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Hair loss in women

Monday 3 November 2014
Hair loss in women is a common occurrence. This blog is about the two most common causes of hair loss in women and what can be done about it.

More than half of women will suffer from hair loss at some point in her life. In the case of hair loss, an important first step is to identify the cause. In a previous blog, we discussed the causes of hair loss.

Now, we will look into the two most important and most common types of hair loss in women: Androgenetic Alopecia and Telogen Effluvium.

Androgenetic Alopecia

First is androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or hereditary baldness. In women, hair loss manifests itself according to the female pattern (see image below). The female form of hereditary hair loss is chronic hair loss and thinning hair. Typically, the hair in the middle of the head gradually becomes thinner. Because of this, the scalp will become visible through the hair. Most women will however not get any real bald spots.

An estimated 40% of women will be confronted with hereditary hair loss at some point in their life. But unlike in men, it is more common at a later age in women, the process is much slower and it rarely leads to bald spots. Yet there are, just like men, women that are confronted with hair loss at a very young age.

The cause of Androgenetic Alopecia is a genetic predisposition, it is hereditary. The hair loss in Androgenetic Alopecia is caused by the male hormone testosterone being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It can be said that DHT is the biggest enemy of hair: it shrinks the hair follicles. Hair can no longer grow from these hair follicles, or only much thinner hair will grow from them.

Read in our blog: "What can a woman do against hair loss?" what you can do against hereditary hair loss as a woman.

Telogen Effluvium / diffuse thinning of hair

Women's hair is very sensitive. The hair responds quickly to physical changes or problems. Hair follicles go into resting phase quicker, causing the hair to fall out and stop growing. In telogen effluvium or telogen hair loss, there is an acute and excessive loss of hair. There is a lot of hair loss, but no real bald spots appear. The hair loss can occur suddenly and can be so severe that it becomes thinner in a really short time, but it can also begin slowly and last longer. The hairs that fall out can be recognized by a small bulb of keratin at the root end of the hair. Possible causes of this sudden hair loss by telogen effluvium are:

  • Medication (including anticoagulants, antihypertensives, starting or stopping the pill).
  • A diet that is inadequate in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6 and B12, iron, zinc and amino acids.
  • Pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Menopause and possibly thyroid disorder, stress, rapid weight loss or other causes.
  • Cancer treatment (usually leads to Anagen Effluvium, an abrupt stop in the growth phase).
  • The onset of hereditary hair loss.

Read in our blog "What can a woman do against hair loss?" what you can do against telogen effluvium as a woman.