Women can experience hair loss the same way men can. There are a few causes for hair loss in women, but it typically has to do with what’s going on beneath the surface. The easiest way to understand factors affecting hair growth and loss is by imagining how flowers and trees grow when they are in good soil versus soil lacking the nutrients they need.
Like a forest, our hair goes through a growth cycle. When illness, physical stress, medications, or even hormonal changes occur, those factors interrupt that cycle. But there are ways to prevent and deal with hair loss.
Learn more about the common causes of hair loss and what you can do about it!
Hair Growing Cycles
Like plants experience seasons, everyone’s hair grows in three cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Anagen is the growth cycle. In this phase, hair lasts from two to eight years and makes up around 90 percent of the hair on our heads. So most of the time that our hair is visible, it’s growing; the average annual growth is six inches.
Catagen is the transition cycle: this phase lasts two to three weeks, and our hair follicles shrink. Finally, in the telogen cycle, our hair is dormant for anywhere from two to four months.
Types of Hair Loss
Hair loss falls into one of three categories, with alopecia being the most common:
- Anagen effluvium — Some medications, such as chemotherapy, poison hair follicles and cause them to fall out.
- Telogen effluvium — Too many strands of hair are at the telogen phase; this is the stage where our hair falls out or sheds.
- Androgenetic alopecia (Female Pattern Baldness) —Alopecia is the most common form. While there are several different kinds, the most common is pattern baldness, with hair thinning at the center of the scalp.
The typical hair loss symptoms in women come in the form of patches of thinning or missing hair, the scalp becoming visible through your hair, and having smaller or thinner ponytails. You may also see unusual amounts of hair on your pillow, on your brush, or in the shower.
Women Who Experience Hair Loss
Many people think hair loss only affects men, but up to 50 percent of women experience some form of hair loss at any age. Black women in particular should know more about hair loss and what preventive steps they can take. Women are more likely to see thinning hair at specific times:
- After 40 years or older, like in menopause
- After giving birth
- After receiving chemotherapy or other similar treatments
- With hairstyles that pull on hair follicles or use harsh chemicals on the hair
Hair Loss Myths
While there are legitimate causes for hair loss in women, myths persist on the subject. Here are some factors that people may incorrectly blame for thinning hair:
- Coloring or perming your hair
- Hats and wigs
Hair Loss Causes
So what are the causes of hair loss? If you’re experiencing thinning hair or balding, one of the few causes below could be to blame:
- Vitamin deficiency
- Overprocessed hair (leading to breakage)
- Dieting or calorie restrictions
Tight hairstyles, like braids or ponytails, cause a form of hair loss called traction alopecia. If you wear your hair in any tight style, loosen the style and even consider giving your hair a break for a few weeks to a few months by wearing a wig. Continuing to wear your hair in a tight style can lead to permanent hair loss.
Traction alopecia is reversible if you catch it early and very quickly. When you begin to see warning signs of permanent traction alopecia, like patchy hair loss, receding hairline, or broken hairs near your forehead, give your hair a break!
Anagen effluvium is hair loss resulting from chemotherapy, radiation, or other medications; the toxicity of the chemicals disrupts hair growth in the anagen stage. For patients receiving chemotherapy, hair loss typically begins two weeks after exposure to the drugs. While hair loss primarily affects the scalp, a person might also lose hair on other parts of their body, such as their eyebrows.
Telogen effluvium happens when someone experiences physical stress or sudden shock to their body. Typically, this type of hair loss is temporary. Usually, early symptoms are excessive shedding; losing more than 125 strands a day for an extended period is cause for concern.
This type of hair loss occurs at the telogen stage. We usually have 10 percent of our follicles in this stage. Sometimes, 30 percent of hair moves into this stage due to factors like emotional stress, hormonal changes, medication, or poor diet.
Telogen effluvium affects the anagram stage of hair growth; due to excessive shedding, hair production cannot keep up in the anagram phase, resulting in bald patches.
Female Pattern Baldness
Female pattern baldness happens because of genetics, hormonal changes during menopause, or some medications. Essentially, the hair follicles shrink, like in the catagen phase, and eventually close, meaning that new hair cannot grow.
Female pattern baldness begins to thin at the top and crown of the scalp, creating a wider center part. It does not affect the front hairline, and total baldness is unlikely.
Menopause and Hair Loss
Due to the hormonal changes in menopause, two things happen with hair: hair grows in spots it hasn’t grown before, and hair on the head begins to thin. Women’s bodies stop producing as much estrogen and progesterone as pre-menopausal women, which means that the male hormones—the androgens—increase and cause hair changes.
Dealing With Hair Loss
If you’re noticing symptoms of thinning or missing hair, make an appointment with your doctor. They can perform examinations and blood tests to determine the cause. There are several methods to deal with hair loss:
- Supplements for diet deficiencies
- Medications like Minoxidil and laser light therapy
- Loosening hairstyles
There is no treatment for hair loss after giving birth or resulting from stress since the loss is only temporary. In these cases, your hair will grow back.
Hair loss for women can be an embarrassing and even a defeating situation, but there are ways to feel confident again. Wearing wigs while you wait for hair to grow back or to give tighter hairstyles a rest is always an option. Twist braids lace wigs are one of many options available at Instant Arẹ̀wà Hair. Contact us if you have any questions about the best wig for you.
Exploring the common causes of hair loss and what you can do about it will help you regain self-confidence! Read about one woman’s journey back from the brink of baldness here. If you are suffering from hair loss, know that you are not alone—and that you are beautiful no matter what.