Female Hair Loss and its Prevalence
The female hair industry is booming more than ever before, from blow-dry salons to bright unicorn colouring options. There are beauty salons that specifically provide the service of weaving or glueing in human hair extensions to fulfil a woman’s desire for long locks. Long hair in women has always been associated with feminism and beauty. It resonates with a whimsical, carefree attitude of youth, health and vitality. However, it might be a shock to hear that over 1 in every four women experience female hair loss in their lifetime. The thinning usually occurs in a women’s 40s, 50s or 60s, but it has been known to occur earlier. This hair loss has the potential to cause a devastating effect on the female’s emotional well-being, more so than men. By the age of 50 years old, approximately 40% of females will have already experienced some form of female hair loss. The part may widen, ponytail volume might shrink, or they might experience widespread thinning.
Causes of Female Hair Loss
Female Pattern Baldness
Female Pattern Baldness is the most common form of female hair loss, where the thinning shows predominantly on the top and crown of the scalp. Usually the front hairline will remain, while the centre hair part widens and extends. Women do not bald completely like men do, unless there is excessive production of androgens in the body. Female hair thinning also progresses slower than men’s, but like every cause, the rate of female hair loss will depend on overall health and genetic makeup.
In female pattern baldness the enzyme 5-a reductase, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) play a part alongside the presence of the enzyme aromatase and the female hormones estrone and estradiol.
- 5-a reductase reacts with testosterone to produce DHT.
- DHT is a hormone that shrinks the hair follicle.
- DHT is also responsible for the gradual disappearance of the hair follicles that are affected.
- Women naturally have half the 5-a reductase of men.
- In women, the enzyme aromatase is responsible for the formation of the female hormones, estrone and estradiol
- Estrone and estradiol have been proven to counteract the action of DHT.
- Women have higher levels of aromatase than males.
Although hair loss in women is a lot more common that expected, genetic reasons should be considered only after all other causes are eliminated.
Female Hormones, Ageing, Thinning and Hair Loss
The ovaries produce two main female hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. When these hormones become unbalanced, it may result in hair loss in women.
Low Progesterone + Oestrogen Dominance = Female Hair Loss
Oestrogen is a hormone that likes to dominate. When Progesterone levels get too low, it can set off Oestrogen dominance, the symptoms of which can include hormonal thinning and shedding of hair.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills that contain progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone, can have a similar effect to testosterone, by shrinking and damaging the hair follicles. Modern birth control has not yet managed to lower this risk, and often come with worse side effects like a higher risk of blood clots. When selecting birth control pills, females should choose low-androgen options, especially if female pattern hair loss runs in the family.
Child Birth (Post Pregnancy)
During pregnancy, the number of hairs in the resting phase of the hair growth cycle increases. Post pregnancy and childbirth, the condition Telogen Effluvium may cause hair loss in women. It is surprisingly common and affects 40-50% of females post-pregnancy. Symptoms include excessive shedding of hair – and does not usually occur until 3 months post childbirth. The hair loss is temporary so if it does not resolve itself within 6-12 months, females should be checked for other underlying medical conditions. Nutritional deficiencies or an issue with the thyroid gland can also contribute to ongoing hair loss after childbirth.
Other Causes for Female Hair Loss:
- Stopping birth control pills
Menopause and testosterone levels contribute to female hair loss.
Hair loss is an unfortunate common side effect due to the fluctuation of hormones during Menopause. Specifically, when oestrogen levels drop causing a deficiency, DHT, a potent type of testosterone takes over. This results in thinning of the hair on areas that are sensitive to androgens, typically the top of the scalp. And like Male Pattern Baldness, also causes growth of unwanted chin and facial hair.
Thyroid Hormone Deficiency and Hormonal Hair Loss
Hair growth depends on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and it’s production of parathyroid hormone. If the gland is not function correctly, hair can become dry, brittle, break easily and be at more risk of falling out. Hair follicles follow a healthy cycle of growing or resting. At any given time, most of your hair is growing while just a small portion of it is resting. But when changes in the body throw that cycle of balance, too much hair rests at one time instead of continuing to the growth phase, which then results in excessive hair loss, thinning, or balding. This can also increase premature grey hair. Thyroid imbalance happens so slowly over time, it can easily go unnoticed and unfortunately go too far to reverse the damage. So maintaining ideal health is the best prevention against hair loss.
Luckily, there are alternative solutions that are safe and effective for the many women experiencing hair loss. Find out how Hair By Science can help restore your hair and confidence.