How to cope with female hair loss
Female hair loss can be upsetting and confusing and you might be surprised to learn that it affects over eight million women in the UK alone. Here's how to cope when your crowning glory starts to fade.
There are many different types of hair loss and they can affect women for different reasons.
It might take the form of a general thinning, or it could be a total loss of hair. It doesn’t discriminate on age, and can affect both old women and young.
Hair loss can be caused by genetics, stress or medical conditions and treatments, such as chemotherapy. A less known cause is childbirth, which causes around 50% of women to notice hair loss. Physical and emotional stress, consuming too much vitamin A, a lack of protein, anaemia, alopecia, lupus and dramatic weight loss are other common causes.
90% of female hair loss is genetic and can only be treated through medication.
How does it happen?
The most common types of female hair loss can generally be sorted into four categories:
Androgenetic alopecia sees hair thin on the top and front of the head and behind the hairline. Usually, hair will stay thick towards the back of the head. This affects a third of women by the time they reach 50.
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by a very similar process to male pattern baldness. An enzyme causes testosterone to be converted into dihydrotestosterone. This hormone makes the hair follicle produce thinner and thinner hair until it stops altogether.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, which is known to affect around 2% of the population. It can eventually lead to total baldness and hair tends to fall out in round patches. In many cases, the hair will regrow in the future.
Telogen effluvium is a general shedding of hair from across the entire scalp. Every human loses around 100 hairs a day but sometimes this process is accelerated by factors including stress, hormones, medication or illness. This hair loss is only temporary and the hair will usually grow back within around six months.
Excessive styling. Certain methods of hair styling, particularly braiding and weaving, are linked to particular types of hair loss. Prolonged pulling at the hair follicle can cause inflammation which leads to central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, or scarring hair loss.
How is female hair loss treated?
Before you try and treatments, you should first pay a visit to your GP as hair loss can occasionally be a symptom of a deeper running issue.
Minoxidil is the only proven treatment for hereditary female hair loss. Up to 25% of women experience hair regrowth while using the lotion. It’s available over the counter or online, without prescription.
You could also consider platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment which encourage follicles to produce hair again without the need for medication, though it’s best to find the cause of the hair loss before considering this. If you’re in the area there are many specialists for hair loss treatment in Melbourne.
Cover up. Many women opt to use wigs, hair extensions, scarves and makeup to disguise their hair loss. If you have lost more than 50% of your hair, through a condition such as alopecia areata, lupus or treatments like chemotherapy, then you could be eligible for an NHS wig.
Avoid miracle cures, they never do what they say on the tin. Try not to be fooled by ‘wonder’ products, as there is no cure for female hair loss.
Acceptance is key. Allow yourself time to feel bad and grieve for the loss of your hair. The key is to allow yourself to feel down for a short while, but then to do something proactive to make yourself feel better.
Learning to love yourself
Take time out to pamper yourself. Why not invest in some indulgent moisturiser for your scalp and remember to use a good sunscreen on your head each day.
If you have a fully bald head then remember bald can be beautiful as the celebrity inspirations below prove.
Image via Big Issue
Model and TV presenter Gail Porter developed alopecia totalis in 2005, leading to a total loss of her hair. In order to raise awareness of the condition, she made the choice not to cover up with a wig or hat.
She is an ambassador for The Little Princess Trust, a charity which provides wigs to children with hair loss.
Image via Pinterest
Natalie Portman shaved off the hair she showcased so spectacularly in Star Wars for her role in V for Vendetta back in 2006. Speaking about the style, she said, "After all the crazy hairstyles I had to endure for the films, it's quite liberating to have no hair - especially in this heat."
Image via Hair Boutique
Chinese actress Bai Ling shaved her head for a role, and claimed that the experience resulted in "a new freedom of spirit and unconditional self-acceptance of who she was".
She said that she felt "more trusting and willing to be brave and take more risks in life".
Image via Broadway
A cancer survivor herself, Cynthia Nixon shaved her head for her role in the acclaimed Broadway show, Wit, where she played a poetry professor undergoing cancer treatment.
Image via LPR
Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula shows just how beautiful bald can be.
After an attempt to chemically relax her hair while still at university went wrong, she was left with a severely damaged scalp. The chemicals had burned potholes in her head and she lost a lot of her hair.
Her hair grows normally now, but Laura liked the shaved look so much that she decided to keep it clean cut anyway.