women's hair loss

Women’s Hair Loss: How to Spot and Treat It

Women's hair loss. It affects around 40% of us in Canada. Click here to find out if you need to start worrying, and the way forward if you are suffering.

When you brush your hair are you pulling out handfuls at a time? Do you constantly need to de-clog the shower? Are your pillow and bathroom floor covered in your lovely strands?

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You are not alone. The truth is, an estimated 40% of women suffer from hair loss by the time they’re 50 years old. Many women find they lose a lot more hair than usual, shortly after giving birth. Nevertheless, very few of us want to talk about it.

What to look for

“Around 50 to 150 hairs are shed each day” says Dr. Hugh Rushton, a trichologist at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Pharmacy. This will vary between individuals, but so long as new hairs are produced at the same rate, this is evidence of a healthy scalp. It may be time to start worrying however when hair-shedding tendencies change within the individual – when hair regeneration slows down or stops completely. This is more obvious in men, who tend to lose it in a pattern, receding from the forehead or the crown of the head. Women, on the other hand, tend to lose their hair in more diffuse patterns, so they will notice an overall thinning of the hair as opposed to bald spots.

This is where going to the same hairdresser has its advantages. There are certain areas a hairdresser will be able see that you can’t (such as the top area behind the ear). A familiar hairdresser will also be able to tell you if your hair texture has changed or if there is more hair falling out than usual during blow drying and styling.

If you notice the hair thinning in certain sections, or large clumps coming out, see a dermatologist immediately and they will probably be able to identify the cause. Research shows that people suffering from hair loss often wait until 50 percent of their hair is gone before seeking treatment.

The causes

While many women suffer from genetic hair loss — including the possibility of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia, which affects approximately one in 50 people — there are non-genetic causes, too. They include:

  • Hormonal changes or imbalances

Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or an underactive/overactive thyroid can all cause temporary hair loss. Between 20 and 45 percent of mothers lose hair after giving birth as their oestrogen and progesterone levels drop, and hair follicles are thrust into the inactive phase. Luckily, most mothers will regain their head of hair nine to twelve months after the child’s birth. The same is true for other hormonal changes — once your body adjusts or the imbalance is restored (a thyroid issue can be treated with medication), the hair will begin to grow back.

  • Medications

Medication to treat anything from gout and arthritis to diabetes and high blood pressure can cause hair loss in some people. If that’s the case, there is almost always another option that won’t cause this problem. Starting or stopping contraceptive pills can also affect a woman’s hair growth.

  • Physical trauma

Surgery or even an extreme illness — such as a high fever, bad flu or pneumonia — can result in temporary hair loss.

  • Stress

Although it’s rare that everyday stresses can cause a woman to lose her hair, extreme stress, such as a death in the family, divorce and losing/starting a job can have an impact as hair follicles are literally shocked into an inactive state. Sudden stress-related hair loss is characterised by a general thinning throughout the entire scalp.

  • Poor nutrition

Crash diets aren’t good for your health or your hair. Rapid weight loss plans, especially low-protein diets, can cause hair loss.

  • Excessive styling

Women do a lot of damage to their hair in the name of beauty: Colouring, straightening treatments, weaves and extensions can all cause the hair to become dry and brittle, resulting in strands or entire sections breaking off.

The solutions

First, see if you can revitalise your hair with some simple lifestyle changes.

  • Take your vitamins

Biotin (Vitamin B7) has been shown to boost hair growth and strength. There are also special supplements on the market specifically designed for healthy hair (check with your doctor first). And since pregnant women often enjoy fuller hair while taking antenatal vitamins, feel free to stay on those even after you give birth!

  • Improve your diet

Make sure you eat plenty of nutritious foods to keep your hair healthy.

  • Figure out your hair texture

How much washing, styling, and colouring your hair can handle depends on whether it’s fine, medium or coarse. Not sure? Ask your hairdresser.

  • Get a cut

If there is a great deal of breakage, you will probably need to cut or trim your hair. Then you can focus on getting what you have left — and what’s to come — healthy and full.

  • Use a deep conditioner

You can go to the hairdressers for a treatment or ask your hairdresser for some DIY options (they might even recommend you do both). Just be sure that you don’t over condition the hair because it will become limp, weak, and won’t hold curls, eventually shedding a lot.

  • Don’t dual process

Never colour and perm or relax your hair on the same visit. Your hair is a fabric, so it needs to be treated gently.

  • Colour wisely

Ammonia makes it easier for hair dye to seep into the hair, but it also strips hair of its natural nutrients, weakening the quality of the hair. Ask your salon if they have ammonia-free options.

  • Skip tight styles

Putting your hair in a tight ponytail, braids or a bun can cause breakage because the follicles of the hair are not being stimulated.

  • Only use clip-on extensions

If there is just some minor thinning of the hair, extensions could be an option for you — but make sure they’re clip-ons. You can take them out at night and they don’t put pressure on the scalp like the type that is braided into the hair. And they should not hurt.

If that doesn’t work, consult a doctor

They will probably discuss such treatments as:

  • Minoxidil lotion

The UK’s National Health Service says this is the only medicine available that is able to treat female-pattern baldness. This treatment will need to be used for several months before effects are observed. Typically, around one in four women who use it will see hair grow, and in other women, hair loss may slow or even stop.

  • Hair replacement

Nope, not just for men! Bio-Matrix hair replacement solution is a strand-by-strand process of crisscrossing transparent fibres that are shaped to specifically fit the balding and thinning areas of your head. The hairdressers match the fibres to your hair’s texture, colour and length, and even cut and style your hair when finished. The procedure is so intricate that no one will be able to tell the difference between your natural hair and the fibres — even close up.

  • Hair transplant surgery

This works for some but not all women. Hair transplantation has evolved over the years, producing much better results, a more natural look and fuller coverage. Microscopic Follicular Unit Transplant is an advanced hair loss treatment procedure that produces more authentic looking results than other less precise, outdated procedures. As your hair grows naturally, it is transplanted from the back of the head to thinning areas in natural groupings of one to four hairs.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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