Losing one’s hair can be a devastating and stressful event. According to the Mayo Clinic, hair loss (alopecia) can affect “just your scalp or your entire body, and it can be temporary or permanent.” There are many causes for hair loss in women and thus different ways to prevent and treat it.
How you wish to manage your hair loss is really up to you. Some people prefer to deal with losing their hair by doing nothing. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, hats, or scarves that hide or mask their hair loss. Others choose medical intervention targeted to help regrow hair. The choice is a personal one and one only you can make. Knowing there are options available can help you manage the stress and anxiety that sometimes comes with hair loss.
What causes hair loss?
What causes women’s hair loss can be targeted into a few buckets. The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition that happens with aging. This condition, called androgenic alopecia, is often referred to as male-pattern and female-pattern baldness. Women often experience thinning hair along the crown of the scalp, which happens gradually.
Hormonal changes and medical conditions are the second major cause of hair loss in women. This often happens when changes occur due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, smoking, significant weight loss, or thyroid problems. Hair loss can also occur from dietary changes, stress, certain hairstyles, medical conditions like alopecia areata (an immune system disorder that causes patchy hair loss), scalp infections like ringworm, or trichotillomania, a disorder where people pull out their own hair.
How to prevent hair loss
The majority of baldness and hair loss in both women and men is caused by genetics, which is not preventable. However, there are measures you can take to avoid preventable hair loss. When brushing or styling your hair, use a detangler and avoid rigorous brushing, which can cause hair to fall out unnecessarily. Also, avoid hot rollers, curling irons, and straighteners as much as possible. If you chemically color your hair, try extending the time in between coloring.
If you are able to limit the use of hair bands, that can also help with hair loss. Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. There are also over-the-counter treatments like peppermint oil that have been shown to help stimulate hair growth that you can also try, which are relatively inexpensive. Doctors may recommend Minoxidil (Rogaine) for treating female-pattern hair loss.
When to see a doctor
Generally, humans shed between 50 and 100 single hairs per day. If you are experiencing a higher volume than this (not that you are going to count each hair, but if you notice clumps of hair falling out at a time), you may want to consult a doctor or dermatologist to determine if there is something more going on with your health.
Doctors can perform tests to determine what is going on, including gently pulling on your hair to see how much hair falls out. They can also perform blood tests to check for vitamin and mineral levels and hormone levels (including thyroid and sex hormones). More invasive tests including a scalp examination under a microscope and trichoscopy, a method of hair and scalp evaluation that is used for diagnosing hair and scalp diseases.
Hair loss is typically addressed more in men, but it’s estimated that more than 50% of women will experience noticeable hair loss in their lives. Female-pattern hair loss affects some 30 million women in the United States alone. It can be a devastating and emotional experience, especially for women, who are held to a higher (and often unrealistic) beauty standard in society than men. As soon as you notice something is wrong, reach out. It can help reverse the damage early on and give you options for the future, which can prevent you from losing more hair.
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