Women suffering from hair loss are understandably distressed. After all, their crowning glory is at stake. This section offers some insights into the problem and perspectives on how to treat hair loss in women.
In many cases, however, female hair loss is just a temporary occurance in which hormones play a major part. An example is the case of pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, a large amount of oestrogen is produced causing the hair follicles to go into their growth phase. But once the baby is born, the extra hair is gradually released, and the reverse now happens: the hair follicles go into a hair loss phase. Thus hair loss after pregnancy is much more pronounced than it was before or during pregnancy. This state of hair loss usually takes about six months to pass, but in some cases it may take up to 12 months for hairfall to return to its normal rate.
Hair loss due to illness
Any type of extended illness or surgery can result in hair loss. Medications taken to combat certain types of illnesses can also cause your hair to become brittle and break or fall out altogether. The most identifiable type of hair loss is the loss associated with chemotherapy treatments. In most cases, this hair loss is complete and affects all areas of the body.
While there is little that can be done to prevent this type of hair loss or promote growth during illness, surgery or chemotherapy treatments, this type of female hair loss is also temporary. In most cases, full recovery of hair is made after the illness is over. You can gradually end your hair loss and promote hair growth after the illness by getting regular trims and using growth enhancing shampoos and conditioners. Vitamin supplements may also be beneficial.
Causes of hair loss: hormones
Androgenetic alopecia, the more tenacious culprit, is the hereditary form of baldness that affects 50 percent of men, and some women after 40. Female hair loss usually starts after menopause although it can begin earlier. Women, just like men, inherit the gene for thinning hair from either parent. In women, testosterone is produced in the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Although testosterone gets converted to its destructive by-product, Dihydratestosterone (DHT), it normally cannot cause female hair loss due to the protective effects of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones reduce DHT production and block its attachment to the hair follicle as long as they are present in adequate amounts. However, any condition that can cause a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone or overproduction of DHT can cause thinning hair in women. DHT causes the hair follicle to shed the normal hair and produce thinner, shorter, colorless hair. This peach-fuzz hair makes the scalp look thinner, and over time the miniaturized hair follicles die, causing permanent hair loss known as balding. There is no peach-fuzz hair in balding areas, and the scalp appears tight and shiny.
Hair loss can start at any age after puberty, but in most cases it occurs with menopause. During menopause female hormones are depleted, lowering a woman’s natural defense against thinning hair. Excessive hair loss in pre-menopausal women indicates an abnormal hormonal imbalance that requires medical investigation and appropriate treatment.
Unlike men, women rarely become totally bald. Genetic baldness in men is usually characterised by a balding spot at the back or a receding hair line. In women this is usually different. Women normally do not lose their hair in spots only; theirs will thin out evenly throughout the head.
Hair loss due to stress
Physical and emotional stress can cause hair loss, but this usually only occurs after a prolonged period of time and in extreme cases. Women experiencing stressful conditions may experience hair loss represented by thinning all over the head or in spots called alopecia areata. While this type of hair loss is alarming, it is not permanent. After the stress is removed, most sufferers of this type of hair loss regrow all of the hair that they had lost. Once stress levels are restored to normal levels, hair loss should stop.
Drugs and chemical applications
Certain drugs can also cause hair loss. The most common medical treatment that causes hair loss is chemotherapy. The drug medication attacks the hair cells, causing hair loss from the scalp. Certain prescription drugs (for instance for thyroid hormone deficiency, diabetes and lupus) and dieting supplements are also causes of hair loss. Once these drug medications are stopped, the hair loss problem should disappear.
Other stresses to the hair may include frequent dyeing and chemicals such as perming solutions applied to the hair. Generally, healthy hair can undergo these treatments without showing signs of stress if they are not done too often. But if hair is not allowed a chance to recover from the constant application of hair chemicals, then it becomes brittle and starts to break off. No matter how healthy and strong your hair is today, you could experience severe hair loss after undergoing a harsh chemical process such as a perm or color. The hair salon certainly contributes largely to the application of chemical substances, but some women often play their part at home to ruin their hair. There are cases where women confessed that they bleach their hair at home, color it over and then go to the salon for yet another bleaching. The stylist, not informed about the “home treatment”, completes the harmful procedure using another strong chemical.
These women usually pay the price for such fallacy, but fortunately most of these cases do not result in complete hair loss and the damage can usually be repaired. The hair loss repair programme includes protein treatments and other conditioning methods to strengthen the remaining hair; also a good hair cut that will remove most of the damage; and a gentle hair-care routine that will minimize further hair loss due to breakage. You should also refrain from using thermal styling tools and undergoing any further chemical procedures until the hair is completely grown out.
For more serious cases, do seek the professional help of a licensed dermatologist for a complete diagnosis and treatment plan. This important action may be the first step in ending your hair loss. There are also a few other hair loss treatment options that can be explored. They include shampoos, conditioners and topical treatments that stimulate hair growth and prevent further hair loss; vitamin supplements; and stimulatory treatments such as massage, infra-red and laser therapy. The most successful of these hair loss treatments are the topical treatments. While they are quite expensive, they produce the best results. Among them are Rogaine for women and a much more affordable yet very successful product, Lipogaine. Although Rogaine activates the follicle’s growth phase, it has no effect on the DHT production that eventually leads to hair-follicle atrophy. See the discussion of the methods and products available to counteract hair loss in the next section.
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In the section HAIR LOSS: RESTORE AND KEEP YOUR HAIR the various ways to end hair loss in men and women will be discussed.