As many women age, their hair thins. It’s just a fact of life. But when compared to men, the appearance of thinning hair on women is much less accepted in the professional work environment — another fact of life.
That means women suffering from hair loss are far more likely to be self-conscious and insecure about their changing appearance than their male colleagues and can be anxious about seeking help.
Although it can feel isolating, female pattern baldness is much more common than most think. According to the American Hair Loss Association, women make up 40% of the U.S. balding population. That’s nearly half of the balding population in the United States, so you are not alone!
Causes of Hair Loss in Women
While many women find their hair thinning in their 50s or 60s, the experience isn’t limited to older women. Hair loss and hair thinning can happen at any age and for a variety of reasons. In general, however, there are four primary causes:
The most common, and perhaps the most frustrating, cause of hair loss is heredity. If the women in your family commonly suffer from thinning hair as they age, there is a greater chance that you will as well. Unfortunately, for many women, this is unavoidable.
Hereditary female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is characterized by gradual hair loss and hair follicles showing different sizes. That’s because the condition is due to hair follicles shrinking and finally dying, leading to finer hair and eventually hair loss.
In this case, it is a hormonal process that can damage hair. This process occurs in both men and women and involves testosterone. When testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the DHT shrinks hair follicles, killing the hair.
Other hormonal changes can be triggered by events in a woman’s body such as pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, changing birth control medications and life stressors. Any of these conditions can disrupt your normal hormone balance and cause hair to thin.
A variety of medications can cause hair to thin in some women. Certain forms of birth control may change your hormonal balance, causing your body to react with hair loss. Medications for diseases such as cancer, depression, arthritis, blood pressure and more are also possible culprits when it comes to thinning hair.
If you’re concerned about hair loss, make sure to talk with your doctor about all the medications you are taking. They can work with you to identify which ones may be affecting your hair, explain possible timelines for hair regrowth, and help you create a plan to restore your hair’s vitality.
There are quite a few medical conditions that can cause hair loss in women. The good news is that when many of these conditions are treated, the hair comes back!
More treatable conditions causing hair loss include dandruff, scalp psoriasis and scalp infections, as conditions that affect the health of your scalp will naturally affect the health of your hair and hair follicles. Other situational hair loss may be caused by excessive hair treatments (perming, hair coloring and heating), hair pulling disorders or even too-tight hairstyles. These are typically treatable and are not a permanent cause of hair loss.
Unfortunately, other conditions may result in permanent loss or thinning of hair. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis can often affect the fineness and quality of your hair. Sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and sickle-cell anemia are all potential culprits as well. Your doctor can help you determine if any of these conditions are a concern, though it is more likely that thinning hair is the result of hormonal or hereditary female pattern baldness.
How Can Women Regain Hair?
The first step for most women when they notice thinning hair is to try an over-the-counter topical treatment such as Rogaine. Some women do find success with topical treatments, but they are not usually the most effective solution. Furthermore, the effect is only maintained with continuous application, which can become costly over time. Topical treatments can also cause skin irritation and hair growth on the face, an unfortunate side-effect when trying to maintain one’s appearance.
If your hair loss is causing you distress, then hair pieces and wigs are other options. Luckily for women, the hair piece alternatives are a bit broader for them than they are for men. Options range from small hair pieces to wiglets, fuller top pieces that can naturally add more volume, and complete wigs. (Some women even embrace the ability to swap out hairstyles or colors from day to day!) Hair pieces may be made of synthetic hair or real human hair, with the human hair pieces being the more expensive option.
The most expensive, but also most effective option is a hair transplant. While old-fashioned hair transplants removed a full strip of hair from the back of the head, leaving a linear scar, modern Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplants are significantly less invasive.
The NeoGraft FUE procedure uses a tool with pneumatic pressure to extract hair follicles individually and artistically implant them in thinning areas. There is no cutting, no linear scarring, and only a local anesthetic is required. Most patients are back to work in one to two days, as opposed to a week for a traditional hair transplant. If you’re interested in a surgical solution to your hair loss, you may be surprised at how easy it is to get great results with modern technology.
What Are My Next Steps?
The first step should always be to talk to your doctor to determine if a medication or medical condition is the cause of your hair loss. If you rule these out, and you’re left with genetic or hormonal hair thinning, you may want to explore your treatment options.
But no matter what solution to hair loss you choose — from hair serums to surgery, or from a purple wig to a shaved head — just know that you are not alone. Female pattern baldness is more common than we think, and there are plenty of options that can leave you happy and secure in your appearance once again.
If you feel like thinning hair is costing you in the workplace and beyond, talk to us about your options. And remember that body-positive confidence never goes out of style!