Female Pattern Baldness: Causes and Treatment Options
Female pattern baldness refers to loss of hair in women. Yes, women can suffer baldness too! Research reveals that by the age of 50 years, around 40 % of women show signs of hair loss. Although female pattern baldness is not as common as male baldness, it is quite distressing for any women to face hair loss at any point in life. Women usually complain a lot about hair fall and other hair problems. However, female pattern baldness shows a certain pattern of hair loss with increasing scalp visibility and is seen often during menopause or post pregnancy. This article explains what exactly is female pattern baldness and ways to prevent or treat it.
What is Female Pattern Baldness?
Female pattern baldness is also known as androgenetic alopecia. It is an irreversible type of diffuse hair loss that begins with thinning of hair at the top of the frontal region. Female pattern baldness can cause anxiety and lot of emotional turmoil as hair is attached to an individual identity. For women, hair is a crowning glory and losing it at any point in life can be very disturbing.
What Does Female Pattern Baldness Look Like?
Female pattern baldness too follows a typical pattern like male pattern baldness. Experts have identified three distinct stages of hair loss in women.
It is identified as hair loss that starts at the crown and frontal scalp portion. The frontal hairline is retained unlike in male baldness.
Female pattern baldness progresses as explained below,
Stage 1: Thinning starts on the top portion around the hair partition
Stage 2: The hair partition starts widening and shows increased thinning
Stage 3: The hair thinning progresses and results in visible portions of scalp
Can Genetics Cause Female Pattern Baldness?
Female pattern baldness can occur in females who are genetically pre-disposed to such loss of hair. Some women tend to carry genes that make hair follicles susceptible to destruction due male hormone DHT. The hair follicles get affected and it produces shorter or thinner hair. The anagen or growth phase is also reduced from normal 3 years to few weeks or months whereas the telogen or the falling phase increases. Resulting in lesser and lesser reversibility of the hair fall. Which in turn results into increased scalp visibility.
What Else Causes Female Pattern Baldness?
Apart from the genetics, hormones play an important role in both male and female pattern baldness. In men, androgen causes damage to the hair follicles and in women, increases risk of female pattern baldness. Under normal condition oestrogen counteracts and stops the negative actions of androgen in women. However, with fluctuations of hormonal balance, androgens can become dominant transiently and can trigger female pattern thinning. Therefore women mainly show thinning of hair after menopause, when oestrogen levels drop down gradually. The androgen receptors in female frontal hair follicles is 40% lower than that in the male follicles. This is the reason female pattern baldness does not cause hair loss in front region.
Female pattern baldness may my get triggered due to mental stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, certain medications, use of contraceptive drugs and any gynaecological ailments.
Can Women Get Female Pattern Baldness in Their 20s?
Female pattern baldness is more common in women above the age of 50 years as it is seen predominantly in post-menopausal phase. In one study researchers found that the prevalence of female pattern baldness was 1.3% in the age group of 18-29 years while it increased steadily with age to 10.3% in women in their 70s. However, the possibility of female pattern baldness in their 20s cannot be denied. In fact experts have found that adolescent girls with a family history of alopecia can develop female pattern baldness.
How is it Diagnosed?
An expert trichologist simply can diagnose female pattern baldness without any specific tests. However, to rule out any underlying pathology one may need to do some blood tests to analyse the levels of thyroid hormones, androgen, or vitamin & mineral deficiencies. Sometimes ultrasound of pelvic region may also be advised.
Treatment for Female Pattern Baldness
The initial stages of female pattern baldness may not require any camouflage. The thinning of hair can be hidden by changing the way of styling hair. In advanced stages doing hair transplant or wearing hair piece is a good option.
Treatment options for female pattern baldness include,
Minoxidil is known for its hair growth stimulating actions when applied topically. This medication is mainly prescribed to cure hair loss in people under the age of 40 years. Although minoxidil is used to stimulate hair growth the use of this medication does not cure baldness.
Hormones that block the effects of androgens are also often used to prevent the progression of hair loss in female pattern baldness. Some medication such as spironolactone, cyproterone, finasteride and flutamide work as anti-androgen agents and reduce the destructive effects of androgen on hair follicles. However, use of Finasteride in women in reproductive age should strictly be avoided.
In women natural treatment for baldness is preferred as hormone replacement therapy has side effects. Dong Quai Complex made from a plant called Dong Quai and Megafemme tablets which are made from Peruvian herb, both have natural estrogen and show effective results when hair thinning occurs due to low levels of estrogen.
Some foods such as Soy, Flaxseeds, Walnuts and Yam show oestrogenic properties and offer great support to baldness treatment.
Can You Prevent Female Pattern Baldness?
Female Pattern Baldness cannot be prevented when the underlying cause is genetic or hormonal imbalance. However, it can be controlled very well with the help of above mentioned phytoestrogens and correction of life style.
Should I have Any Hormone Tests Done?
An expert trichologist may ask you to do some blood test to find out the cause of hair loss. Since in women the female pattern baldness mainly occurs at stages that are influenced by hormonal changes, hormone tests may help in diagnosis of hair loss; but many times the fluctuations may not reflect in serum levels.
What are Good Hair Care Tips to Prevent Hair Loss?
A hair loss or female pattern baldness that happens due to biological changes in the body or caused by gene inheritance cannot be prevented. However, some good hair care tips and healthy lifestyle habits can help you to have healthy hair that are less prone to breakage and fall.
- Oil massage
A regular massage of scalp improves blood circulation. This eventually makes the hair follicles stronger by providing adequate nutrients and oxygen. A stronger hair that comes out of a healthy hair follicle is less prone to breakage and thinning.
- Eat healthy diet
A diet rich in proteins and mineral boosts hair growth and also maintains the integrity of hair follicles. Experts recommend adding food items such as soya beans, whole grains, cottage cheese, walnuts, spinach, etc. to daily diet. Hair follicles take its nutrients directly from the blood stream. And, hence the nutrient that we receive through diet can have a direct impact on the quality of hair.
- Have a good hair routine
Excessive use of hot irons, curlers, or alcohol-based styling products can affect the health of hair. Make sure to keep use of hair cosmetics to minimum. Use styling products carefully if you know your hair is prone to easy breakage.
- Use the right shampoo
Using a shampoo that contains harsh chemicals can remove all the natural oil from the scalp and make the hair dry. Therefore, it is important to choose a mild shampoo that removes just the right amount of oil for regular hair cleansing. You can choose some natural hair cleansers such as home-made pastes of amla, shikakai and chickpea flour.
- DO NOT PLAY WITH HORMONES
Avoid using oral contraceptive pills to prepone or postpone menstrual cycle. Use those only under the guidance of doctor.
- Follow De-stressing activity
In the modern world today where stress has become an integral part of life following de-stressing activity helps to maintain hormonal balance and protects us from ill effects of stress.