What Are the Causes of Female Hair Loss?
Most of the media as well as the hair restoration industry marketing programs will focus on men as the primary suffers from hair loss. In a majority of the before and after pictures you see on TV or the internet, it’s a guy’s scalp showing the miraculous hair restoration results. Even when most of us in Southern California think about hair transplants Los Angeles, we generally consider men to be the primary type of patients. The thing is female hair loss is almost as common as male pattern hair loss. It just seems our society believes that men losing their hair is a more acceptable form of media than women.
In Hollywood, we have multiple leading movie stars who are bald or balding, and nobody bats an eye, but you will not find a woman actress with thinning hair anywhere. Female hair loss affects nearly 30 million women in the United States alone, and due to the stigma surrounding female pattern hair loss, that number is likely inaccurate.
Most everyone, whether they are a man, or a woman is at some point going to feel insecure about losing their hair. Most men who are balding won’t be caught dead out of the house without wearing their trusty hats, and most women will resort to wearing wigs to hide their hair loss. Understanding the science behind what is causing hair loss is the first step in formulating a treatment, and female hair loss is quite different than in men in some aspects.
How Female Pattern Hair Loss is Different Than Men’s
Not only can the reasons that women lose their hair be different than men, but female hair loss also even manifests differently in most cases than it does for men. Androgenetic alopecia is the form of hair loss that is most common in men and women. While there are many different factors that are associated with why androgenetic alopecia will manifest, researchers have discovered that it is frequently an increased level of androgens in the body that causes hair loss in men. In women, while it is still sometimes called androgenetic alopecia, it can manifest while there are no increased levels of androgens in the body. This is why some doctors prefer to label androgenetic alopecia in women “Female Pattern Hair Loss” (FPHL).
In most cases, pattern hair loss in men will begin with a gradual recession of the hairline. Then, over time men will start to lose hair on the top (crown) of their heads. In female pattern hair loss, the loss of hair is normally spread evenly over the whole scalp, which creates a general thinning of the hair, which is most noticeable at the part of the hair.
The Norwood Scale & Ludwig Scale for Female Hair Loss
Most doctors will use what is called the Norwood Scale to determine the progression of hair loss in men. In the Norwood Scale, there are 7 stages of hair loss with stage one being hardly any noticeable recession of the hairline, and stage 7 being completely bald, outside of a thin band of hair running around the base of the skull. Doctors normally classify FPHL with the Ludwig Scale. In the Ludwig Scale, there are only 3 stages, instead of 7 as per the Norwood scale. Stage 1 begins with just a slight thinning of the hair at the top of the head. Stage 2 is when the scalp on the top of the female’s head begins to show, with stage 3 being all of the hair on the crown of the head is lost.
Androgenetic Alopecia in Women
There are three phases of a normal, healthy hair follicle growth process. The anagen phase is what 86% of all normal hair is in at any one time. This is when healthy hair is growing and the anagen phase sometimes lasts 3 to 5 years. The anagen phase continues even when the hair reaches the end of its lifespan and falls out or is cut. The catagen phase occurs when the anagen phase ends and the hair follicles shrink, and hair growth slows down. This phase only lasts around 10 or so days.
The telogen phase typically lasts around 3 months. Normally about 15% of the hair on your head is in the telogen phase at any given time. During this stage, the hairs do not grow at all as new hairs start to form in the follicles. Eventually, the hair will fall out of the hair follicle allowing the new hair to enter the anagen phase and begin the whole process all over again. (Roland, 2020).
Androgenetic alopecia occurs in both men and women when the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle is shortened for whatever reason, and the telogen phase is increased. This means that it takes longer for new hair to grow from hair follicles than it takes for old hair to be shed. The hair follicles themselves will even change, shrinking and producing shorter and thinner hair as a result. This process is called “follicular miniaturization.”
It is for this reason the term androgenetic alopecia is used when describing female pattern hair loss, however misleading the name may be. It’s misleading because women experience pattern hair loss even when they do not have increased androgen levels in their bodies. However, this doesn’t mean that androgens do not sometimes play a role in female hair loss. In some cases, women have androgen-secreting tumors on the ovary, pituitary, or adrenal glands that have been the cause of their hair loss.
Either way, it has been shown that most cases of female pattern hair loss are passed down through family genetics. Having increased levels of androgens in the system is a hereditary issue that both men and women suffer from. However, there are many different reasons that female hair loss can occur that have nothing to do with androgens or genetics.
Non-Genetic Causes of Female Hair Loss
One of the most common non-genetic forms of hair loss that women will experience is hair loss after giving birth to a child. Most doctors would not even classify this as “hair loss”. Instead, they refer to it as “hair shedding”. This is caused by falling estrogen levels after childbirth. Most mothers see their hair return to normal fullness by their child’s first birthday, or sooner.
An autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata is a form of alopecia that is non-genetic. Currently, Alopecia areata happens for reasons unknown to doctors. Suddenly, a person’s white blood cells attack the cells of hair follicles as though they were foreign invaders to the body. Alopecia areata normally shows up as a single, or multiple patches of hair that falls out in circular patterns. Alopecia areata affects around 2% of the population. Both men and women experience the effects equally. (AP, 2000)
Telogen Effluvium in Women
Another form of non-genetic hair loss that affects women is called telogen effluvium. This occurs when the anagen phase of the hair growth process slows down which causes fewer and fewer hairs to enter into the next two phases. Normally when affected by telogen effluvium 30% or more of a person’s hairs will enter the telogen phase and then hair loss occurs. Severe and persistent stress is the number one cause of telogen effluvium. However, a poor diet, sudden weight loss, and menopause are common culprits.
Doctors have long suspected that menopause has caused hair loss in women. Menopause is a natural biological process that all women experience, normally later in their lives. During menopause, the female body goes through numerous changes as it adjusts to fluctuating hormone levels. Side effects of menopause include hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, and hair loss.
Research suggests that the hair loss that women experience during menopause is the result of imbalanced hormone levels in the body. Namely, it’s the lowered production of both estrogen and progesterone. Both of these hormones are known to be responsible for helping hair grow faster. They also keep the hair in the anagen phase. When the levels of estrogen and progesterone plummet during menopause, the hair will begin to enter the telogen phase much quicker and then shed, causing hair loss. A decrease in these hormones will also promote the number of androgens that the body produces.
Best Treatment for Female Hair Loss
The standard treatments for female hair loss are very similar to men’s hair loss. Depending on the progression of the hair loss, most females will opt to just use hair loss drugs like Rogaine or Propecia. Because female pattern hair loss manifests differently than male baldness, these drugs may even work better for women than they do for men. However, there’s a better way. A long-term solution and many additional tools you can add to your hair restoration toolbelt.
FUE Hair Transplants
Hair transplant surgery is always a sure-fire way to treat any kind of hair loss. Most women will decide to go with a Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant. At an FUE clinic, surgeons would be better able to fill in the thinning hair that women experience using the FUE process due to the extraction method being much more precise than with other techniques.
Low-Level Laser Therapy
If the progression of hair loss isn’t as severe to warrant an invasive surgery, then a lot of women have had success with Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) as a hair loss solution. LLLT employs a series of low-level lasers that do not produce any heat. Instead, they’re set to a frequency that interacts with under-performing hair follicles. The laser therapy stimulates hair follicles to enter an anagen phase of their growth process which will cause the hair to regrow. Research has shown that LLLT is safe and effective in stimulating hair growth in both men and women. (Pinar Avci, 2013)
Affordable Los Angeles Hair Transplants
Here at Best Hair Transplant Los Angeles, we are an FUE clinic that offers hair transplant surgery as well as LLLT products. We understand female hair loss and its causes and most importantly, the best treatments available for women.
Best Hair Transplant is the best place to schedule your hair transplant in Los Angeles. We’ve helped women like you regrow your lost hair. If you are a woman suffering from hair loss, it is much more difficult to deal with in our society than it is for men. Contact our hair loss professionals today for a completely complimentary consultation.
At Best Hair Transplant, we’re proud of our results and happy to provide hair restoration services. Additionally, we’re proud to make hair transplants affordable and help you save money on a variety of hair transplants. To ensure your ease of mind, you can view our customer recommendations HERE. Furthermore, you can also see our Google reviews and Yelp reviews. We can’t wait to help you start restoring your lost hair.
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- AP, B. (2000). Alopecia areata. Postgrad Med.
- Pinar Avci. (2013). Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) for Treatment of Hair Loss. HHS Publis Access.
- Roland, J. (2020). Healthline. Retrieved from What Are the Four Stages of Hair Growth?