Hair loss in women can be particularly devastating. Women will often pay hundreds of dollars to stop by their local hair salon to receive a stylish cut and color. Her hair style often defines and frames her image. Now imagine the perceived affect on her self esteem when her hair prematurely and inexplicably begins to thin.
In most cases, hair loss in women is a normal condition dictated by heredity. Hair loss is relatively common in women, more common than one would imagine. Almost 30 million American women, or one in four, experience thinning hair due to androgenic alopecia – female-pattern-baldness. All women have both estrogen (female) and testosterone (male) hormones in their systems. The loss or depletion of the protective estrogen and/or the over-production of testosterone permits the invasive testosterone to exert its effect on the hair follicles, resulting in a thinning of the hair.
In women, hair loss usually begins at menopause. Before this time, DHT is counteracted by estrogen, but when estrogen levels drop, women’s hair follicles may also become prone to the effects of DHT. Unlike men, hair loss patterns in women are marked by thinning throughout the scalp; fully bald spots at the crown are rare.
The onset of hair loss in women can begin anytime after the teenage years, but most commonly occurs during perimenopause or menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels fluctuate at first and then gradually decrease to a new, much lower level – culminating in the loss of the protective effects of estrogen. Anything, from drugs to a traumatic event, that alters the protective levels of estrogen could lead to a premature development of female pattern hair loss.
Women may experience temporary hair loss following pregnancy. The reason for this is because during the pregnancy term, the hormones of a woman’s body changes. Because pregnant women have elevated levels of progesterone and reduced levels of estrogen, hair will begin to fall into its resting stage too early. After childbirth, new hair will then begin to grow, causing the hair that is in its resting phase to shed. This typically occurs between three and six months post childbirth, and women will attain normal hair growth patterns following this temporary situation.
Follicular Unit Transplantation is the scientific and permanent solution to hair loss, not only for men, but also for women.
Female Baldness: The Ludwig Scale
Unlike Male Pattern Baldness, women typically do not have a receding hairline. Female hair loss is a more diffuse process characterized by thinning of the hair particularly at the crown of the scalp. Note that, like men, hair is rarely lost over the back of the scalp. This is particularly important when one considers that hair transplantation takes hair from this “protected” area of the scalp to replace the lost hair over the crown of the scalp.
- Type 1 female baldness is the least severe with thinning on the top of the head.
- Type 2 hair loss in women is more significant with areas of the scalp showing through thinning hair.
- Type 3 patients may completely lose hair on the crown of the head. In this case, more donor hair will be required to obtain full coverage.
Treating Female-Pattern Baldness
In the past, surgical hair transplantation was not necessarily the answer for the majority of women experiencing hair loss due to the fact that the large plugs damaged the healthy, living, thriving hair follicles in the recipient area. As described above, female pattern hair loss is very different than in men. Although both are due to the influence of DHT hormonal changes, the pattern of hair loss is significantly different. And to some degree, the treatment of female-pattern hair loss requires more artistic technique and surgical finesse. The plastic surgeon requires a clear understanding of where to take the donor hair and the dispersion of transplanted hairs needs to be more generalized.
Today’s techniques, have advanced to a state where an experienced, skilled surgeon intersperses hair follicle grafts in a natural pattern, amongst and around the remaining hair. The result is a noticeable increase in density, with no damage to the existing hair. Despite the medical advances made in understanding and treating hereditary hair thinning, many women are still misinformed about thinning hair and what their corrective options are, including hair restoration surgery.
While hair loss in men is often accepted as a natural occurrence, the appearance of hair loss in women can be devastating. Where men tend to lose their hair in patches around the temple and forehead, female hair loss is more diffuse and evenly distributed. Accurate statistics on female hair loss is difficult, but best estimates are that 20% of all women will experience hair loss and 5% will experience enough female hair loss to have noticeable clumps of hair fall out.
The effects of female hair loss can range from a diminished self-esteem to the actual avoidance social contact. Rogaine (Minoxidil) has proved especially effective in helping women deal with female hair loss by stemming the current rate of hair loss and in some cases actually growing new hair from the shrunken or damaged hair follicles. Of course not everybody will see results immediately, and once the medication is stopped so too is the new hair growth. But it is one viable option in dealing with the effects of female hair loss that has been proven to work. Propecia in contraindicated in women.
Another option is Hair Transplantation. Though more expensive in the short term than a prescription medication like Rogaine, Hair Transplants have been found to be exceedingly successful in dealing with female hair loss. And unlike Rogaine the results are permanent and very natural-looking, a good thing for any woman suffering from female hair loss.