Some people seem to think Trichology is all about men’s hair loss, treating genetic thinning, but this is very far from the truth, 80% of of patients we see at the Hairmedic clinics are female and approx. 80% of those have a general thinning of the hair rather than specific patterns of hair loss as seen in alopecia or male/female pattern thinning!
Here’s some information to put female hair loss in to perspective. 1:3 women will suffer from a diffuse shedding at some point in their life due to nutritional insufficiency’s
Genetic hair loss before the menopause may affect approx. 3% of women, however this raises to over 38% in women after the menopause whose hair will affected genetically. However, this figure may be a little on the light side as ‘hair loss’ is not readily diagnosed by doctors as many consider it to be one of these things and not a medical issue! Consider this to the statistic for alopecia areata for both sexes which is at 2% of the population… you are far more likely as a woman to suffer from general shedding/thinning of the hair than you are actual patches of hair loss!
What are the main conditions which cause it?
The first trap people fall in to is to group hair loss as one problem. You look on the internet and see ‘hair loss treatments’ but what type are you treating?
Hair loss happens usually as a side effect due to another reason, the mechanism for growing hair is complex and sensitive to changes nutritionally and hormonally and so anything from a low iron level to a genetic sensitivity to testosterone can cause the hair to thin.
The second trap is using the word ‘alopecia’, which conjures up patchy hair loss (alopecia areata) and is prevalent in approx. 2% of the world’s population regardless of sex, this is an auto-immune disorder and difficult to treat. (the word alopecia itself simply means hair loss in ancient Greek, so by visiting your GP and they exclaim you have alopecia, means you have just been told you have ‘hair loss’ in a different language…usually useless to the person).
The real question is ‘why’ I have hair loss, not ‘do’ I have hair loss?
If we are talking about female hair loss the two most common issues are telogen effluvium (a diffuse, excessive shedding of the hair) and genetic hair loss, a gradual decrease in the density, size and width of the hair mainly on the top of the women’s scalp.
Telogen effluvium is when your hair becomes diffuse and thin form excessive hair shedding, you are supposed to lose 100 hairs per day (approx.) if you lose more than this your hair will start to thin. The good news is this is self-limiting (people do not go bald from this) and usually correctible. There are two versions:
Acute telogen effluvium – or shock hair loss caused by an emotional, physical or psychological trauma, which will usually rectify itself in 4-6 months.
Chronic Telogen Effluvium – this is a side effect of an underlying nutritional/hormonal problem, you usually need tests to find out the issue and get clinical help in correcting this, after which the hair comes back!
Genetic thinning in Women can be age related or exacerbated by a lowering of oestrogen or raising of testosterone, so things like contraceptive pills, HRT, and even obesity can play a part in this.
Is ageing a factor in female hair loss/ thinning hair?
Yes, our hair thins as we get older, the cells which replicate to make hair become slower over time, so this exacerbates and compounds any other problems we have affecting our hair such as nutritional issues, genetic thinning and long term medical problems may exacerbate this further.
Are there any environmental factors or diet involved in causing hair loss?
Nutrition accounts for a massive amount of hair problems in pre-menopausal women, Iron and protein insufficiencies can cause the hair to shed excessively. Other common nutritional deficiencies which can cause hair shedding are Vitamin B12 and folic acid, more rarely but still documented are Zinc and Biotin (I rarely see patients with a true deficiency in these though?) Other environmental problems which can impact hair is your general health, smoking, obesity and poor diet will impact the body to a point where you need long term medication which can impact on the hormones and enzymes which help hair grow.
It’s boring advice but for healthy hair, YOU need to be healthy!
 Hair density, hair diameter and the prevalence of female pattern hair loss. Birch MP1, Messenger JF, Messenger AG.