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Women And Hair Loss

Jan 24, 2008
There are 20 million women in America with excessive hair loss. Ten million of them are under the age of 40. While it's common to see and hear about men's hair loss, women's hair loss is seldom mentioned. It's almost as if society doesn't want to admit there's such a condition. The purpose of this news letter is to define the problem and its causes; as well as to explain some of the solutions that are available.

What is excessive hair loss?

All people, men and women lose hair and it's natural to do so. A normal person loses from 15 to 40 hairs every day.

Hair goes through three growth cycles. The Anagen phase is when hair grows. This cycle lasts about three years. The second phase is called the Catagen phase. During this time hair growth ceases and no pigment is produced for about 10-days. The Catagen phase is followed by the Tologen phase in which the hair is shed. This cycle usually lasts for about three months.

In individuals with healthy follicles about 90% of the hair on the scalp grows at one time. Because the vast majority of follicles are in the Anagen phase- and only a small percentage of them are in the Tologen phase-a normal amount of hair fall out isn't noticeable.

The overwhelming majority of women suffer from what is known as Androgenic hair loss; this is caused by hormones.

When a follicle is unhealthy for whatever reason, the hair growth cycles are suspended and the follicle stays in the Tologen phase for an indefinite period. As more and more follicles stay in the Tologen phase less new hair is being produced. This results in thinning and ultimately, balding!

How long do afflicted follicles stay in the Tologen stage? In many cases forever; in some cases hair production resumes. The determining factor is what caused the follicle to stop producing hair in the first place.

Why women lose hair?

Women can lose hair for a variety of reasons. In pregnancy changes in hormone levels can produce hair loss. Stress and anxiety can also cause hair follicles to cease production. In some cases a vitamin deficiency can lead to hair loss. Certain medications can cause hair to fall out too. But in all the aforementioned cases, the hair loss is only temporary for most people. Once the condition causing the hair loss ceases either naturally or through intervention, the hair follicles will "wake up" and begin producing hair once again.

There are two conditions in which hair loss is irreversible. The first is from the condition known as alopecia universalis. Very few people are afflicted with alopecia universalis, but those who are facing the devastating effects of all hair production ceasing on their body-they actually produce no hair at all, from their scalps to their toes. The condition is believed to be caused by a virus and there is no "cure" for it.

The overwhelming majority of women suffer from what is known as androgenic hair loss. This is caused by hormones. It was previously mentioned that pregnant women can experience hair loss due to change sin hormonal levels. With androgenic hair loss, the principle is the same but the cause is quite different.

Both men and women have hormones of the opposite sex. Men have levels of estrogen in their body, just as women have levels of testosterone. In women, the cause of what is known as female patterns baldness is the testosterone hormone. Women with hair loss do not have abnormal levels of testosterone in their body. These women are just unable to "break down" testosterone properly.

There is much testosterone found in a person's scalp. If the hormone does not break down properly as it ages and is ready to be disposed of as waste, a by-product known as dihidrotestosterone (DHT) exists. When too much DHT accumulates in the scalp, hair follicles are affected. They begin to atrophy. The hair being produced becomes smaller, weaker in structure, and lighter in color. Finally, the hair follicle enters a permanent dormant state and no hair is produced at all. In most cases, there is no way to induce the hair follicle to produce normal, healthy hair again. The hair follicle is essentially dead.

What can be done?

In cases of hair loss that are due to stress, medication or pregnancy, hair growth will return to normal as soon as the condition causing the hair loss ceases to exist. When hair loss is caused by scalp disorders or vitamin deficiencies, these conditions can be corrected with the proper therapies, many of which can be obtained without a prescription.

However, for the vast majority of women suffering from female patterns baldness (FPB), the answers and corresponding solutions are not as easy to come by.

Topical Lotions

There are many topical lotions sold by beauty salons across the country, specifically for women with thinning hair. For many women, this is the fist attempt at correcting their excessive hair loss. However, for women with androgenic hair loss (female patterns baldness), lotions and creams simply will not work.

Drug Therapy

Minixidil has now been approved for use by women in formulations containing 2% of the drug. Now sold as an over-the-counter product, minoxidil has been approved by the FDA as a hair loss cessation/ hair growing drug. However, minoxidil has only been shown to grow hair in the crown, not in the frontal hairline. The hair that minoxidil can grow, even in the crown, is usually hair that is not considered "cosmetically acceptable", meaning hair that will not grow long and healthy enough to cover the scalp.

As for minoxidil's ability to stop hair loss, the success rate varies widely from individual to individual. In most cases, the hair loss still continues but will sometimes do so at a lesser rate. In all cases, once minoxidil use is stopped, hair loss returns to its original levels; any hair growth achieved will also cease.


Transplants are now being performed by doctors on women patients. Hair transplants have been vastly improved in the past ten years, and no longer produce the "row of corn" appearance that was the case in the days of "hair plugs".

It must be noted that transplants do not create new hair. They simply move hair from the back of the scalp (the donor area) to the desired areas of the scalp where there is hair loss. The amount of hair on the scalp itself remains the same. It is just rearranged. In order for transplants to be successful, the patient must have enough hair in the donor area to cover the thin or bald areas. If enough donor hair can't be harvested, significant cosmetic coverage will not be achieved in thin or bald areas. Another consideration is future hair loss: since your natural hair continues to fall out, the question then becomes, will there be enough donor hair to eventually cover the balding areas without leaving the donor area denude of hair too?

The reason that transplants are more widely touted for men and not women has to do with the amount of hair that can be harvested. Both men and women have the same number of hairs on their scalps, but in men, it is more acceptable for light coverage to be the result-it's better for a man to be thinning than bald, is the theory. For women, thin hair that makes her look like she is going bald is rarely acceptable.


Standard machine-made wigs offer a number of advantages. They provide full coverage of the thinning areas, for one. And unlike many so-called women's hair loss solutions, they're guaranteed to work.

But machine-made wigs are not for everyone. The less expensive ones that use synthetic hair can be less than natural looking. Machine-made wigs can also be hot and cumbersome. For women with an active lifestyle-especially women who exercise and engage in other physical activities-wigs can be limiting: you certainly can't swim in them, and even sunning or being intimate can be compromised by a wig's limitations. And of course, they're not part of you; at night, they generally come off. For some women, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For other women, wigs are not a viable solution. It depends on lifestyle, your expectations, and the trade-offs you're willing to accept. In other words, whether or not to wear a wig is an intensely personal decision.

Hair Augmentation

There are many different methods of women's hair restoration that fall under the general heading "hair augmentation". Some of these methods rival wigs, for the most part. Others are far different.

By definition, hair augmentation refers to the process of adding to a woman's existing hair, rather than covering it up as a wig would. If this is done in such a manner that results in the hair becoming "permanently" part of the scalp, it offers a woman a plethora of advantages over other solutions.

The idea of augmentation was largely derived from yesterdays "hair weaves". The intent was not to cover the entire scalp, but only to add hair where needed. However, weaves had so many disadvantages that other methods were created to overcome them: thus, the beginning of modern day hair augmentation. However, just like wigs and weaves, there are many different types of hair augmentation, some much better than others.
About the Author
Hair Restoration of California specializes in hair loss solutions for men and women by designing custom Hair Replacements. You can visit HRC's web site at www.hrc4hair.com or by calling (800) 486-4247 for more information.
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