You've seen the signs: clumps of hair in the drain that aren't your husband's...more exposed patches of skin on your scalp...a feeling of dread as you look at yourself in the mirror and realize, "I'm a balding woman!" But wait a minute--women are not supposed to go bald. That's something only men experience. Not true. Women actually make up forty percent of American hair loss sufferers. And while no one wants to lose their hair, when hair loss occurs in women, it's often devastating for the woman's self-image and emotional well-being.
If you are a female hair loss sufferer, you don't have to resign yourself to a life of wearing wigs, headscarves, or hats. You can take steps to lessen your hair loss or replace the hair that's gone. Following are some suggestions to help.
Know why you're losing your hair. Female hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, including a hormonal imbalance, pregnancy, low functioning thyroid, and certain medications. In some situations, the hair can grow back once the reason for the hair loss is addressed. That's why knowing why your hair is falling out is important. Here are the most common scenarios:
Hormonal imbalance: In the past, doctors and researchers thought that female hair loss was simply caused by too much testosterone in the body. While testosterone is at the core of the balding process, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative of testosterone, is the real enemy. Testosterone converts to DHT in the body and binds to the receptors in the scalp follicles, shrinking them and making the hair fall out. This process of testosterone converting to DHT is normal and happens to both men and women. Typically, women have minute levels of testosterone, so the conversion is not a problem. But when testosterone levels rise in women, the overproduction of DHT can cause hair loss.
Pregnancy, menopause, PMS, and other life events: When you are imbalanced from pregnancy, menopause, PMS, or anything else that may stress your body, it's common for one hormone to supersede the other. During these times, estrogen levels fall while testosterone and progesterone levels rise. For example, many women lose a lot of hair within a few months following pregnancy because of these hormonal fluctuations. Fortunately, when this happens due to pregnancy, PMS, or another stressful event (excluding menopause), the hair growth process eventually stabilizes and returns to normal.
Low functioning thyroid: When you suffer from hypothyroidism (meaning your thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone), hair loss and thinning are common. The exact amount of hair loss varies by person. And while you likely won't go completely bald, your hair may become brittle and break off, or it may thin. Hair loss may also occur if you have hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid that produces too much hormone), but hair loss is more severe with hypothyroidism. Once you get your thyroid in balance, your hair loss will usually stop, although whether the lost strands grow back varies by individual.
Medications: Ironically, the medication most often prescribed for thyroid disorders can actually cause hair loss. So rather than take a synthetic hormone, look into alternative options that may be available. For example, iodine is a natural thyroid balancer. Also, birth control pills can cause hair loss, especially in women who are predisposed to hormonal related hair loss or who are hypersensitive to the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies.
Seek the correct professional care.
When many women start losing their hair, they often do nothing. They're embarrassed about the condition and don't want to talk about it to anyone, not even their doctor. However, it's essential you see your physician immediately when you notice any unusual type of hair loss. A simple blood test can reveal the root of the problem. Unfortunately, those who do see a physician right away make the mistake of going to a dermatologist rather than their primary care physician. Most dermatologists will review the physical signs of hair loss and diagnose it as female pattern baldness. Your primary care physician will run tests to diagnose the problem so you can take steps to correct it.
Replace the hair you have lost.
Once your hormones are balanced, your thyroid is working properly, or you've stopped taking the offending medications, your hair loss will likely stop. Unfortunately, the hair you've lost doesn't always grow back. At this point, you need to replace the hair that has fallen out. Your traditional options include topical applications, wigs or extensions, or surgery. Each has their pros and cons. More recently, rather than undergo a hair replacement process, many women are finding success with a hair enhancement process like the Microdot technique, which is a non-surgical option that infuses healthy human hair strands around and over the areas that have been affected by the hair loss. Whatever option you choose, make sure you are emotionally ready for the process and that you choose something that will help you regain your self-confidence quickly.
Female hair loss is a serious issue. Unlike men, who can confidently go out in public completely bald, women don't have that option. A woman's self-confidence, femininity, and poise are often intimately tied to her hair. For many women, their hair defines who they are, which is why most women spend so much time and money caring for their hair. After all, when you like what you see in the mirror, you feel better and do better during the day.That's why being proactive and addressing female hair loss at the first signs is so important.