The reasons for hair loss in women are many. From genetic reasons to external factors there are many causes for hair loss in women.
It is sometimes more difficult to diagnose the type of hair loss in female patients because in men the majority suffer from hereditary hair loss, whereas in women, there can be other factors too.
Dihydrotestosterone is the main cause for most hair loss types. Dihydrotestosterone is a derivative of testosterone. It causes the hair follicles die. Normally, it stimulates the development of male characteristics. It is responsible for the start of puberty in boys. The testosterone is converted into Dihydrotestosterone everyday by the body, however, excess Dihydrotestosterone can cause hair loss.
What is the role of Dihydrotestosterone in hair loss?
Male and female pattern baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia) are caused by Dihydrotestosterone. In the past, researchers thought testosterone was the main and sole reason for hair loss. And yet, the recent research shows that it is Dihydrotestosterone which is responsible for hair loss.
Type II 5-alpha reductase is an enzyme – it helps testosterone in converting the Dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone causes the hair follicles to shrink. This happens in both female and male patients.
While we can all experience hormonal fluctuations to some extent in our all lives, hormonal balance is important for our hair and overall health. Neither hair growth nor hormonal balance is always stable. Hormone levels can drop and decrease at certain periods in life, and not all hormonal imbalance leads to hair loss.
Some common causes for hair loss in women is as follows:
Androgenetic Alopecia (also goes by the name Androgenic Alopecia) in women is a diffuse non-scarring hair loss. It is often progressive.
People often use male pattern baldness, common baldness, female pattern baldness to refer to Androgenetic Alopecia. Female Androgenetic Alopecia is very common – it is the most common form of balding in women. When a female patient has Androgenetic Alopecia, she suffers from overall thinning of the scalp hair or diffuse hair loss.
In Androgenetic Alopecia, the hair follicles are sensitive to the androgens (hormones in our bodies). The 5 alpha-reductase converts the already existing testosterone in women to Dihydrotestosterone. Androgenetic Alopecia is mostly hereditary. And yet, during pregnancy and menopause women experience hair loss too. Other than the genetic predisposition, there are numerous reasons for Androgenetic Alopecia such as contraceptives high in androgen, ovarian cysts, and hormonal imbalances. A combination of these can also lead to Androgenetic Alopecia.
Telogen Effluvium is another common hair loss type. It affects women more than it affects men. Fortunately, Telogen Effluvium is often temporary.
Our hair has a natural growth cycle. There are three phases of hair’s natural life cycle, anagen, telogen, and catagen phases. Sometimes the cycle is disturbed. In telogen effluvium, the hair in the telogen phase is affected.
In the case of a severe change or incident such as bad diets, infections, giving birth, pregnancy, post pregnancy, severe emotional stress after an important incident, surgery, and so on, the hair in the growing (anagen) phase or resting (catagen) phase can go into the shedding (telogen) phase.
When most of the hair goes to the telogen phase, we call it Telogen Effluvium. It might take a while to notice the loss, as sometimes the disease kicks in weeks after the stressful incident. In most cases, if you avoid the stress factors, your Telogen Effluvium will heal. And yet, there are also cases of Telogen Effluvium where the underlying/triggering factor is hard to find.
Anagen Effluvium is another effluvium type of hair loss. Those who must receive chemotherapy can have Anagen Effluvium.
In chemotherapy, the doctors aim to stop the cancer cells from dividing. Therefore, when one goes through chemotherapy, the hair follicles in the anagen – the growing – phase are affected. In Europe, the physicians sometimes use a method called the cold cap method to prevent this from happening, however, the use of the method is under debate. We do not yet know if it also stops the effectiveness of chemotherapy in general.
In Anagen Effluvium, the hair shaft is narrower. Gradually, this causes hair loss.
When one’s chemotherapy treatment is over, Anagen Effluvium disappears after a while, and most hair grows back.
Traction Alopecia is a type of hair loss. This alopecia is what its name suggests: the hair loss occurs due to pulling/traction. Some of us prefer to wear our hair very tight – we tightly braid it or wear a tight ponytail. Tight extensions and cornrow hair styles are also damaging to the hair follicles. The trauma causes the hair to fall with time.
An early diagnosis, and preventing the tight hair styles, allow the hair to regrow in time.
These are some of the most common causes of hair loss in women. There may be other reasons, and rarely the exact reason is not found.