Hair Loss In Women
Patricia Zifferblatt | June 3, 2008

When we think of hair loss, we usually think of male-pattern baldness and the man who does the comb-over to cover his thinning hair. However we sometimes get calls from women whose hair is thinning rapidly or coming out in clumps, and for women, hair loss can be psychologically devastating. So the questions are: What should a woman do about hair loss? Can the hair ever grow back? Is it the same as male baldness? Is there any way to prevent hair loss?

It’s important to remember that hair loss may be your first indication of an underlying problem, so don’t tell yourself, “Quit being so vain and just put up with it!” Sudden or unexpected hair loss should be reported to your doctor so that special tests can be done to determine the cause of the problem; you may need to see a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. In many cases, the problem will right itself, but don’t self-diagnose--see your healthcare provider for a professional opinion.

The good news is that with prompt treatment, hair will usually grow back--perhaps not like before, but back anyway. The sooner you act, the better; you want to encourage your hair follicles to get healthy before they’re too damaged to do their job.

How much is too much?
It’s normal for everyone to lose 50-100 hairs every day--seems like a lot, doesn’t it? You know what’s normal for you--what you’re used to seeing in your hairbrush or on the floor of the shower. Any time you notice that you’re losing more hair than normal, consider events which took place up to three months earlier--it can often take that long for the causes of hair loss to make a noticeable difference.

Think back over the last few months for any kind of physical or psychological stress:
  • Were you diagnosed with a new condition?

  • Have your hormone levels changed? Pregnancy and childbirth, starting or stopping birth-control pills, or the onset of menopause can cause hair loss.

  • Did you start taking a new medication? An alternative med may work better for you.

  • Have you been on a crash diet? Dietary deficiencies can cause hair loss.

  • Did you go through a traumatic experience, such as death of a loved one or friend, surgery, divorce, job loss, or any other event that can be categorized as traumatic?

Changing hormones are the most common cause of hair loss in women. Many women experience hair loss in pregnancy, when lactating, or during menopause because of hormonal changes. This hair loss will stop as hormones in the body change and adjust. Hair loss from menopause or childbirth usually returns to normal six months to two years later.

In addition, conditions such as diabetes, anemia, and immune-system problems may also cause abnormal hair loss.

Other causes of hair loss
Hair abuse: hair loss can be caused by using or abusing chemicals--damage done to the hair or scalp by the use and overuse of harsh products, the wrong products, products that cause allergic reactions, or by not following label directions correctly. Choose a salon and hairdresser with a good reputation, current licenses, up-to-date training, and well-known products. If you’re doing it yourself, buy reputable products, follow directions exactly, and start with the least-damaging product to achieve the results you want. Take time to do the skin test if the product’s directions call for it! Another form of hair abuse is too-tight hairstyles that pull at your hair for an extended period--styles such as braids, cornrows, tight buns or ponytails, and hair extensions. Even something as simple as doing too much to your hair can cause hair loss--over-styling or absent-mindedly rubbing and pulling your hair.

Genetics: hair loss in women is different from hair loss in men. Genetic baldness is caused by the body's failure to produce new hairs, not by excessive hair loss. Male-pattern baldness is the familiar receding hairline and hair loss on top of the head and is typically genetic. But there's also a female-pattern baldness that’s inherited, first becoming apparent at 25 to 30. Usually, the hair loss is far less prominent than it is in men and occurs in a different pattern. Most women first experience hair thinning and hair loss where they part their hair and on the top of the head, but don't have a receding hairline; the new hairs may become finer and shorter.

So what’s a woman to do to prevent hair loss?
  • Live a healthy lifestyle, maintain the correct weight for your height and age, and control junk foods as well as foods high in fat or sugar. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, including your scalp and hair, so get moving!

  • Control your blood sugar; diabetes is a major risk factor for hair loss.

  • Make sure your thyroid is working efficiently; a thyroid imbalance can also cause hair loss.

  • Control your stress levels. This may be a difficult task for some people, but it is most necessary for a better life. Try a yoga class, meditation or prayer, or learn how to do progressive relaxation exercises for stress management. (Better Life can help you with that last one--check out our Progressive Relaxation CD.)

  • Make sure you see your doctor if you experience irregular monthly periods. Hormonal imbalances can cause hair loss.

  • Try to control your aging process. Most women will lose some hair as they age, but a healthy lifestyle and nutritional supplementation can help to slow the aging process in both men and women.

  • In addition to a healthy diet and exercise program, consider these additions to your daily supplement plan:

    • Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s from flaxseed or fatty fish
    • B-complex vitamins--all the B vitamins are connected to a healthy head of hair
    • Antioxidants from plant foods that can help improve circulation and slow free-radical damage
    • Zinc to stimulate hair growth as well as boost the immune system.
Hair is a woman’s crowning glory, so don’t ignore hair loss. It’s much better understood today than ever before, so see your doctor and get to the root of the problem!
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