You are not alone. Hair loss in women is becoming increasingly common. More than 50% of women will experience hair loss at some point in their lifetime1. Yes, you read that correctly, more than HALF! This makes female hair loss just as common as having sensitive skin2 or wearing glasses3 so you’re certainly not alone.
So why do millions of Australian women suffer from hair loss? And what exactly is hair loss in women? You’ve heard of alopecia which may conjure up a vision of someone with entirely no hair, completely bald. The good news is, if you are a woman on this page, then you are probably not suffering from that kind of alopecia (Alopecia Areata Totalis).
Alopecia just means the absence of hair where hair normally grows. But what’s important is to find out which kind of hair loss you may have, what is causing it and how can you reverse it.
There are many kinds of hair loss and we don’t go into all them here as some are very rare. The vast majority of women with hair loss fall into a few main categories. The most common being Androgenic Alopecia (AGA).
Androgenic Alopecia affects both men and women. In women it usually presents as a widening part with or without general thinning on the top and at the temples and sometimes a thinning crown.
The second most common type of alopecia is Alopecia Areata (AA), a condition generated by the immune system where the body targets and kills off its own hair follicles. This kind of hair loss can be associated with other autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and lupus to name a few. AA often presents as small patches of complete hair loss. It can reverse spontaneously and it can, in rare cases, progress to hair loss on the entire body (Alopecia Universalis).
The third most common type of hair loss in women is Telogen Effluvium (TE) where the hair follicles move prematurely into the resting phase (read about the three phases of the hair growth cycle here). This type of hair loss is caused by an interruption to the hair growth cycle. This can be caused by stress, shock, sudden illness and can also turn around once the trigger is eliminated.
There are two periods in a woman's life when hair loss is known to be very common, during/following menopause and following childbirth. Review the various causes of hair loss by following the links below:
Post menopause causes and solutions | Post pregnancy causes and solutions
Hereditary Hair Loss in Women
Hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenic alopecia, is the most common cause of hair loss4 in women. Hair growth is cyclical, passing through three main stages:
The growth stage (anagen phase), the rest stage (catagen phase) and then finally, the shedding stage (telogen phase).
Each individual hair may endure on the scalp for three to seven years before entering the catagen phase for around two weeks and then the telogen phase which can last for a few months. It is during this final stage that hair begins to sit higher on the scalp and can be pulled out with very little effort such as when brushing or washing your hair. After the hair has been shed, a new one will take its place and begin to grow. In the case of hereditary hair loss, this cycle becomes a lot quicker and it may only take months for a new hair to be shed, or in some cases a new hair may not replace the recently shed hair at all.
Like other hereditary conditions, hereditary hair loss is caused not only by genetic predisposition, but by your genes in conjunction with your hormones. This leads us to telogen effluvium, another common cause of hair loss in women.
Like hereditary hair loss, telogen effluvium is extremely common. This phenomenon occurs when your body experiences some form of change such as pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss or even extreme stress can all cause you to experience hair loss. After bone marrow, hair is the second fastest growing tissue of the body5, therefore any small changes in your body are likely to be reflected in your hair.
TE is generally characterised by severe shedding. When this shedding goes on for an extended period of time, the result can be a quite devastating with a noticeable reduction in hair density. Once the trigger for this type of hair loss has been identified (and there may be more than one, read further about that here), then the shedding will eventually stop.
Now you may be thinking, “but I’m not experiencing any of these changes!”. Well keep in mind that due to the various phases of the hair cycle, it may take weeks or even months for the hair to be affected, so if you believe this may be the cause of your hair loss, look back a few months and you may just find the culprit.
As with telogen effluvium, changes in vitamins and minerals in your body can lead to hair loss and this is especially apparent when it comes to iron stores and B12. A quick trip to the doctor for some blood tests for B12 and serum ferritin (iron stores) will reveal whether or not this could be contributing to your hair loss. The good news about this particular cause for hair loss is that like telogen effluvium, when the appropriate iron and B12 levels are restored through the use of supplements and/or dietary changes, your hair should return to normal.
In the meantime, however, using a female hair fibre concealer like BOOST N BLEND™ to cover any areas of visible scalp, will ensure your issue remains private. It can also help your hair to recover. Some ongoing hair loss issues are caused by the stress of hair loss. You can read more about that here.
Summary of the most common female hair loss types:
Does not usually involve shedding. This is a more gradual type of hair loss that is often first noticed by a widening part. Also known as Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL). Onset is usually between 12 and 40 years of age. Half the population has some form of AA by the age of 50.The tendency for AA is often hereditary. But not all women with the predisposition for AA will suffer from it if there is no trigger.
Hair loss characterised by shedding is temporary, usually grows back when trigger is eliminated. Usually triggered by trauma to the body from mild to severe for example, crash dieting, illness, medication etc. Can occur at any age. But a bout of TE can uncover and lead to a previously dormant and potentially inherited tendency for Androgenic Alopecia.
Generated by an autoimmune condition. Often presents as a coin shaped area of complete hair loss. Can be very minor and right itself with no treatment or may be quite severe requiring ongoing treatment such as minoxidil.
You don't have to put up with visible hair loss. A couple of shakes of Boost N Blend each morning will cover a visible scalp in seconds. This is Boost N Blend Dusky Dark Brown on a 56 year old woman with Androgenic Alopecia.