Female hair loss affects around 8 million women in the UK alone. This statistic shows that hair loss in women is as important an issue as it is for men. There are varying degrees of hair loss that can effect women. From fine and thinning hair, to total baldness and bald spots. Women of all ages can suffer from this terrible condition. Like female incontinence that we covered in a recent post, this is an issue where good information can be hard to find. Recently BBC journalist Claire Millar wrote a piece about how her hair loss affected her. She said “I remember going through a whole range of emotions. I felt embarrassed, upset and scared.” If you suffer from female hair loss, especially at an early age you may find yourself under great pressure to live up to what is expected of you as a woman.
Personal experience from Diane, one of our readers:
I have had Alopecia since I was a child. At exactly what age I’m not sure. My mother used to tell me that at one point I lost all my hair and had a blond wig.But I have no recollection of it at all.
I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital with Rheumatic ever and stills disease.
As a child I was given various disgusting smelling potions but none had an effect other than making me smell weird!
Hairdressers have become a phobia because of insensitive comments, who would inevitably feel the need to share her findings with the rest of the salon. Believe me I tried various places,some worse than others but damage well and truly done.
My hair loss is now spreading (I’m 49) I was diagnosed with Sjorgens Syndrome a year ago which I believe is a symptom of this too.
I have very sensitive skin and have to be really careful which shampoo to use. I wash my hair as little as I can get away with. I have yet to find shampoo that doesn’t irritate me.
I wear my hair long so that I can tie it up and hide the patches.
Would love to have my hair short again as it would be so much easier to handle.
Would be really grateful of any suggestions that may make it easier to live with.
Please read on for further information about what causes female hair loss, and how to manage the condition.
Female Hair Loss Causes
Female hair loss is a condition that is very hard to disguise. As it effects your outwards appearance, many women emotionally struggle to cope with the condition. There’s an old saying that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. This says a lot about the pressure society places on women to have a healthy and full head of hair.
Stress Hair Loss
There are many causes of female hair loss. If you are suffering from severe stress or nutritional deficiencies for example, you may witness a temporary change in your hair condition. Both women and men who find themselves facing emotionally draining life-changes can lose hair. This is a condition called “telogen effluvium” – a temporary shedding of hair from the head and sometimes other parts of the body.
It is noticed as a thinning of the hair rather that patches of baldness. This hair loss can happen quite suddenly, however usually grows back within 6 months.
Hormonal Hair Loss in Women
There are a number of health conditions that cause significant changes in a woman’s hormonal balance.
However the hormone mostly responsible for female hair loss is testosterone.
Illnesses such as PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) often cause women to produce increased levels of testosterone.
This in turn can effect many aspects of their health. Increased testosterone in women is initially discovered because of irregular periods. However this symptom is usually teamed with one or more of the following health concerns:
- Acne in adulthood
- Facial hair growth
- Weight gain (especially around the middle)
- Type II diabetes or Insulin Resistance
- Hair Loss
As women with PCOS can produce too much testosterone, they can suffer from male-pattern baldness. Unlike temporary stress-related
hair loss this can often be permanent. However most women do not suffer bald patches from their loss. It’s more an over-all thinning of the hair, especially along the parting.
Diet and Women’s Hair Loss
A poor diet can lead to vital vitamin deficiencies. These deficiencies can in turn lead to problems such as hair loss. A healthy and balanced diet is not only important for weight watching. Each vegetable and fruit offers an important vitamin or mineral that is essential for a balanced diet. The colour of each piece of fruit or vegetable is a reflection of the vitamins and minerals contained inside. One of the easiest way to insure you eat a balanced diet is to eat a “rainbow” selection of fresh produce everyday.
However if eating a healthy diet still leaves you with thinning hair, you may have a specific deficiency caused by an underlying health problem. If you feel this is the case you must contact your GP. Deficiencies in Iron, Vitamin D and B12 are essential for healthy and strong hair growth. Women who suffer from eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia can often lose hair due to vitamin deficiencies caused by a lack of food intake.
Hair loss caused by drug side effects
— Homaira Sofia Khan (@SofiaKhan75) March 12, 2013
If your hair begins to thin after beginning a new drug treatment, be aware that there are many medicines that can cause alopecia as a side effect. It is worth checking with your GP if there are alternatives, if you believe this is happening.
Female Hair Loss Treatment
There are several types of hair loss treatment for women. If the hair loss is caused by temporary conditions such as stress, it is easier to find a treatment that works.
However if hair loss is caused by hormonal imbalances, finding a cure is more difficult.
Unfortunately there currently isn’t a true cure for male-pattern baldness. However there are products that can help to strengthen the hair you do have, providing extra thickness and some regrowth.
New to the market are caffeine shampoos. These hair treatments contain caffeine, which has been proven to stimulate hair growth. The caffeine reaches the hair follicles whilst you wash your hair, and is safe enough to be used daily. Once the shampoo has been washed off, the caffeine stays within the follicle and in the scalp skin. This means it continues to work even after it has been washed off.
Many women have seen fantastic results after only a few weeks of switching to a caffeine based shampoo, despite scepticism from the medical profession (see video below). The ingredients are designed to not only stimulate hair growth, but improve the structure and strength of the hair you have already.
Statistics show that even if new hair growth can not be achieved, maintaining the hair you do have is just as important.
Often women with hair loss will find that what is actually happening is that their current hair has become thinner than it used to be. This can give the impression of hair loss. However, if you work towards keeping your hair healthy and ensuring hair follicles are thick you can feel more confident about yourself and your hair style.
There is a transcript of this video at the bottom of the page.
Minoxidil for Female Hair Loss
Another scalp treatment for female baldness is the drug minoxidil. Minoxidil is a proven treatment and comes in the form of a lotion. Many women see a slow-down of hair loss almost days after first usage. Most importantly, at least 25% of women see a change in hair thickness and growth with the first few months of use. Although this treatment is not available on the NHS, it is often recommended by GPs.
When we asked on twitter for any products people had found helpful we had this tweet:
@lwdisability Spironolactone can stop further hair loss in women, but uusually need to see a skin specialist to have it prescribed ❤
— Adrielle de Viridian (@AmazinAdrielle) March 10, 2013
Spironolactone is a diuretic that also acts to block male hormones. It may be worth asking your doctor for a referral to a specialist if you think this may help you.
Food Supplements for Hair Loss
There are a number of brands now creating tablets especially for female hair loss. Whilst these can be expensive, the results are often positive. Most tablets contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy hair growth. Many high street chemists stock their own generic versions of these supplements if you find the branded ones too expensive.
Head Massage for Hair Loss
Massage of the scalp can also offer positive results. Using specially chosen essential oils for scalp massage is very important. Firstly
there are grades of massage oil. Essential oils or absolutes are the purest form of oil and you should try to buy these if possible. After this there are “dilutes” that are a mix of essential and “carrier” oils. These are cheaper than absolutes but less effective. Finally “fragrance” oils should be avoided as these are synthetic and do not hold any of the therapeutic qualities of essential oils.
Some of the best essential oils for hair loss are:
Below is information on how to give yourself a scalp massage to promote hair loss:
Place a few drops of essential rosemary oil in your palms and use it to gently massage your scalp. Rosemary can help get rid of excess oil on your scalp, which can clog your follicles. It also helps to stop the growth of any bacteria on your skin and might even replenish hair lost due to a condition such as alopecia areata. Use the pads of your fingers and a circular motion to rub the oil into your scalp for two minutes once a day before washing. This will also break up any buildup and allow it to be washed away more effectively.
Personal Viewpoint from Dale at BeyondPhysical.co.uk
After suffering paralysis as a result of an SCI my hair began to fall out in fistfuls. The shower was like a horror scene, especially as my hair had always been a very important and cherished part of my appearance. My beautiful long red hair began to thin and disappear. I made the decision to cut it all very short to get the best from it.
Cutting my hair shorter than it had been since I was 3 was an incredibly painful process at first. I didn’t want to let go of who I was, and my hair partly defined that. It seemed to emphasize to me how long it would take to ‘get back’ to who I was.
It turned out to be an incredibly liberating experience. It helped reveal the truth to me that you can never go back to who you were and how life was. We are only ever moving forward towards better things and holding on to the past and trying to get back what once was is not only impossible, but also harmful to us in the long run.
Accepting what was happening and what I needed in that moment was one of the reasons I think that cutting my hair short helped. At first my hair still fell out, but not as drastically. The radical cut did seem to give my body a chance to heal as my hair soon stopped thinning, and of course, I learnt to love my new short hair.
I grew my hair back out to its full length eventually and would you believe for the last 3 years I have had it cut short and very short, and now I prefer it. Everything happens for a reason.
Tricologists have told me in the past that alopecia treatments are either steroids or nothing at all, but in both cases it tends to be watch and hope. There seems to be nothing tried and tested in medical terms. There were a couple of things that helped me.
- Giving my hair a chance by cutting it short
- Accepting the situation as something that wasn’t ‘bad’
- The B.E.S.T technique
I found an American holistic treatment called B.E.S.T that helps bring your body back into state where it can heal itself effectively, like it was designed to do. This helped dramatically. The other upside to the treatment was that it helped me heal in other ways, emotionally and physically. I am the UK’s only registered B.E.S.T practitioner. It was so life changing I knew I needed to be able to help others so I trained in it!
Now having benefitted from the experience of others alongside my own experience and research I can offer up the following solutions for hair loss.
- Get rid of any amalgams like mercury fillings.
- Destox’s your liver, so absolutely no smoking, no sugar, lower carbs and alcohol intake.
- Eat only whole foods to increase your nutrition.
- Take relevant vitamins, enzymes and minerals
Alongside myself, Kinesiologists and Nutritionists should be able to advise you which supplements are necessary for you personally. Supplements are not generally advisable to everyone always; they need to be tailored to your bodies needs.
The absolute best thing we can do when faced with hair loss is not let it emotionally impact us in a terrible and scarring way. Our greatest chance for healing our situation is to love ourselves regardless.
Dale Rutherford, UK’s only qualified B.E.S.T Practitioner. Dale can be contacted at BeyondPhysical.co.uk or on twitter @BeyondPhys1cal .
Strategies for Coping with Alopecia
The NHS ‘Live Well‘ website has some supportive and informative tips on coping with women’s hair loss including:
Share stories: Talk about it and share your experiences with others. Please feel feel to leave comments on his blog for that purpose.
Join a support group: Contact a local Alopecia UK support group to find the nearest group to you.
Go online: There is also an Alopecia UK’s discussion forum if you prefer to talk anonymously or online.
Accept it: Although it is difficult, try to come to terms with your hairloss. Using positive thinking techniques, focus on the things that you do well and that are your best qualities. Try and use your energy to concentrate on what you do best.
Talk about it: Tell friends and family members about it so that they can support you. Take time to involve and talk it through with your partner.
Cover up: Find out ways of disguising and covering up your hair loss with things like wigs, hair extensions, scarves and make-up. Keep trying until you find something that suits you. You may decide that you do not want to hide it at all, do whatever works for you.
Visit your Doctor to discuss the options fo an NHS wig. If your hair loss is around 50%, you may be eligible for NHS help. (Click here for info about NHS wigs.) There are also many private and wigmakers and cosmetic options, try a member of the Hairdressing and Beauty Suppliers Association.
Be patient: Hair loss is usually temporary and it will grow back, although it can be a slightly different texture and colour than before.
Products that may help with hair loss
We have compiled a carousel for products that are are available to treat hairloss. Please add comments for any experience you have had with them. Also please feel free to share any of your experiences of hair loss below:
Transcript from Video
00:04 Speaker 1: Hi, My name is Sunita Parkinson, and my question is about hair. There has been a trend in recent months for shampoos infused with caffeine, they claim to strengthen hair and prevent hair loss. I was just wondering what the science is behind this theory, what effect caffeine has on the hair and scalp.
00:24 PF: Questions we put to Dr. Paul Farrant, consultant dermatologist at Brighton Sussex University Hospital Trust and a specialist in hair loss.
00:31 Speaker 3: Shampoos, very rarely stay in contact with the scalp for any length of time. So any active ingredient has to be on contact with the skin for usually minutes for it to have any effect. The question then is whether caffeine as an ingredient has anything other than normal cleaning properties. There is some research using lab based in-vitro study, so this is growing artificially hair follicles that has shown some benefit of adding caffeine, and that seemed to reverse any negative effect of testosterone, which slows down hair growth and actually showed a slight benefit. But in-vitro conditions, they are grown for days, because you have to calculate whether the hair is growing so it takes a number of days to see that change. The hair follicles are bathed in solutions and the hair follicles bathe continuously for a number of days. So, that’s not going to be the same situation as applying a shampoo that maybe, if you are very lucky on the scalp, for a couple of minutes.
01:31 Speaker 3: There is a rationale that you may be able to get chemicals to absorb through hair follicles, however, in genetic hair loss and this is certainly true of male pattern hair loss, the bit that is being influenced is right down at the bottom of the hair follicle, what’s called the hair bulb. So, anything applied to the surface has to be able to get right down to the hair bulb, and it has to stay there and exert an effect. It’s not just a case of breaking through the skin and being absorbed into blood vessels because that would just transport the caffeine away. It has to sit around that hair bulb for probably days and used to be a continuous thing, and that’s where we don’t have the science.
02:09 S3: So, I think there is science that shows that caffeine can stimulate hair growth in a dish. There is science that shows that caffeine can penetrate through the scalp and through hair follicles. What we don’t know is whether caffeine can actually get right down to a hair bulb, stay around the hair bulb, exert a beneficial effect that will cause hairs to grow longer and thicker. I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying it, thinking that you’re suddenly gonna go back 10 years and have a full head of hair. There may be some slight effect, but there are no real studies in humans evaluating the effect of these caffeine-based shampoos to promote hair growth in the long-term.
02:45 PF: Dr. Paul Farrant in whose house I suspect, you won’t find any caffeine enriched shampoos. Please do get in touch if there’s a health related issue that’s confusing you. You can e-mail me…