Until recently, the problem of hair loss in women was believed to be uncommon. Recent research, though, has revealed that it is far more widespread than previously thought. Some estimates say as many as 25 million American women (or more) experience noticeable hair loss and the distressing effects that often go along with it.
Hair loss is a natural part of the body’s process of renewal. As some hair falls out, new growth replaces it. However, this process may be accelerated by a number of conditions.
Hormones – Women experience far more hormonal issues than men do, and at a much greater frequency. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, or even when coming off the Pill, are all conditions unique to women that can affect the amount and permanence of hair loss and cause balding. Hormonal changes may contribute to rapid hair loss, such as during pregnancy or childbirth,. As these fluctuations in hormone levels drop off, the hair loss should clear up, so the condition is only temporary. In a recent study, hormone levels were studied in both male and female patients experiencing severe hair loss. The research points towards a complex interaction between sex and thyroid hormones that may lead to the condition.
Medication – Several medications can cause or contribute to female hair loss, including anti-depressants, blood thinners(also called anticoagulants), birth control pills, vitamin A (if too much is taken), medicines used for gout, anti-cholesterol drugs and chemotherapy drugs. This type of hair loss improves when you stop taking the medicine. (which you NEVER do with consulting your doctor).
Illness/Surgery – Many common illnesses can cause female hair loss, such as diabetes, lupus and thyroid over- or under-activity, as can conditions that put the body under stress such as high fevers or major surgery. About 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, you may suddenly lose a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the stress of the illness and is temporary.
Stress – Stress is another factor linked to hair loss. While it has not been proved definitively, emotional trauma has been loosely associated with hair loss, but milder strains and worries probably do the same thing. Stresses placed on the body may also cause a woman’s hair thinning. Since stress is often transient, if its cause clears up, the resultant hair loss should disappear as well
Diet- Any significant change in daily diet is a minor stressor on the body. The fatloss process in itself is a minor stressor. Therefore, as with other stressors, this may also cause a temporary increase in hairloss. As with many other causes, once the process stops, hairloss will stop and reverse.
Improper Care: If you wear pigtails or cornrows or use tight hair rollers, the pull on your hair can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. If the pulling is stopped before scarring of the scalp develops, your hair will grow back normally. However, scarring can cause permanent hair loss. Hot oil hair treatments or chemicals used in permanents (“perms”) may cause inflammation (swelling) of the hair follicle, which can result in scarring and hair loss. Improper care could include:
- Harsh shampoos
- Hair colouring
- Hair bleaching
- Permanent waves
- Frequent use of blow dryers, curling irons and other heated appliances
- Improper or harsh brushing and/or combing
- Frequent wearing of tight ponytails, braids, and other hair restraints
Other Causes – Anaemia, anorexia, bulimia, fungal infections, and zinc or fatty acid deficiency can also be the cause of hair loss in women.
Female-Pattern Hair Loss
As women age, their hair tends to thin out, although the results are not as dramatic as they are for many men – think of your grandmother’s hair compared to your grandfather’s (if he has any). Women’s pattern of hair loss is analogous to men’s, but has several important differences. The ages we begin having hair loss are the same. A few of both sexes will begin having hair loss very early–in their twenties, but most do not note changes until the mid-thirties to forties. Women’s hair loss tends to be an even overall thinning; as opposed to men’s hair loss in which the hairline recedes and/or there is balding at the crown of the head. Women tend to lose hair on the crown and at the hairline, which is referred to as female-pattern hair loss. Even though this loss is gradual (often starting at puberty), a sudden slight increase in loss from stress, medication etc, can suddenly make the loss more noticeable, making one think it was a ‘sudden’ loss.
What is common baldness
The term “common baldness” usually means male-pattern baldness, or permanent-pattern baldness. Male-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss in men. Men who have this type of hair loss usually have inherited the trait. Men who start losing their hair at an early age tend to develop more extensive baldness. In male-pattern baldness, hair loss typically results in a receding hair line and baldness on the top of the head. Women may develop female-pattern baldness. In this form of hair loss, the hair can become thin over the entire scalp.
When to Worry
Of course, although hair loss may often be temporary, a condition called alopecia areata is more serious. This disease is characterized by patchy loss of hair, and if a woman is experiencing this, she should consult her dermatologist. Corticosteroids are often prescribed to slow or even halt hair loss.
Hair loss is often hereditary and effects about 50% of women. So long as it is not abrupt, severe, or patchy, nor caused by emotional or physical stresses, it can be considered a normal part of maturing
However natural or normal this may be, many women want to reverse or halt this trend.
Depending on your type of hair loss, treatments are available. If a medicine is causing your hair loss, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine. Recognizing and treating an infection may help stop the hair loss. Correcting a hormone imbalance may prevent further hair loss.
Medicines may also help slow or prevent the development of common baldness. Speak to your doctor about a medication that could assist you but bear in mind that these medicines can take up to 6 months to show any results.
There are supplements and vitamins that can help battle hair loss. Here is a list and what they do:
- Essential fatty acids such as flaxseed oil, primrose oil and salmon oil – improve hair texture and prevent dry brittle hair
- Vitamin B complex with Vitamin B3, B5, B6 – are important for the health and growth of hair
- Biotin – deficiencies have been linked to skin disorders and hair loss
- Inositol – vital for hair growth
- Methysulfonyl-Methane (MSM) – Aids with the manufacture of keratin, a protein that is the major component of hair
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – Aids in improving scalp circulation and helps with the antioxidant action in the hair follicles
- Vitamin E – Increases oxygen uptake, which improves circulation to the scalp and improves health and growth of hair
- Zinc – Stimulates hair growth by enhancing immune function
- Coenzyme Q10 – Improves scalp circulation and increases tissue oxygenation
- Kelp – Needed minerals for proper hair growth
- Copper – Works with zinc to aid in hair growth
- Grape seed extract – A powerful antioxidant to protect hair follicles from free radical damage.
For all your supplementation needs go to the TLC-Online Shop:
TLC-Call Centre at 0861 000 852
*This information and guidelines provide general information endorsed by our experts at time of publication. They are not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please seek advice from a qualified health care professional.