Female pattern baldness and hair thinning affects millions of women at various stages of life. Hair thinning in women is caused by a number of complex factors, including medications, hormone production, enzymes, and androgen receptors. Male pattern baldness has been widely studied. However, the causes and treatments for hair thinning in women have received far less attention.
According to the National Health Service, approximately eight million women in the UK are suffering from severe hair loss. Thinning of the hair and female pattern baldness occurs in about 12 percent of women during their childbearing years. After menopause, approximately 75 percent of women will experience female pattern baldness characterised by thinning and hair loss on the crown of the head, spreading outwards. Unlike male pattern baldness, women maintain the front of their hairline; however, the hair on the top of the head is generally thinner and less vigorous.
The majority of hair thinning in women is related to the production of hormones. After menopause, the amount of estrogen drops and testosterone becomes highly reactive with enzymes in the hair follicle. Once the reaction occurs, DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is produced. This potent chemical remains in the follicle where it inhibits growth and causes hair loss. DHT is the same chemical that causes male pattern hair loss; however, women have different receptors, so the hair loss pattern is unique. It's estimated that DHT is the root cause of more than 90 percent of female pattern baldness cases.
Telogen effluvium is the medical name for short-term hair loss caused by shedding. This condition is usually caused by stress and life changing events, including pregnancy and illness. Stressful events cause large numbers of hair to enter the telogen phase. After three months, the hairs fall out almost simultaneously. Sudden hair loss in clumps or patches can be caused by a rare auto-immune condition called alopecia areata that affects 1-2% of the population. Medications and health problems can also contribute to women's hair loss and general hair thinning. Anemia, polycystic ovary syndrome, and thyroid disorders also cause thinning and hair loss.
Depending on the cause, hair loss in women can be treated with a number of pharmaceutical products. Hormone replacement therapy is the most common treatment for hair loss in post menopausal women. A 2 percent solution of minoxidil is the preferred topical medication for encouraging hair growth in patients with female pattern baldness. The birth control pills Diane 35 and Diane 50 contain cyproterone acetate, which blocks DHT receptors and stops hair loss. Anti-fungal shampoos can also improve hair loss and thinning by altering the hormone levels in the follicles. Anti-dandruff shampoo with 1-2 percent Nizoral increases hair growth and thickness when left on for 3-5 minutes several times a week. Propecia is an oral medication commonly used for male pattern baldness that gaining popularity as a treatment for women. A healthy diet with ample protein is very important for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Meat, poultry, and eggs contain protein, iron, biotin, and other vitamins and minerals that are necessary for healthy hair growth.