Thinning or loss of hair for women is rarely discussed but can cause distress for those affected. I asked trichologist Sara G. Allison to talk about why it occurs, and what can be done when it happens:
Female Pattern Hair loss, otherwise known as Androgenic Alopecia-affects many women when there are times of hormonal change, especially around the menopause. However, treatment can usually prevent further hair loss and often cause hair re-growth.
Who gets female pattern hair loss?
Hair loss in women affected by androgenic alopecia is likely to be first noticed at times of hormonal change, i.e. approaching the menopause or early stages of starting the menopause when there are changes to the testosterone and oestrogen ratio. This change can also cause increased facial and body hair.
About 25% of women get advanced FPHL by age 50
Most women over fifty, who present with hair thinning, have androgenic alopecia, although not everyone has a predisposition towards this as you have to inherit the genes as well. Therefore someone else somewhere in the family male or female would have experienced it in the past, and this is often made worse by other factors, such as low nutritional levels, stress or thyroid disorder.
What does the pattern look like?
Unlike men, women rarely go completely bald, they just get a diffuse thinning on the top and a recession at the temples but the fringe is often unaffected.
How does female pattern hair loss affect women psychologically?
Hair is bound up in notions of femininity, youth and sexual attractiveness. This means the experience of thinning hair is bound to be anxiety provoking.
Women suffering from hair loss lack confidence in themselves so their work suffers, they withdraw from socialising and sex as they feel less attractive.
Whilst society fully accepts that men suffer from hair loss, women are embarrassed to admit hair loss and feel that it is socially unacceptable, so when women see me they are frequently so distressed that they breakdown in tears as I am often the only person they have talked to about their hair loss. It is a taboo subject that they feel they just cant discuss with anyone even close friends.
Hair loss in women is so stressful that I’ve frequently have clients that say it’s THE most stressful thing that’s happened to them, they’ve felt even worse about their hair than when they had been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.
What are the treatment options for female pattern hair loss?
Unlike most other forms of hair loss, it is irreversible without treatment. Therefore the following would all be recommended to take long term for continuous effect.
HRT-many women who take HRT, find their hair density improves too. However, like the contraceptive pill not all HRT is equal and some have negative effects on hair. With this in mind Sara Allison advises to only take HRT if you need to for other reasons and not specifically for hair loss. If you do wish to start HRT Angeliq has very positive reports for hair and could be requested from your doctor if they agree it’s suitable for you.
The most popular hair loss product for women is Minoxidil and is the only medically approved female hair loss treatment.
2% is the dose recommended for women as a starting dose and then if no improvement can be increased to 5%. Or you can start with 5% straight away if you prefer. Prescription additives like progesterone can enhance the effectiveness, but these are only available from trichologists.
Minoxidil is best used to prevent further hair loss, but hair re-growth can occur too. Other points are;
- It needs to be rubbed on the scalp twice every day.
- It usually takes 4 months or more for any effect to be noticed.
- Treatment needs to be continued indefinitely. Hair loss can be noticed initially after treatment is stopped, as the hairs that had been prevented from entering the shedding phase by taking minoxidil, do then enter the shedding phase. This hair loss plateaus though and then just continues the growing and shedding phases as normal.
- Side-effects are uncommon. For example, headaches, skin irritation, rash or temporary hair shedding can sometimes occurs Nutritional supplements
Optimum nutrition has the ability to ‘turn off’ gene expression therefore it should be possible to make a difference to genetic hair loss with a good diet and even if you have a ‘perfect’ diet, additional multi vitamins would still be advantageous. Sara Allison is launching her own brand ‘Archeia Rose minerals’ for hair, skin & nails summer 2013
Apart from a good quality Multi vitamin with iron, Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is a good additional supplement to take as its very difficult to get enough from food and sunlight in the UK is too poor.
Hair transplantation surgery
It has been used for a number of years. Success rates vary, but the results from the best surgeons are excellent and give a natural appearance of thicker hair. You will need to be assessed for suitability.
What should I do now?
Although it’s the most common, Female Pattern Hair Loss is not the only diagnosis possible for hair loss in women over fifty, therefore check your diagnosis and confirm if Minoxidil and other treatments are appropriate for you personally by having a consultation with a Trichologist. Ensure they are members of the Institute of Trichologists and have the letters MIT after their name.
I qualified as a Member of the Institute of Trichologists 12 years ago. I am unique in also having extensive experience as a Registered Nurse reaching the clinical top. Member of the World Trichology Society
Member of the European Hair Research Society
Hair is great marker for health, therefore it can be the first signs of an underlying condition and give thorough health and nutritional analysis. There can also be strong gynaecology links with hair loss in women and I specialised in women’s health at two of the leading women’s hospitals in London, this has given me particular expertise in the complex issues involving female hair loss and I have been quoted in the National Pressas a Trichologist expert in this field.