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Hair loss has been traditionally seen as a man’s problem. Male pattern baldness is regarded as an annoying, although now treatable, fact of life. However, female hair loss is surprisingly common: the American Academy of Dermatologists estimates that around 1 in 5 women are currently affected by hair loss. The numbers of women affected also appear to be growing too, although since complete baldness is relatively rare the problem hasn’t attracted as much attention as the numbers would suggest.
Hair loss is a natural process that occurs in most people as they grow older. Hair grows in cycles and naturally sheds, with a break of several months between shedding and regrowth. Sometimes regrowth can be prevented by our bodies. Several factors can increase the rate of hair loss, and others can be short term causes of temporary hair loss.
Hair loss is often simply caused by physical damage to the hair itself. Frequently our efforts to beautify and modify our hair lead to temporary or permanent damage. For example, tying your hair back too tightly can lead to hair being pulled from the roots. Heated straighteners and even blow dryers have been linked to hair loss in some women.
Diet can also play a part. Fad weight loss diets might be great for getting you that beach body before your next holiday, but they can also lead you to temporarily lack the essential nutrients, fatty acids and proteins needed to keep your hair strong and healthy. Over the long term a diet that lacks sufficient iron, or any other cause of anaemia such as iron blocking medicines, can lead to hair loss.
Mothers who have recently given birth often experience temporary hair loss thanks to an imbalance of hormones. Pregnancy increases hormones linked to hair preservation. After giving birth these hormone levels fall back causing hairs which would have otherwise have fallen out over time as part of the natural hair growth cycle to drop at once.
Some women, like men, have a genetic predisposition towards hair loss. This predisposition is surprisingly common, with almost half of all women affected. Generally hair loss increases with age as hair thins out, with hair being lost both at the hair line and the crown.
Other factors play are part too: certain medicines and surgical procedures often lead to temporary hair loss, and emotional stress can also speed up hair loss – often through trichotillomania or compulsive hair pulling. Smoking too can increase the rate of hair loss in women. Environmental factors such as exposure to certain industrial processes or materials such as heavy metals can also cause hair loss.
While many temporary causes of hair loss will eventually clear themselves up, longer term hair loss often requires intervention. First, the cause of hair loss needs to be identified to prevent further loss from preventable factors. Once this has been carried out action can be taken.
Commonly hair loss in women is caused by androgenetic alopecia, which is the production of male hormones that cause hair loss. Medicines can be used to counteract this affect, often by taking Minoxidil and Finasteride together. Pre-menopausal hair loss can often be slowed or stopped by the use of Aldactone/Spironalactone, while post-menopausal women find Prempro plus Aldactone more effective.
Improving your diet can work wonders for counteracting hair loss. Ensuring you are getting a good range of nutrients, vitamins, essential fatty acids and proteins is key to keeping your hair strong and healthy and to preventing further hair loss. Vitamin B, iron, Omega 3 fatty acids and Saw Palmetto are perhaps the most important of these nutrients, and it’s well worth considering taking supplements if you believe your diet currently lacks enough of these essentials.
Surgery is also an option and is becoming increasingly popular among women with long term hair loss. The two main forms of hair restoration surgery are scalp reduction, where the scalp with hair is stretched, and hair transplantation. These techniques tend to be expensive and aren’t suitable for all women.