What causes hair thinning in women
Getting to the root of hair thinning in women
Restoring your crowning glory is easier than you think
Do you dread combing or shampooing your hair? Can you see your scalp through your strands? Do hair clips slip lifelessly through your ponytail? Chances are you’re suffering from female pattern hair thinning, a distressing but surprisingly common problem among women. As a pioneering trichologist and consultant at Richfeel Trichology Centre, Dr. Sonal Shah has treated countless women suffering from hair loss. The good doctor’s own tresses are the stuff of dreams—long, ridiculously thick and glossy—and she is the first to admit that losing hair can be stressful and worrying especially in India where long, healthy locks are considered a sign of beauty. “Long, black healthy hair is one of the signs of beauty, outdone only probably by fair, smooth and flawless skin,” Dr. Shah observes. No surprising then that at the first sign of hair loss, most women go into a panic mode.
Everyone loses hair
The fact is that everyone loses hair. It happens when you’re shampooing, while you’re blow drying or even brushing. On average, we lose fifty to a hundred hairs each day. That’s just hair going through its cycles, and there will be a new one to replace it. Occasionally, excessive hair loss is common after pregnancy, major surgery, a long course of antibiotics, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress when literally clumps of hair may start falling out. Such hair loss, also called telogen effluvium, usually settles and you just need to bide your time and wait it out, as impossible as it may seem.
However, sustained hair loss over a period of months, even years, could indicate a more serious problem. “Clumps of hair in the shower or a hair parting that seems to be getting wider may be a sign of a more serious medical condition that needs evaluation by a trichologist and possible treatment,” Dr. Shah says.
How does female pattern thinning differ from male pattern hair loss?
Typically men lose hair in a U shaped pattern. “It starts with thinning on the crown or a receding hairline, which advances to thinning on the top of the head,” explains Dr. Shah. On the other hand, genetic hair loss in women, known as androgenetic alopecia, is characterized by thinning at the hairline behind the bangs. “The condition develops slowly and may start as early as your 20s. It’s usually wide spread and spreads across the entire scalp.” Such hair loss is usually gradual and happens at a much later time in life, around menopause. However, it doesn’t make it less traumatic, especially if you’ve had glossy, thick hair before.
Why does female pattern hair loss set in?
Women have both the male hormone Androgen (responsible for hair growth all over the body) and the female hormone Estrogen. While Androgen causes destruction of the hair follicles, Estrogen counteracts this negative action. All is well until a hormone imbalance occurs—especially around menopause—and causes Estrogen levels to drop. Androgen starts attacking hair follicles that are gradually destroyed and hair starts to thin. This thinning may also be triggered by stress, the consumption of oral contraceptives, after a hysterectomy, childbirth or hormone-replacement therapy. Dr. Shah says that while the overall rate of hair loss varies between women, it may take anywhere between five and twenty five years before baldness becomes obvious to others. Hair fall may vary seasonally, and usually winter is the worst period when testosterone production increases.
What are the treatments for hair loss?
Since Female Pattern Thinning involve the gradual thinning of hair fibers and less destruction of hair follicles than seen with male pattern baldness, treatment modalities should be specifically designed to treat it. Dr. Shah feels natural treatments are always preferable because hormone-replacement therapy, a popular hair regrowth option for some, has several unwelcome side effects. She believes that natural estrogen rich supplements like Dong Quai Complex made from the Dong Quai plant is a good option for hair regrowth especially when thinning is caused by low Estrogen levels. Meanwhile high levels of Androgen can be treated with the Serenoa Complex (that contains Saw Palmetto and Horsetail extracts). “However, it’s best to have the cause of hair thinning determined before starting any treatment,” says Dr. Shah.
Foods that can help tackle hair loss
There are several foods with estrogenic properties that should also be consumed to tackle thinning hair. These include foods containing healthy fats such as fatty fish like tuna and mackerel, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts. Walnuts are particularly useful because they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, biotin and vitamin E, which guard against DNA damage. Walnuts also have copper, a mineral that helps keep your natural hair color glossy Good quality protein such as egg whites, chicken and low fat dairy are also essential for healthy hair, as are spinach, lentils and sweet potato.