If you think hair loss is just a male problem, think again. Almost half of all women can expect to lose hair in their lifetime. Women tend to experience hair loss for different reasons, with different patterns and at later stages in life. While severe hair loss in women isn’t common, estimates suggest that 30 million American women suffer from noticeable hair loss.
The good news about female hair loss is that it’s often reversible. While male pattern baldness is usually genetic, most women lose hair from a variety of medical and lifestyle factors, and when it is genetic, it’s rarely as dramatic as in men.
To understand how women lose hair, it helps to understand the three cycles of hair growth. Roughly 90% of the hair on your scalp is in the anagen, or growth phase. This hair usually lasts from 2 to 8 years. During the catagen, or transition phase, the hair follicles shrink. This phase usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Finally, hair rests in the telogen phase, and this typically lasts 2-4 months. Most of the time, the hair on your head is growing, with only about 10% of the hair in transition or resting. Hair typically grows about 6 inches a year.
You can expect to lose 50 to 100 strands of hair each day, and up to 250 on days when you wash your hair. But don’t let this stop you from washing your hair on a regular basis, as it will all fall out eventually, and because most of your hair is in the anagen phase, it should grow back naturally.
While men tend to lose hair around the crown and hairline, it’s common for women to notice hair loss in the top third to one-half of the scalp. You might notice thinning hair when you pull your hair back, or when you part your hair. You might also notice hair loss with clumps of hair on your pillow, or stuck in your comb.
Roughly half of women will experience some hair loss from androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss. This is genetics at work. When it hits, it’s usually in your 50s or 60s, although it can strike at any age, including the teen age years. A dermatologist can (and should) determine if your hair loss is genetic, by examining your hair follicles. If they vary in size and shape, and if your mother or grandmother had hair loss, it’s probably genetic. Fortunately, when women lose hair due to genes, it’s often minimal.
That said, hair loss in women is a process of elimination. A variety of medical and lifestyle factors can trigger hair loss in women, including pregnancy, thyroid disorders, anemia, autoimmune diseases and skin conditions, including psoriasis and dermatitis. Sometimes it’s from extreme stress, physical trauma (like surgery), dramatic weight loss or excessive consumption of Vitamin A.
Sometimes women lose hair from cosmetic and self-inflicted reasons. Dyes, chemical treatments, tight braids, excessive brushing and towel-drying can all damage and break up hair.
What should you do if you’re losing hair? First of all, relax. Most women don’t lose hair until later in life, typically starting in the 50s. Women tend to lose hair slower than men, and rarely as much.
Your first step should be to seek medical advice. A dermatologist can determine whether your hair loss is genetic or for other reasons. When it’s not genetic, hair loss in women is usually reversible, when the issue is diagnosed.
If it is genetic, but it’s not severe, and it doesn’t bother you, go on with your life! Most hair loss in women is gradual, and can be minimized with a different hairstyle
In the event that it is genetic, and it’s dramatic enough to bother you, your hairstylist probably has experience with women who suffer from advanced hair loss and can recommend a style to maximize the hair you’ve got. She might also recommend various mousse and shampoo products that make the hair look thicker, or a new hair color to minimize the appearance of thinning.
More often than not, hair loss in women less of a problem than in men. In the few cases where it’s advanced enough to cause embarrassment and low self-esteem, there are options. Your hairstylist and doctor are both on your side. With knowledge and a little TLC, hair loss in women is a manageable issue. You’ll be fine