hair loss you might want to consider taking naturally compounded hormones to raise them again. Once you have raised your progesterone the hair usually starts growing again.
Your doctor may prescribe synthetic hormones to address this problem but this may not be a great idea as studies have shown that these types of prescriptions can cause breast cancer.
If it is caused by an underactive thyroid you could be prescribed thyroid medication. However be aware that these medications could go either way and either completely restores your hair or cause total hair loss as a side effect.
Regrowing your hair can take a little longer than three months if you are menopausal, depending on several factors. Usually it is three to six months to grow it back in this case.
A supplement taking by many women for this problem are phytoestregens found in plants. Many plants contain molecules that are easily converted into hormones. These natural bioidentical hormones function in the body just like the same hormones your body produces.
The good news is that at least hormonal related baldness can be handled. Also many women who experience hair loss during their menopausal years will see an end to the thinning and loss once menopause ends and their hormones return to normal levels. About half of all women who experience this because of menopause have their hair repaired in full.
Whether you are considering choosing natural or synthetic estrogen replacement you should consult with your doctor before embarking on any kind of therapy to try and halt menopausal related hair loss.