If the part in your hair is widening, you find bald spots, or you’re shedding more than 125 hairs per day, you’re likely experiencing hair loss and need to see a dermatologist. There are a couple types of hair loss and several possible causes. Although there’s very little you can do to prevent hair loss, you might respond to treatment if you get to a dermatologist early!
Hair loss in women is just that — when a woman experiences unexpected, heavy loss of hair. Generally, humans shed between 50 and 100 single hairs per day. Hair shedding is part of a natural balance — some hairs fall out while others grow in. When the balance is interrupted — when hair falls out and less hair grows in — hair loss happens. Hair loss is different than hair shedding. The medical term for hair loss is “alopecia.”
Hair grows on almost all of your skin surfaces — not the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, lips or eyelids. Light, fine, short hair is called vellus hair. Terminal/androgenic hair is thicker, darker and longer.
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Hair goes through three cycles:
Your shorter hairs like eyelashes, arm and leg hair and eyebrows have a short anagen phase — about one month. Your scalp hair can last up to six years or even longer.
There are three: anagen effluvium, telogen effluvium and FPHL.
Many people think that hair loss only affects men. However, it is estimated that more than 50% of women will experience noticeable hair loss. The most significant cause of hair loss in women is female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), which affects about one-third of susceptible women, which equals out to some 30 million women in the United States.
Any girl or woman can be affected by hair loss. However, it is usually more common in:
Myths about hair loss are widespread. Nothing in the following list is true:
What causes hair loss?
What causes anagen effluvium hair loss?
What causes telogen effluvium hair loss?
What causes FPHL (Female Pattern Hair Loss)?
There are also some conditions that affect hair loss:
During menopause, you might see one of two things happen with your hair. You might start growing hair where you didn’t before. Or, you might see the hair you have start to thin. One cause may be changing levels of hormones during menopause. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall, meaning that the effects of the androgens, male hormones, are increased.
During and after menopause, hair might become finer (thinner) because hair follicles shrink. Hair grows more slowly and falls out more easily in these cases.
Your healthcare provider will do a thorough examination and take a detailed history to help you deal with changes in hair growth. You may be directed to have your iron levels or thyroid hormone levels tested. Your medications might be changed if what you take is found to affect hair loss or growth.
The tests performed to diagnose hair loss in women can be simple or complicated:
Your healthcare provider might ask about your habits:
They might ask about your history:
And, they might ask about your observations:
You may be treated by a dermatologist.
Treatment depends on the cause of your hair loss.
Other medications that have been studied, but not approved, for hair loss in women include:
It is important to note that premenopausal women should not take medications for hair loss treatment without using contraception. Many drugs, including minoxidil and finasteride, are not safe for pregnant women or women who want to get pregnant.
Minoxidil may irritate your scalp and cause dryness, scaling, itching and/or redness. See your dermatologist if this happens.
With Minoxidil you might also see hair growing in other places other than your scalp (cheeks and forehead, for example). Wash your face after you apply Minoxidil and make sure you avoid other areas when you apply it.
Preventing hair loss is not possible when it is due to disease, aging, heredity or physical stressors like injuries. You can prevent hair loss caused by caustic chemicals or tight hairstyles by avoiding them. You might be able to prevent some hair loss by eating a healthy diet that provides necessary nutrients in terms of vitamins, minerals and protein. You can stop smoking.
Your diagnosis determines the prognosis:
While hair loss is not itself dangerous, women with hair loss tend to be very upset by the changes to their appearance. These negative feelings can affect self-esteem and social lives. Recent studies suggest that FPHL can be associated with conditions that include metabolic syndrome, endocrine disorders and diabetes.
There are some things you can do on your own. You might check with your stylist or try some of these:
See a dermatologist as soon as possible when you notice hair loss. The sooner you get treatment, the more effective it will be.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hair loss may cause you distress whether it happens because of genetics, a disease, or even stress. Know that there are some treatments you can try, and expert dermatologists are there to help you. Your hair loss may be able to be reversed. See your healthcare provider as soon as you notice something wrong because the sooner you start treatment, the better.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/10/2021.
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