WHEN IT COMES TO DIFFERENCES IN HAIR LOSS CONDITIONS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN, THERE ARE PLENTY.
One thing men and women have in common is that the name for the most common form of inherited (but not specifically identified by genetics or any other cause) hair loss in both is androgenic (and sometimes androgenetic) alopecia. And that’s where the similarities end. Get to know these five major hair loss conditions for women only.
Traction alopecia and CCCA (central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia)
Traction alopecia and CCCA are two types of traumatic hair loss (alopecia) that are multifactorial and usually found in women (but can occur in men) who practice specific unique haircare and styling practices using tight ponytails, braiding, chemical relaxers, hair accessories, styling tools and products that result in damaging hair follicles to the point of their death, explains Valerie Callender, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the director of the Callender Skin & Laser Center in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Many times the condition continues unknown because most women cannot see the very top and back of their head, called the crown, and it can go unnoticed until they feel pain and soreness or until they see the hair loss or a friend or hairstylist alerts them to the problem. If you notice any signs of infection, redness, pain or inflammation — along with hair loss — you need to visit a dermatologist for successful treatment and possible reversal of hair loss.
Hair loss due to Malnutrition
While the quality, quantity and distribution of your hair are genetically predetermined, solving hair malnutrition problems can make a difference in the health and appearance of your hair, says Eric Schweiger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon at Bernstein Medical — Center for Hair Restoration in New York City. “I commonly see thin, menstruating women in my practice showing an increase in shedding and hair loss due to low iron-storage levels, specifically ferritin. By increasing iron intake through a basic iron supplement, the hair grows back, although slowly.” In addition, if hair is brittle and easily broken, Schweiger will recommend taking the supplement biotin, one of the water-soluble B vitamins, at 1,000-5,000 mcg per day.
Nutritionist Cherie Calbom further explains that because hair is made up of protein, a diet deficient in protein can cause hair loss and thinning, as can a very low calorie diet of less than 600 calories per day, which is lacking in nutrients. Hair is made up of keratin protein, which has a high sulfur content, so add foods rich in protein, sulfur and B-vitamins, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage in addition to eggs, legumes and lean meat or poultry, advises Calbom. By eating a variety of legumes, seeds, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and grains, you will also get all essential amino acids an adult needs, as directed by the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA). (See Hair Loss and Nutrition)
In addition, hair needs essential fatty acids to support the cellular functions of shiny, healthy hair growth, but fatty acids are not produced within your body and must be taken from your diet. For essential omega-6 fatty acids, use cold-pressed nut and seed oils, such as flaxseed and extra virgin olive oil, daily on salads and in any other dishes that do not require heating, for maximum benefit; be sure to get omega-3 fatty acids from fish at least once per week.
Hair loss caused by menopause
Commonly defined as a woman’s final menstrual period, menopause is diagnosed by doctors when at least one year has passed without you having any periods at all. Sometimes hair loss can be a symptom of menopause, when the body is in a hormonal state of change. Once you have been evaluated by your OB-GYN, you might check in with an endocrinologist, a medical doctor who specializes in hormonal abnormalities and can provide testing, diagnosis and treatment. If you are aware of any hormonal abnormalities or are already on any medication for hormonal issues, check in with an endocrinologist regarding any hair loss issues, since hyper- and hypothyroidism can cause reversible hair loss, advises endocrinologist Geoffrey Redmond, M.D., who specializes in hormonal abnormalities and hair loss. (See Hair Loss and Menopause)
Postpregnancy telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium, the second most common form of hair loss, describes any excessive delayed shedding of hair that occurs one to six months following a sudden emotional or physical trauma, such as pregnancy, loss of a loved one, a severe accident, a major surgery and even a hair transplant. Because this type of hair loss is caused by hair follicles being thrown into a resting state, it is perfectly normal and is usually reversible once your body readjusts and the stress or trauma subsides, says Dr. Callender. Hair loss can be triggered by anything that involves a change in your system’s hormone (estrogen) balance, so hormonal hair loss in women can also result from discontinuation of birth control pills or any other hormonal type of birth control method, or from a miscarriage, a stillbirth or an abortion.
Female pattern hair loss
Female pattern hair loss or baldness is defined as the progressive, diffuse thinning of hair in females caused by genetics, age or hormones. It usually develops at a much slower rate than male pattern baldness and has no discernible pattern; therefore it’s called diffuse, or allover thinning. Doctors will diagnose female pattern hair loss when there is the absence of something that could be causing the hair thinning or loss, such as disease, illness, medication, hormonal abnormality, life change or malnutrition. Female pattern baldness is not reversible but may be kept under control through the use of laser hair therapy and minoxidil (brand name Rogaine).
A little understanding of the differences between women’s and men’s bodies and life experiences can go a long way in helping to deal with associated hair loss issues as they pop up during a woman’s life. Now that you know the main five ways hair loss might be caused in women, you’ll have more of an idea of what’s normal and what’s not.