More than half of women in the United States lose a significant amount of hair during their lifetimes, a condition known as female pattern hair loss (FPHL). Though it’s normal to lose 50-100 strands a day and about 250 when you wash your hair, if you’re losing more than that, you have FPHL.
You’re more likely to develop FPHL if at least one of your biological female relatives has hair loss (aka alopecia). Women rarely go bald from FPHL, but when you watch your part widen, your scalp-line rise, or notice that you have less hair than you did 10 years ago, you may feel anxious, sad, and self-conscious about your appearance.
The dermatologists at Specialists in Dermatology — located in The Woodlands, Texas, and Houston, Texas — are experts in hair loss and growth. They diagnose the causes of your FPHL and recommend effective therapies and lifestyle changes that halt it and even — if it’s caught early enough — reverse it. Here they discuss five factors that can trigger FPHL and why it’s so important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible
1. Hormonal imbalances
Many women lose their hair after pregnancy, or during perimenopause and menopause, when their hormones fluctuate. Too much of androgenic hormones, like testosterone, shrinks the hair follicles that produce and hold hairs in their growth and resting phases. Shrunken follicles can’t support hairs, so the hairs fall out.
Even hormonal birth control triggers hair loss. If you use hormonal contraception and your family has a history of FPHL, talk to your gynecologist about switching to low-androgen index birth control.
If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, your doctor may prescribe hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) that helps you with symptoms, including hair loss. Women who lose significant amounts of hair one to five months after childbirth usually find that it grows back within six months.
2. Underlying medical conditions
Some women have an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, which causes their hair to fall out in clumps. They might also lose their eyebrows, eyelashes, or body hair. Other medical conditions that are associated with FPHL include:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Scalp infection
- Scalp psoriasis
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Underactive or overactive thyroid
Our dermatologist takes a complete medical history and may order blood tests to determine all of the factors involved in your hair loss.
3. Not enough, or too many, vitamins and minerals
The foods and beverages you consume either nourish your skin cells — including hair follicles — or they cause inflammation that could trigger hair loss. Women who don’t get enough iron, zinc, or biotin, for instance, may develop FPHL.
Our dermatologists may advise adding more fresh fruits, vegetables, and high-quality protein into your diet. Your hair strands are made of protein, which is why eating enough of this essential macronutrient each day is necessary to keep your follicles and hairs healthy. Your dermatologist may also recommend supplements to compensate for nutritional deficiencies.
Adding supplements to your diet without consulting with a dermatologist, however, could backfire. Too much vitamin A, for instance, triggers hair loss, too.
Although stressing about your hair loss probably won’t cause more hair loss, extreme stress and trauma can. Undergoing surgery, being ill, or suffering a terrible loss might trigger your hair to fall out in its resting stage. Once the stressful situation is resolved, your hair may begin to grow back.
5. Bad habits
Stressing your hair directly — by braiding it into corn rows, putting dyes and other chemicals on it, or using heated styling appliances — can cause hair to fall out before its time.
Even over-brushing, drying your hair vigorously with a towel, or tugging on a comb while your hair’s wet and tangled breaks strands and tears them from their follicles.
One of the worst habits for healthy hair is pulling your hair back into tight pony tails or buns. Another is consciously or unconsciously pulling your own hair. Pulling or yanking hair doesn’t just affect the hairs; the follicles can be so damaged by the force that they can’t regrow hair again.
If your follicles are still healthy when you start hair-loss treatment, you might be able to grow back most of your hair. However, waiting too long after you’ve noticed hair loss increases your risk that your follicles have shrunk to the point that they can no longer grow or support a hair.
As soon as you realize that you’re losing hair, contact us for an evaluation. Our dermatologists are experts in treating and reversing hair loss. They may recommend therapies such as:
- Topical minoxidil to reverse follicle shrinkage
- Topical spironolactone to block androgens
- Lifestyle changes and supplements
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments
A PRP treatment repairs damaged follicles so that you can grow your own hair again. The PRP serum is made from a donation of your own blood.
Don’t delay getting a diagnosis and treatment for your FPHL. Contact your nearest Specialists in Dermatology office today by phone or online contact form.