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Can Female Hair Loss Be Prevented?

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 21 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Baldness Hair Loss Hair Female Hair Loss

While baldness is usually something associated with men, women can suffer from hair loss as well and may find this deeply distressing and embarrassing as it is not as socially common as male pattern baldness.

Usually, women experience hair loss due to certain changes in their bodies and when these changes are reversed, the hair will regrow. Another common reason for hair loss is mechanical damage and poor care of hair, due to harsh hair treatments – this can be prevented with a few sensible precautions.

Normal Hair Loss

We all lose hair on a daily basis – in fact, it is normal to shed about 100 hairs a day. These are replaced as part of the natural hair growth cycle. Each hair follicle grows about half an inch each month during the ‘growth phase’ of the cycle, which lasts from 2 to 6 years and about 90% of the hair on your scalp is in this growing phase. The remaining 10% is in the ‘resting phase’ where it has stopped growing. After 2-3 month, the resting hair will fall out and a new hair will start growing in its place.

Excessive Hair Loss

If a person is shedding more than about 125 hairs per day or if lost hairs are not replaced by new growing hairs, then this is considered excessive or ‘true’ hair loss. This hair loss may be of 2 types: the first, known as Anagen Effluvium, is due to the effect of internally administered drugs, such as chemotherapy agents, which kill the hair follicle and therefore prevent new hair growing.

The second, known as Telogen Effluvium, is due to a increasing number of hair follicles entering the resting stage and not enough hair follicles in the growth stage to maintain hair replacement. Telogen Effluvium can be caused by a number of reasons such as:

  • Physical stress: surgery, illness, anemia, rapid weight change.
  • Emotional stress: mental illness, death of a family member.
  • Hormonal causes: pregnancy, birth control pills, menopause.
  • Medications: High doses of Vitamin A, Blood pressure and Gout medications.
  • Underlying disease: lupus, diabetes, fungal infections of the scalp, etc
  • Thyroid abnormalities.

There is a third type of hair loss that is due to pulling (known as Traction Alopecia) where continuous pulling from tight hair arrangements or woven hair extensions on the scalp can cause scarring which can then lead to permanent hair loss.

Similarly, harsh chemicals, hot oil treatments and the strong agents used in “perms” may cause inflammation of the hair follicle which can also lead to scarring and hair loss.

Female Pattern Baldness

In addition to hair loss due to stress, as described above, women can also suffer from an inherited pattern of hair loss, similar to male pattern baldness. Called androgenetic alopecia (‘female pattern baldness’), this presents itself as general hair thinning over the top and sides of the head and often begins after menopause.

About 30% of all susceptible women will suffer from androgenetic alopecia. Contrary to popular myth, hair loss can be inherited from either parent’s side of the family.

Hair Loss Prevention

Depending on the causes, it is possible to prevent female hair loss relatively effectively. For example, hair loss due to improper treatment of hair can be prevented by taking better care of your hair, such as not always wearing tight pigtails, cornrows or hair extensions which can pull on the hair follicles and not undergoing continuous harsh chemical treatments on hair, such as perming and dyeing hair.

Hair loss can also often be due to poor diet and a change in your diet can make a significant difference. Remember, hair loss is often associated with rapid weight loss (an unhealthy phenomenon in any case) and vitamins and supplements cannot help in this instance. In fact, many supplements can be high in vitamin A which can magnify the hair loss. It is best to consult a nutritionist and follow a balanced, healthy diet.

For true hair loss, it may be possible to take medication to help. In instances, it can be as simple as diagnosing and treating a fungal infection; in others, it may be a case of correcting a hormone imbalance. Medicines are also available to slow the development of inherited baldness, although these require continuous application to maintain the effects. In all cases, it is best to consult a doctor or hair loss specialist and receive a proper diagnosis as this will give you a better chance of selecting the treatment that is best for you.

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