Are there differences in how men experience hair loss and than how women do?
Hair loss in women is surprisingly common. Around 40% of women will suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives - for instance during pregnancy or the menopause. But unlike with men, hair loss in women is often temporary and the hair will eventually grow back.
However, permanent hair loss is still a relatively common problem in women.
As with men, the most common cause of female hair loss is genetics. If you have female pattern baldness on the mother or father's side of the family, there is a greater risk of it happening to the next generation of women in the family.
Permanent hair loss tends to happen differently in women to men.
Whereas men typically tend to first start losing their hair in the crown area or in the hairline at the front of the scalp and then go on to develop bald patches, in women hair more often involves a general thinning across the entire scalp. Known as diffuse thinning, most women affected lose a lot of their hair volume, making their scalp more visible. In general, the hairline remains intact, but in some rarer cases women with hair loss may experience a receding hairline. But more commonly, female hair loss starts in the central area of the scalp and then spreads outwards if it is left untreated.
Below are the most common causes of hair loss particularly in women.
Androgenetic Alopecia - hereditary pattern hair loss with a typical pattern of diffuse thinning over the central scalp. It is the most common type of hair loss. It occurs in about 20% of women.
Alopecia Areata - a recurrent disease of unknown cause that results in patchy loss of hair from the scalp and/or eyebrows.
Telogen Effluvium - a condition that causes shedding of hair over the entire scalp; it may be chronic but may also be acute following a stressful event such as high fever, sever dietary deficiency, and chronic blood loss from heavy menstruation.
Loose Anagen Syndrome - a condition that causes hair to shed before its normal growth cycle is completed. Hair can be pulled out by normal combing or brushing.
Traction Alopecia - tight braiding and corn-rowing can, over time, cause permanent damage to hair and scalp and result in hair loss.
Chemicals - some chemicals used in hair styling can, over time, cause permanent damage to hair and scalp and result in hair loss.
Trichotillomania - (compulsive hair plucking) - a person feels compelled to pluck hair in regular or bizarre patterns, resulting over time in traction alopecia and permanent hair loss.
Scarring Alopecia - hair loss due to scarring of the scalp area. Scarring alopecia typically involves the top of the scalp and occurs predominantly in women. The condition frequently occurs in Afro-Caribbean women and is believed to be associated with persistent tight braiding or "corn-rowing" of scalp hair. A form of scarring alopecia also may occur in post-menopausal women, associated with inflammation of hair follicles and subsequent scarring.
Hypothyroidism - thyroid deficiency can be associated with thinning, patchy hair loss.
Pregnancy - hormonal changes and stress of pregnancy may cause temporary hair loss.
What kind of non-medical treatments are now on offer to tackle hair loss in women?
Minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine, is an over-the-counter medication that can be applied to the hair in liquid or mousse form. The medication works by stimulating the hair follicles and promoting regrowth in as little as six months. If six months seems a little long for results, you can also use a hair-thickening spray in the meantime that coats the existing hair and gives the appearance of a more voluminous mane.
Other non-medical treatments that can help with female hair include living healthily and having a good diet. This will help women to have great looking hair with great volume.
Stress can caused hair loss and I always advise female patients with hair loss to avoid stress.
Doctors may also test for levels of ferritin (a protein that indicates the amount of total body iron stores). New research suggests levels may be low in women with hair loss. Iron supplements may help.
What about medical procedures?
1 The most common medical procedure to remedy female hair loss is a hair transplant. Around 10% of my patients at Crown Clinic are female.
There are two types of procedure - FUE (follicular unit extraction) where individual follicles are removed from the back and side of the scalp and replanted in the balding areas. The advantage of this method is the scarring is minimal - a few red pin pricks from where the follicles are extracted and replanted which go away after a week or so. Around 80% of my patients at Crown Clinic chose FUE including high profile cases such as the model Calum Best and the soccer star Didi Hamann. Wayne Rooney has had two hair transplants with FUE.
The more traditional type of hair transplant is called FUT (follicular unit transplantation), also known as strip harvesting. This is where a strip of skin is taken from the back of the scalp to obtain the donor hair. It is more suitable for patients who prefer to wear their hair long because the scarring is more visible than FUE. Around 20% of my patients opt for FUT including the TV doctor Christian Jessen. It is less labour intensive than FUE and therefore less expensive.
2 Platelet Rich Plasma is a new treatment being offered at Crown Clinic for hair restoration. It is a simple, non-surgical procedure where a patient’s own Platelet Rich Plasma from their blood is injected into the scalp to stimulate hair growth and provide fuller and healthier looking hair. The procedure takes approximately 60 minutes and provides reliable results with a very quick recovery period. It is perfect for patients looking for a cheaper alternative to a full hair transplant but is also used to supplement a hair transplant procedure
With a thin needle, a patient’s own Platelet Rich Plasma is injected into their scalp. The growth factors in the blood do their job and hair growth is naturally stimulated.
PRP is suitable for both men and women and has produced excellent results for patients.
3 In some cases, a hormonal abnormality, such as excess male hormones known as androgens, may be responsible for hair loss in women. One clue that hormones are involved is if the hair loss pattern resembles that of a man’s hair loss. This can be treated with prescription medications such as spironolactone or oral contraceptives.
What works best for women with hair loss?
Obviously no two patients are the same and the key in treating female pattern baldness is to determine whether it is a temporary or permanent.
The only long-term and permanent cure for female pattern baldness is a hair transplant. Filling out thinning hair at the front of a woman's scalp can offer enormous benefits to female patients. If anything, they are more severely affected by baldness than men because it is less expected in women.
4 What works best for women with hair loss?
Hair transplantation is just as effective for women as it is for men. On a typical patient, we will transplant around 1,500 grafts (more than 3,000 individual hairs) from the back and sides of the scalp to the balding areas. It takes up to a year for the transplanted hair to grow back and these hairs will be permanent and should last the patient for the rest of their life. Most female patients require only one procedure to treat their hair loss.
5 Can women get a hair transplant and how popular is this?
Yes. women can get a hair transplant and it is far more common that people imagine. The reason the procedure is not so well known is that women are understandably embarrassed to admit that they have a problem with female pattern baldness. That makes them less reluctant to go public after receiving hair transplantation surgery and showing off the positive effects of the procedure, Most of my female clients who have this treatment prefer to keep it private and I am not aware of any female celebrities who have gone public after such treatment. Compare this with the men - you often read of high profile men talking about their hair transplants - Calum Best, Christian Jessen, Robbie Williams and Wayne Rooney to name a few.