Hair loss specialist Shuna Hammocks talks about the possible causes, types and treatment of hair loss in women. Often causes are quite different from hair loss in men.
Most Common Female Hair Loss Conditions
This condition presents as a change in the density of the upper region of the hair compared to the sides and the rear, it can feel much finer and look quite transparent. The onset of this is usually gradual although the individual can perceive this to have worsened more recently.
Interestingly this affects both men and a woman at any age from puberty upwards and therefore isn’t exclusive to the senior age group as is thought to be.
Male and female pattern thinning may have other medical associated conditions, such as in women Polycystic Ovarian syndrome or hormone imbalances. However, in most cases, this inherited hair loss condition is NOT due to raised levels of hormones. Androgen Dependant Alopecia is a pre disposed of inherited condition and is triggered by the influence of circulating male (androgens) hormones. The hair follicle becomes sensitive to these hormones causing the effected follicles miniaturize, this results in terminal (mature) hairs gradually developing into finer smaller (vellous) hairs.
At Sussex Trichology, this condition in women can be completely arrested in most cases improved hair density can be achieved.Contrary to some medical opinions, certain HRT and oral contraceptive pills can exacerbate rather than help this condition. It is most important for these women that are considering commencing these are given advice on the most appropriate ones. I often work alongside other medical disciplines such as Endocrinologists and Gynaecologists.
Many women consult us with hair loss during or after pregnancy. This can be very worrying for women. The hair loss associated with pregnancy is a totally normal and predictable process of the hair cycle. During the 9 months gestation period, the hair loss dramatically slows and in some cases ceases completely and continuously grows. This is why our hair looks and feels its very best and fullest during pregnancy.
After birth or the cessation of breast feeding where appropriate, the hair loss which is perceived to be of an accelerated amount begins. This is simply the 9 months of hair not lost “catching up”! It is only when this loss continues beyond 9-12 months. Should investigations should be carried out, in the first instance via blood test as a specific deficiency may be present.
One of the most common causes of hair loss in women, without a doubt is low Iron stores. A large majority of the women who we consult at Sussex Trichology have below optimum Iron stores for good hair growth. A study conducted on 1000 women revealed 33% suffered a form of female hair loss. Of these, 75% caused by low Iron stores or other nutritional deficiency and 25% caused by genetic (female pattern baldness) or other factors.
GP’s are often unaware of exactly which blood tests to carry out for female hair loss, most opting for the Full Blood Count and Haemoglobin tests for anaemia. However, the most important blood test for a woman suffering female hair loss is the Serum Ferritin, a test for iron stores. Research has not established a link between low Haemoglobin and hair loss as they have with low Serum Ferritin. Once the Serum Ferritin level increases and reaches a certain trigger point – around 70ug/l, hair loss should decrease and hair growth improve. You may have already been prescribed iron tablets and not found an improvement in your hair but are you using them correctly or taking enough of the best form?
Low B12 can also cause hair loss in women which is frequently missed by GP’s. It’s not a routine blood test and even when a person is tested for B12, if the result is borderline they will rarely be treated. The minimum level for B12 is around 180 ng/l, however, most healthy people have a level of around 500ng/l. Symptoms of low B12 include hair loss, breathlessness, lack of energy palpitations, bleeding gum’s, mouth ulcers, tingling in the hands and feet.
There are two types of B12 deficiency:
- Lack of dietary B12 – usually vegetarians and vegans, B12 is mostly found in animal produce rather than plants. Solution – increase dietary B12 or/and take a B12 supplement.
- Autoimmune – Antibodies to intrinsic factor prevent absorption of dietary B12. A blood test for an intrinsic factor can be carried out to determine if your problem is dietary or autoimmune. If your problem is auto immune your GP will do further investigation to try to determine why it has developed. The correct treatment for low B12 is often for the person to have lifelong B12 injections every few months.
The most common form of hair loss in women, Chronic Telogen Effluvium (long term diffuse hair loss), is an increase in hair loss and a decrease in hair thickness over a long period of time. You may have always seen excessive hair in the brush or shower and considered it normal. It’s only when your scalp becomes visible or your ponytail thickness reduces you may ask ‘why is my hair falling out’ and start investigating – which is probably why you’re reading this now!
Approximately 30% of pre-menopausal women are affected by Female hair loss in the UK, so if you think your hair is thinning, you’re not alone! Stopping Female hair loss and regaining hair thickness, depends on establishing the true cause and dealing with it as quickly as possible.
What Causes Chronic Telogen Effluvium?
Often combinations of problems contribute to female hair loss. Women are increasingly under greater stress, high-pressure jobs, juggling work and family life, leaving less time to consider their own health and well-being. Stress ‘burns off’ vital nutrients such as B vitamins which are vital for good hair quality and growth. Thyroid problems, endocrine imbalances, yo-yo dieting, crash weight loss, vegetarian and low protein diets can all contribute to hair loss in women. Other nutrients including iron, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin A and essential fatty acids are vital for hair health. There are countless hair supplements on the market today, however, we don’t recommend you attempt to design your own female hair loss nutritional program without the help of a qualified professional. You may waste time and money or cause further problems by using the wrong supplements.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia presents as the frontal hairline initially gradually receding, this can later include the rear hairline also. It mainly affects post-menopausal women over 40 years of age. The scalp shows where the hair once was. It can appear red and sometimes shiny or inflamed and is usually accompanied by a light powdery scale around the affected area. The patient may also have involvement of the eyebrows where they can be lost or significantly thin. And the tell-tale sign in diagnosing this condition is the absence of facial hair to the forehead region. There are so many women out there feeling that there is no help. At Sussex Trichology, we can help to control the progression of this horrid condition and help you keep it under control.
We will supply clear written instructions for home treatment and provide phone and email support.