There are things women can do to control hair loss, yet sometimes one must accept what nature hands us. In many cases, prevention may be the cure.
While male hair loss is more common – and more commonly featured in hair loss solution advertising – female hair loss is far from rare. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 50% of all women will experience noticeable hair loss at some time in their lives. Genetic factors are drivers, but so too are important health events and behavioral factors (“matters of choice”).
Most affected are women older than 40, those who have recently given birth, those in menopause, and individuals who have undergone chemotherapy treatment or are taking certain other medications. None of those conditions are a matter of choice. Such things as stress, while not a choice, can be addressed by some behavioral means.
It is often said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This can certainly be true of female hair loss. By the time the search for women’s hair loss treatments is on, it may be too late. The hair loss industry, once known for its focus on bald men, have increased advertising and marketing to address women’s hair loss conditions by offering hair loss solutions for women specifically, including laser hair loss therapy and hair transplant surgery for women.
Fortunately, there are steps women can take to reduce the effects of what cannot be controlled, and to cease behaviors that would unnecessarily lead to hair loss. It
Not a choice: Things that cause hair loss in women
If hair loss is due to …
- Pregnancy, the loss is temporary.
- Menopause, see a healthcare provider (dermatologist, for example) to identify if your thyroid or iron levels are contributing to the loss. In some cases, it might be instead medication related.
- Genetic conditions, such as androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata (an autoimmune skin disease), consult with a dermatologist to identify the exact cause and develop therapies to address it.
Choose to prevent female hair loss
Still, there are many matters of diet, stress, hair styling, and infections that might cause hair loss in women – indicating that certain factors can be controlled to prevent further loss, restore hair to full growth, or prevent loss in the first place:
- Don’t pull hair tightly – Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of hair loss in women is traction alopecia, hair loss due to tight hairstyles (pony tails, braids, cornrows, and long dreadlocks). This typically affects the hair line, where pulling damages the roots (follicles) that often leads to permanent loss.
- Avoid high-heat styling – High temperatures fracture the bonds within each hair strand, leading to brittleness. If you can’t get away from using a hair straightener or curling iron (notice the irony that everyone wants what they don’t have?), reduce the time spent with these treatments. For blow dryers, use heat-protection product on the hair – or let it dry naturally.
- Question chemical processes – As with heat, chemicals used to straighten, bleach, or lighten hair effectively weaken the hair shaft. Some of the effects of chemical processing can be mitigated with deep-conditioner treatments, but for the healthiest hair the most natural (or close to natural) hair color is best.
- Eat smart – Nutrition matters because hair is much like everything else on your body. It’s essentially protein (keratin), and benefits from iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. What that means is what’s healthy for the rest of you is healthy for your hair (think green vegetables, legumes, fish, and lean meats). What does NOT work is crash dieting and fast, extreme weight loss regimens. The body perceives very low calories as starvation conditions, so it redirects whatever nutrient intake you have to essential organs (heart, lungs, brain, muscles, etc.) over something as non-essential as hair (thanks, evolution!).
- Try FDA-approved hair-loss medications – Two pharmaceutical products that dramatically changed hair loss over the past 25 years have been finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and monoxidil (Rogaine, et al.). Alas, finasteride can have a serious side effect on unborn fetuses, therefore it is strongly discouraged for use by women, but minoxidil can be used for female hair loss – it is found to be effective in 81% of women who use it.
- See a doctor – The causes of hair loss might have uncertain origins and be related to hormonal imbalances that can be managed. Dermatologists and general practitioners are probably the best place to start.
To be clear, hair loss should carry no shame and many women embrace it as part of their personal style. But by the same way of thinking, it’s entirely the woman’s prerogative to examine its causes and devise a solution strategy.