Is hair loss exclusive to men? Not at all, women are also affected. Around 20 percent of all women suffer from premature hair loss at least once in their lives - but not only in old age. Every fourth woman under 40 is affected by hair loss - a pretty shocking result.
The frightening thing: It often hits women even harder than their male counterparts. Thinning hair is an itch for their self-confidence. Spider spots and bald patches simply don't fit into the ideal of beauty. More often than you’d think, the enormous pressure of suffering from hair loss even leads to psychological complaints. Inner restlessness, depression and anxiety are just around the corner.
This should be reason enough to take a closer look at hair loss in women. What causes it, what forms are there and how can it best be treated?
Hair loss is not always the same. The beauty blemish not only has different causes, but also different forms. We present the most common factors and clinical cases.
Hereditary Hair Loss
Just like men, women most often suffer from hereditary hair loss. In this case, the medical term is androgenetic alopecia. But what actually happens there?
With hereditary hair loss, the hair roots react hypersensitively to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). And exactly this hypersensitivity makes the coat of hair lose its fullness, its volume and its vitality.
For men, the loss of scalp hair mainly appears on the back of the head, while for women mainly the forehead area is affected. The hair thins out especially in the crown area. It becomes thinner and weaker, which makes the naked scalp shimmers through more and more. And precisely because of this, the crown appears more conspicuous and wider.
Unlike men, however, women rarely develop a semi- or full bald head. They mostly remain light parts in their hair coat.
Most often, hereditary hair loss occurs during menopause. After all, the hormonal fluctuations affect not only the skin, but also the hair.
But fortunately, women are not powerless in the face of hair loss. The active ingredient minoxidil can demonstrably slow down the advancing hair loss - whether in the form of shampoo or tinctures.
The mechanism of action: Minoxidil effectively stimulates blood flow to the hair roots, providing them with valuable nutrients. And the more nutrients the hair roots absorb, the more eagerly they work. This is how hereditary hair loss can be temporarily stopped. Occasionally, new hair even grows back thanks to Minoxidil.
Hormonal Hair Loss
From hot flushes to sleep disorders, to depressive moods - menopause is a stress test for many women. The stress test becomes even greater when your body decides to throw hair loss into this mixture.
Unfortunately, it’s not a rare to occur during menopause. On the contrary, every third woman complains of hair loss during their menopause. In medical terms, this is referred to as telogen effluvium.
The blame for hair loss are yet again hypersensitive hair roots that can no longer tolerate the male sex hormone DHT. How come they no longer tolerate it?
This is due to the change in estrogen levels. During menopause, the amount of estrogen decreases, flipping the ratio between female and male hormones upside down. Precisely these changes are literally pulling hair for women.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Mothers-to-be actually have reason to rejoice: the increased production of estrogen during pregnancy gives them a real growth spurt. The hair becomes fuller, stronger and shinier.
Unfortunately, some women are not as lucky. For them, hair growth decreases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The result is lighter and weaker hair. But how so, you may ask?
More often than not, an iron deficiency is the culprit in hormonal hair loss. Did you know that during pregnancy, a woman needs about 60 percent more iron than usual? This is essential for the development of the unborn child. However, if a woman does not consume enough iron through her diet, the risk of deficiency develops. And it is precisely this deficiency that makes one's hair stand on all ends.
Good to know: Hair loss occurs after pregnancy more often than during pregnancy. In this case, we speak of postpartum effluvium.
The reason: During breastfeeding, the body reduces estrogen production. The hormone balance of the new mother gets jumbled up, and the body’s response is hair loss.
Almost all women are affected by postpartum effluvium during the breastfeeding period - but to completely different degrees. While one loses tufts of hair, another may only find more hair in their hair brush.
So far so clear: However, there is no reason to worry about postpartum effluvium. Six to nine months after birth, hair growth usually goes back to normal.
The Birth Control Pill
The contraceptive pill actively interferes with a woman's hormonal balance. With the help of the hormones estrogen and progestogen, it artificially interferes with ovulation. It is not without reason that it has long been one of the most popular and reliable contraceptives in the world.
But the interventions in the hormonal balance are not always unaccompanied. For some women, in addition to mood swings, they even experience hair loss - both while they are taking them and after they have stopped.
Things are actually looking up once women start taking birth control pills. The pill often stimulates hair growth. The high level of female hormones gives the woman visibly stronger, shinier and fuller hair. It’s not without reason that the contraceptive is also called the beauty pill.
But the switch can flip quickly. If this is the case, progestogen is usually the culprit. It is not uncommon for the artificial hormones to cause hypersensitivity of the hair roots to the male hormone DHT. And this is exactly what causes the hair to lose its fullness, shine and vitality. However, only in very few cases do bald patches develop in hormonally induced hair loss.
Importantly, the female body quickly gets out of sync not only while they’re taking the pill, but also when they suddenly discontinue using it. If the body is suddenly restricted from artificial sex hormones, it likes to take revenge with skin blemishes or hair loss.
Fortunately, the visual changes are usually short-lived. The body simply needs time to find its balance again. Only slowly does the female body get re-accustomed to the production of estrogen in the ovaries to control the female cycle.
Circular Hair Loss
With circular hair loss (alopecia areata), the name says it all: circular, completely bald patches form on the scalp. In the worst case, there is even the threat of baldness - or even complete loss of the hair coat.
Circular hair loss is caused by an autoimmune reaction of the body. In other words, our immune system turns against our own body - more precisely, against our own hair roots.
Usually, the circular hair loss subsides on its own in a few months. However, it does not have to remain a one-time affair. It may strike again at any given time.****
Diffuse Hair Loss
Unlike alopecia areata, diffuse hair loss does not follow a specific pattern. On the contrary: the hair thins in many random places - be it on the forehead, the crown or the back of the head. Thus, the entire head of hair suddenly makes a significantly thinner and more feeble impression.
The special thing about diffuse hair loss: Often, the hair is not lost immediately. They only pause the growth phase for the time being and then switch to the so-called resting phase. Only at the end of this resting phase do several hairs fall out at the same time, leaving the impression of a thinning hair coat.
Diffuse hair loss is much more common in women than men. The two most common causes of this type of hair loss are hormonal fluctuations and thyroid disorders. However, stress, several infections or malnutrition are also possible causes - especially iron deficiency.
It is therefore all the more important to have the diffuse hair loss clarified by a trusted dermatologist. Often a single blood sample is enough to provide clarity.
Other Causes and Forms of Hair Loss
It doesn't always have to be hormonal fluctuations or genetic predispositions. Sometimes it comes down to simpler things, such as styling our hair. Aggressive shampoos, conditioners, treatments, setting lotions and hairsprays are full of chemicals - especially silicones and mineral oils. And exactly these are the ones that massively attack the healthy hair roots.
Equally damaging, of course, is extreme heat. Constant blow-drying, straightening, curling or crimping unnecessarily irritates the sensitive hair roots. If we go overboard with the hot styling, we quickly lose one or the other hair.
Another hair root killer is stress. When we are tense, our body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. And this is known to be straight-up poison for a lively and healthy hair growth.
At the same time, stress increases the number of nerve fibers that tightly surround our hair roots. The problem: These nerve fibers release various messenger substances - neuropeptides, for example. These messenger substances can attack our defense cells, such as the mast cells.
Neurogenic inflammation is a real threat for our hair. In this case, an excessive number of cells die, causing hair loss. A first warning signal is itchiness of the scalp. However, many who fall victim to this only notice it when it’s too late. Suddenly, almost 20 percent of the hair is missing - a serious blow.