Both men and women can experience hair loss, but the causes and severity may differ between gender. Female pattern hair loss – or female alopecia – affects around 40% of women by the age of 50, but it’s possible for women to experience it by the age of 29.
But what exactly causes female alopecia? There are many factors that may affect how likely a woman develops hair loss, chief among them being genetics, lifestyle, age, and serious medical conditions.
To understand female alopecia, it’s important to understand the hair growth cycle. Hair growth can be divided into three stages:
The hair on the body is usually in different stages of this process. Hair loss usually occurs when many hairs exit the anagen phase and skip to the telogen phase at the same time, which causes alopecia. Many problems can cause this situation to arise, including but not limited to:
Significant amounts of stress can push hair into the telogen phase early, which can cause three different hair loss.
These types of hair loss can also be caused by other factors aside from stress, but it’s far more common for stressful events such as childbirth or anxiety to trigger them. But since stress can be caused by any factors, it’s one of the most important factors to address to prevent hair loss.
Any significant physical or emotional shock or trauma may also trigger alopecia, especially if it’s a long-term event that takes an enormous toll on the person. Consistent exposure to high-stress situations also influence the likelihood of experiencing hair loss.
Malnutrition and improper diet is another leading cause of female alopecia, primarily because of the increased demands of hair for nutrients found in food. A general lack of vitamins and minerals will put the body into a state where only the most important functions will benefit from any nutrient intake. Hair growth will be considered an auxiliary process – and therefore suffer from lack of nutrients.
Essential nutrients that contribute to hair growth include iron, which helps in delivering oxygen to the hair follicles. Another is protein, which creates keratin, the compound that makes up hair. Finally, vitamin C (which produces collagen, a protein that holds the hair together) and vitamin A (which increases sebum production) are also crucial for reducing hair loss.
The female body needs an optimal level of estrogen to help grow healthy hair. Any drops in this hormone – typically because of depression or events like childbirth – will lead to hair loss and reduced hair growth. Given the natural fluctuations of a woman’s hormone levels, this makes them more likely to experience alopecia.
Another issue is when other hormones such as androgen and testosterone unbalance the body’s estrogen levels. Normally, these hormones are kept in check by the female body, but certain conditions or medication may cause disruptions to this process. This also contributes to an imbalance in hormonal levels, which leads to either hair loss or excessive hair growth.
There are several ways that patients may try to manage this factor, though they must get clearance from their doctor before trying any treatment options. In the US, hormonal therapy is usually the solution most dermatologists prefer if hormones are the problem.
As the body ages, it becomes less efficient at keeping up processes like hair growth and scalp rejuvenation. The body slows down to keep essential functions running, and hair growth is usually one of the first things that slow down as people get older. This process isn’t reversible, though there are treatment options that patients can consider to manage or slow down age-related alopecia.
A significant factor for women developing alopecia is menopause. As high estrogen levels are usually associated with menstruation, menopause (which slows down the ovaries) can affect estrogen production. Typically, both adrenal glands and the ovaries produce enough estrogen for the body. With menopause, only the adrenal glands still produce estrogen, which is not sufficient in keeping functions like hair growth running.
Developing female alopecia is also subject to genetics. It’s possible to inherit the genes that cause general pattern hair loss. The more family members the patient has that have experienced hair loss, the more likely they are to develop it themselves.
In cases like these, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Dermatologists will ask for a patient’s complete medical and family history, since those are often the first indicators that they’re likely to develop alopecia.
Finally, some medical conditions have hair loss as a symptom like high blood pressure, depression, cancer, or arthritis. In these cases, treatment of the underlying condition is often enough to prevent any further hair loss. But depending on the severity of the condition and the aggressiveness of the treatment, it may or may not be possible to regrow the hair.
Diseases that cause skin blemishes or scarring like some types of lupus, epidermolysis bullosa, chickenpox, and measles may also cause significant hair loss. However, alopecia caused by these conditions are secondary, and will disappear after the disease has been treated.
Patients should see their doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis of female alopecia as soon as they think the amount of hair they lose per day is unnatural. While losing some strands is normal, a sustained period of hair loss or intense, unexplained hair fall is enough grounds for immediate medical examination.
Alternatively, dermatologists may conduct a pre-screening for female alopecia by accessing the patient’s medical history and regular examinations. The crucial point to remember is that early diagnosis is the key to planning an effective treatment option.
Only dermatologists should have the final say in diagnosing female alopecia. While patients may be tempted to self-diagnose or self-medicate alopecia at home, it’s crucial they receive explicit medical approval before using any therapies or treatments for hair loss.
It’s important to identify the exact cause of hair loss before trying any treatment options. A misdiagnosis could prove detrimental to hair growth and may cause further complications for the patient. There are three methods that are often used to treat female alopecia:
One of the most recommended solutions for treating female pattern hair loss is minoxidil, more commonly known as Rogaine. It’s the only FDA-approved drug to treat female alopecia, but it should not be confused with the men’s brand of Rogaine, which comes in the 5% topical solution.
Minoxidil works by prolonging the anagen phase of hair growth since it widens the blood vessels to help bring oxygen-rich blood to the hair. Access to nutrients in the blood is crucial for hairs in the anagen phase because it helps catalyze their growth.
It also works by shortening the telogen phase, which means the hair reaches the anagen phase earlier. An early and prolonged anagen phase means the hair has more time to develop at an earlier rate, which contributes to stronger and thicker hair.
However, doctors should remember that the body cannot keep up the anagen phase forever, even with treatments like minoxidil. It’s also ineffective if the alopecia is triggered by an active medical condition like eczema or lifestyle changes like stress. In cases like these, it’s best to combine these medications with another form of hair rejuvenation therapy.
Low-level laser therapy (also called red light or cold laser therapy) replicates the effects of the anagen phase in the body, which increases the access of your hair to nutrient-rich blood. There are several ways that patients can access this kind of treatment: while home laser therapy kits are available, it’s more advisable to conduct them under the supervision of a dermatologist for the best results.
There are definite advantages to using laser therapy to treat female alopecia, chief among them is that it’s a unisex solution. Both men and women can equally benefit from laser treatments, though there may be some slight differences from how the lasers may be configured for men.
While LLT has steadily grown in popularity to treat hair loss in men and women, there aren’t many studies about its efficacy in restoring hair growth. There are promising signs that it can help manage hair loss, but better results may be obtained if it’s combined with another hair restoration treatment.
Aside from minoxidil, there are general-purpose hair growth serums that may help manage the signs of hair loss in both men and women. Usually, their hair regrowth comes from the overall formulation of the product to improve scalp health, which helps rejuvenate the cells responsible for hair growth.
One product that’s steadily gaining traction among cosmetic practices is PEP Factor. A compound containing essential nutrients, peptides, and fibroblast stimulators, it increases collagen and elastin levels in the skin. This may help the scalp generate more cells for hair growth and improve overall scalp health.
PEP Factor products are also one of the few bio-identical proteins that are commercially available for use. This may help the body access and process it faster, which might speed up the effects of the natural hair regrowth process. While it still hasn’t hit the mainstream market, many cosmetic practices have offered them as potential hair loss treatment options.
One important piece of information that dermatologists should share with their patients is that treating female hair loss is not the same as treating male hair loss. Aside from both medical conditions progressing differently, the compounds commonly used in treatment options have been precisely measured to affect the body without disrupting its natural hormonal balances.
Hormonal changes are some of the biggest factors that affect hair growth, with men and women needing distinct levels of estrogen and testosterone to maintain the ideal balance required by their bodies. It’s entirely possible that using an incompatible treatment option may aggravate hair loss.
This is also why it’s crucial for patients to always consult dermatologists before using any kind of treatment for hair loss. Under no circumstances should patients try to diagnose hair loss or treat them by themselves, especially if the alopecia manifested with no obvious triggers.
While several effective methods may help manage hair loss, there is no such thing as a permanent solution that can keep female alopecia at bay. The different causes of hair loss pose a significant problem with trying to prevent overall hair fall; the best that patients and dermatologists can do is to prevent significant hair fall and/or regrow lost hair.
One thing that may buy significant time for patients is if they start their treatment option early and keep it consistent throughout their life. Depending on the treatment method, the genetics of the patient, and their overall lifestyle, it’s possible to potentially regrow most of the hair they’ve lost. For active medical conditions or treatments like chemotherapy, conventional products and time are enough.
However, for long-term treatments, dermatologists need to manage expectations with their patients. Depending on the underlying condition and the treatment option itself, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months for hair rejuvenation therapies to show visible results.
Female alopecia can be caused by many things, but it can be managed with early detection and the right products. While it’s possible to self-manage hair loss, better treatment options and better results are always available at cosmetic practices or with dermatologists.
At FACE Medical Supply, we sell hair rejuvenation treatments like PEP Factor products at competitive prices. With an emphasis on excellent customer service, we strive to establish long-term partnerships with cosmetic practices across the country. Contact us today to learn more about our stock and the products we can provide.
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