Dealing With Hair Loss in Women
The Typical Cycle of Hair Growth (and Loss)
Female Pattern Hair Loss
Other Causes of Hair Loss
- Telogen effluvium (temporary shedding of hair)—This can occur a few months after a woman delivers a baby, which usually lasts about 1-6 months before completely resolving.
- Breaking of hair —This may be caused by styling treatments (eg, dyes, tints, bleaches, straighteners) and twisting or pulling of hair.
- Alopecia areata—This is an autoimmune disorder in which affected hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by a person's own immune system, causing patchy areas of total hair loss.
- Thyroid disease—Both an overactive and underactive thyroid can cause hair loss; proper treatment can reverse it.
- Illness—Being very ill (eg, having a high fever) can lead to hair loss.
- Major surgery—A major operation may temporarily increase hair shedding.
- Cancer treatments—Chemotherapy will cause hair cells to stop dividing, become thin, and break off. Hair will re-grow after treatment ends.
- Tinea capitis—This is a treatable fungus infection on the scalp that can cause patchy hair loss.
- Medicines—Taking certain medicines can lead to hair loss. Examples of these medicines include:
- Blood thinners
- High-dose vitamin A
- High blood pressure medicine
- Inadequate protein in diet—Although rare in the US, growing hairs will shift into the resting phase when you don’t get enough protein from your diet. The condition can be reversed and prevented by eating adequate amounts of protein.
- Low iron levels—Iron deficiency occasionally produces hair loss; it can be corrected by taking iron pills.
Is It Possible to Prevent Female Pattern Hair Loss?
Treatment for Female Pattern Hair Loss
- Medicine—Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a medicine that is available in the United States without a prescription. It is used topically on the scalp. The medicine is usually applied to the scalp twice a day. It may take more than four months of use before you will see your hair regrow. Hair loss recurs if treatment is stopped.
- Hair replacement surgery—Hair transplants involve taking plugs of "donor" follicles from the patient's scalp and using these to fill the hairline. The procedure usually requires multiple transplantation sessions. It can also cause minor scarring in the donor areas and carries a risk for skin infection. Results, however, are often very good and permanent.
- Nonsurgical hair additions—A nonsurgical hair addition is an external hair device (eg, weave, extension, hair piece) that is added to existing hair or the scalp to give the appearance of a fuller head of hair. They are safe. Many women may opt for partial transplantation and a partial hair addition.
Alopecia Areata Foundation http://www.naaf.org/
American Hair Loss Council http://www.ahlc.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html
Causes of hair loss. American American Hair Loss Council website. Available at: http://www.americanhairloss.org/women%5Fhair%5Floss/causes%5Fof%5Fhair%5Floss.asp . Accessed May 1, 2012.
Female pattern hair loss. American Hair Loss Council website. Available at: http://www.ahlc.org/femalepattern.htm . Accessed September 16, 2003.
Hair. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-817.html . Accessed September 16, 2003.
Hair loss: who gets and causes. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/hair-loss/who-gets-causes/hair-loss-who-gets-and-causes . Accessed May 1, 2012.
Minoxidil (topical). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated February 17, 2010. Accessed March 26, 2010.
Price VH. Treatment of hair loss. N Engl J Med . 1999; 341:964.
Trost LB, Bergfeld WF, Calogeras E. The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss. J Am Acad Dermatol . 2006; 54:824.
What causes excessive hair loss? Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/causes-risk-factors.html . Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2012 -
- Update Date: 05/01/2012 -