Hair Loss Is Often Associated with Men, But Women Experience It Too

If you’ve experienced stress or sudden weight loss or you’re approaching menopause, there may be extra hair in the shower drain or left on your brush.

But don’t be alarmed; hair shedding is a normal part of the follicular growing cycle. In fact, it is normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day.

There can be plenty of reasons more hair might be falling out. And if the loss gets to be a concern, it might be worth a trip to the dermatologist’s office.

Hair Loss is not Just for men

Hair loss may be thought of as a male condition, but it’s also common for women.

Women who experience hair loss do not usually go completely bald, explained Dr. Vlad Ratushny, MD, PhD, a Lahey Health dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates in Beverly, Massachusetts.

“For females, the initial sign of hair loss is usually a widening of the hair part,” he said.

Onset might happen to a woman in her 20s, or it may not present until menopause.

By age 60, some estimates say 80 percent of women will have experienced some hair loss.

Actress Kristin Davis, who played Charlotte on HBO’s series Sex and the City in the 1990s and early 2000s, was known for her thick, luxurious brown hair. The actress, now 52, talked publicly about her struggles with thinning hair as she aged.

“It was very fine, like it had gone away, there was just hardly any hair thereā€¦ when I tried to do something or had to go somewhere I was like, “Where is my hair?”‘

For women, losing hair is fraught. In recent years, society has accepted the shaved or balding heads of men. Bald heads for men is viewed in style. Not so for women.

“Female hair loss can be emotionally challenging because there is not the same acceptance as for men,” Dr. Ratushny said. “It can be devastating.”

Diagnosing a Cause

Having a dermatologist diagnose the proper cause of hair loss can help because there are several potential causes of hair loss.

“One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is female pattern hair loss,” Dr. Ratushny explained.

Onset can happen to women in their 20s all the way to post-menopausal women. It’s considered a multigenic condition, meaning that multiple genes can contribute to this type of hair loss. Women typically experience a widening of their hair part but have a preservation of their anterior hair line. They also experience hair miniaturization, a process of hair thinning at the sites where they experience hair loss.

Telogen effluvium is another cause of female hair loss. This is a transient loss of hair that can happen after periods of physical or emotional stress such as a hospitalization, severe illness, or large weight loss.

“In the majority of these cases, women regain the hair they’ve lost,” Dr. Ratushny said.

Rarer cases of hair loss in women include alopecia areata, an auto-immune disorder that causes circular bald spots. Another condition is called lichen planopilaris, a scarring type of hair loss that can present with scalp itching, scaling, and redness around the hair follicles in the frontal hairline area.

Treatments For Hair Loss

The good news is there are treatments available. Rogaine, or Minoxidil, is an FDA approved topical treatment for female pattern hair loss. Dr. Ratushny said women who start Rogaine may experience more shedding for the first few months, then a regrowth at about 4-6 months.

Other treatments available for women include low level red light therapy that may help with hair growth. Vitamin supplements such as Viviscal or Nutrafol have shown some promise, though Ratushny warns the results may not be “too significant.”

All the above medical treatments work for as long as you continue to use them. Hair loss returns back to the normal state after the treatments are discontinued. As with men, hair transplantation in women is usually very effective and is the only permanent option available for advanced hair loss. During a female hair transplant, a hair transplantation surgeon such as Dr. Ratushny takes the hair from the back of the head and transplants it one follicle at a time to the areas of the scalp where women experience hair loss. The transplanted hair grows like your normal hair and can be dyed, cut, washed, and brushed just like your natural hair.

For more information on hair loss, speak with a dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

MORE IN Live Well