Although balding and hair loss is most often associated with men, up to 40% of hair loss sufferers are women. Serious hair loss affects an estimated eight million women in the UK and many more experience a degree of hair thinning. Many women can benefit from specialist hair restoration therapy to reduce and reverse their hair loss and boost their confidence.
There are a number of factors that can cause the same hair loss symptoms in women as in men and it can be difficult to identify the underlying condition. However, once the cause has been established, hair restoration treatments are usually possible and effective.
Female pattern hair loss
Female pattern hair loss is a hereditary condition also known as androgenic alopecia. It usually affects women after menopause as their hormone balance changes, but can also affect younger women. It is marked by the gradual thinning of hair on top of the scalp and is largely the result of a genetic predisposition to the effects of hormones and ageing. Unlike male pattern baldness, the thinning occurs evenly across the entire top of the head. Women who are affected often seek out hair restoration therapy; thinning hair in women is far less socially acceptable than it is in men.
Hair loss in women caused by traction alopecia
Female hair loss isn’t always linked to genetics or hormones, or to scalp conditions or skin infections. Traction alopecia looks like a receding hairline or patches of baldness but is caused by constant tension on the hair follicles due to hair styles such as hair extensions, braids, buns, or tight ponytails. These methods of styling pull the hair from its roots and after prolonged strain, can cause permanent damage to the hair follicle, making hair restoration difficult.
Provided the damaging styling habits are curbed, most of the time hair growth will resume. Women experiencing traction alopecia should consult a hair loss specialist as soon as possible before the damage becomes too severe. If treated early enough, hair restoration treatments can be used to bring the follicles back to full health and stimulate renewed hair growth. If left too long, the damage may be irreversible.
Hair loss in women caused by telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is a common female hair loss problem caused by emotional stress, such as a family loss or relationship troubles, or physical stresses caused by childbirth, medication, or physical trauma. This can lead to a number of hairs passing from the growing stage (anagen) to the resting stage (telogen) all at the same time, which ultimately results in excessive shedding and hair loss.
Treatment of telogen effluvium centres on addressing the cause of the stress, and once this is dealt with, normal hair growth usually resumes. However, telogen effluvium can induce female pattern hair loss in those who have the genetic predisposition. In these cases, hair restoration treatments such as minoxidil may be required.
Hair loss in women caused by alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that affects one person in every 100 and can occur slowly, rapidly, or irregularly. Women with alopecia areata may be otherwise healthy but the chronic inflammatory disease leaves them with coin-sized bald patches on the scalp when their immune system mistakenly attacks their hair follicles. The condition can develop at any age but is most common in young people aged between 15 and 29.
Most effective hair restoration treatments for women
The UK has only approved two hair restoration treatments for use by women. Many women with various types of hair loss see a marked improvement when they use minoxidil, generally regarded as the more suitable hair restoration therapy for female hair loss. This not only stops hair loss in most cases but also helps hair grow back.
Finasteride (also known as Propecia®), the other hair restoration treatment, has been shown to treat hair loss effectively in pre-menopausal women. However, there are significant risks of birth defects in pregnancy, so this should only ever be used with extreme caution and with appropriate birth control in women of childbearing age.
Hair transplant techniques are often used in men very successfully but they are less of an option in many women. If patchy hair loss occurs, hair transplantation to ‘fill in the gaps’ can work well. If the hair thinning is more generalised, a hair transplant has little chance of making a difference.
Hair restoration treatments
Most treatment courses for hair restoration in women are based around different formulations of minoxidil with added products that might help to block dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from reaching the follicles.
Hair restoration can be fine-tuned for every individual by incorporating appropriate hair growth boosters to complement the hair restoration treatment so that each woman can have the opportunity to achieve the best results possible.
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