Excessive Hair Loss In Women – Are Hormones Responsible?
Hello again ladies. Today I want to discuss excessive hair loss in women. This is a topic that is VERY near and dear to me. I have serious hair loss issues that are most likely due to both genetic factors and hormonal factors (polycystic ovarian syndrome). These two factors, other than stress, are the top two reasons for hair loss in women.
The genetic predisposition for my hair loss comes from both my paternal and maternal side of the family. And just to give me all the best chances in the world to have hair-loss issues, the hair loss on my maternal side includes females as well. For instance, my mom currently gets hair replacement extensions glued to her scalp and grandmother used to wear a wig after the age 50. So as luck would have it, I am pretty much doomed!
I have been dealing with excessive hair loss for many years and I finally felt that I have reached a point where my hair loss was much less excessive and stable. Recently however, I have noticed a huge decline and it may be a result of the extra stress of the current pandemic going on today, but I honestly think it is because I stopped using the two hair products that I had been religiously using for over 1 year. This is because I was recently traveling for 6 months out of the country and I ran out of these products.
I will definitely share information regarding these products in my subsequent article because I really do believe that they are very effective.
The Hair Cycle
There are 3 stages that make up the hair cycle and anything that interrupts with this cycle will affect hair growth. The 3 stages are:
Anagen or the GROWTH phase: At any time, 90% of your hair stands are this phase and it lasts between 2- 8 years.
Catagen or the TRANSITIONAL phase: Is when your hair follicles start to shrink and this last 2 – 3weeks.
Telogen or the RESTING phase: 2 -4 months long and this ends the hair cycle.
Only AFTER these 3 phases are complete, does hair fall off. So only during 10 % of it’s life cycle is a strand of hair not in a growing phase. On average, a hair stand grows 6 inches per year.
It is normal to lose hair every day. Typically, we lose approximately 100 strands per day. And when you wash your hair, you will lost just over 200 strands.
But how do you know you are losing more than you should?
Trust me you will know. Your pillow will be full of hair when you wake up, there is hair all over the floor of your house, and just running your hand through your hair will result in a large amount of hair in your fingertips.
The obvious signs of hair loss is when you can visually see thinning or balding at the crown of the head.
Patterns of Hair Loss
The Ludwig Classification system is used to describe female pattern hair loss. This is typically with genetic hair loss and as as mentioned before, occurs on the crown of the head. (1)
Type I: minimal thinning that can usually be managed with styling techniques that would prevent anyone to notice.
Type II: when there is a decrease in hair volume and the mid line of the crown of the head is more noticeable because it is widened.
Type III: when there is extensive thinning that you can see the scalp of the head.
Types of Hair Loss
Although it is more common for men to lose hair, it is quite common in women as well.
In fact, most women will experience hair loss at some point in their life, but it is usually occurs during pregnancy or menopause. Some studies can not even confirm if menopause causes hair loss. Instead they are more likely to both occur because of old age.
And although hair loss is more common after the age of 50 for women, it can happen as early as in the teenage years.
But if hair loss does occur for a female, it is typically at an older age and/or of there is hair loss on either side of the family.
1. Androgenic alopecia
Is the most common one and is believed to be due to genetic predisposition. According to Mayo clinic, 55 percent of women will experience this type of hair loss by the age of 70 years old.
As the name suggests, it is due to the androgen hormone which is a hormone involved in sexual drive and hair growth. The androgen hormone plays a more important role for the males but women who have this type of hair loss, have an over-production of this hormone. The androgen hormone in both men and women, involved in hair related issues is testosterone.
What happens is that testosterone is converted by an enzyme to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and DHT harms hair follicules. Even though women have much lower levels of testosterone then men, they still can have DHT triggered hair loss.
What exactly happens? Basically the growth period of the hair is shortened (phase one) and the period of time between the hair falling off (end of cycle) and the hair growing back is lengthened. So less and less hair remains in the growth period at one time, resulting in balding.
In addition, each time the hair follicle re-grows, the follicle shrinks and grows a hair that is shorter and thinner, a process called: follicular miniaturization.
The cause of my hair loss is genetic and therefore I have been using Rogaine for a few years now, and it has made all the difference in the world.
2. Traction alopecia or temporary hair shedding:
This category of hair loss is a temporary hair loss that can be reversed.
Some examples are self-inflicted actions such as: styling hair too tight with braids or elastics, using too much heat with an iron, dyes and chemicals applied to hair, brushing too often and towel-drying too aggressively.
Another type of temporary hair loss is postpartum shredding, after childbirth and/or changing or starting birth control pills.
1. Genetics – is the one cause that you really can not reverse and can only try to minimize the effects or slow them down with the many hair treatment options there are now available. The most common of these treatments include the use of an ingredient called minoxidil.
2. Trauma/Stress – extreme emotional or psychological stress. This can include a death, divorce, and operations, getting fired etc. This is because your body is in survival mode to get through this extreme stress and therefore utilizes all its energy to compensate.
3. Hormonal Changes:
- Pregnancy/Childbirth – as mentioned before, this is temporary. This is because during pregnancy, the high level of estrogen causes a surge of hair growth. Ater childbirth ttwo factors cause the hair loss: hormones reaching a normal level again and the physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – hair loss is one of the most common symptoms of women who have PCOS and this is because of the hormone imbalance. PCOS is a very troubling disease in women because it causes fertility issues, weight gain and depression to just name a few. This makes dealing with the hair loss harder to deal with.
The hair loss can be reversible if you deal with the root of the problem which is a hormone imbalance. Androgen hormone balancing medications such as an oral contraceptive (if not trying to get pregnant) or a medication that helps with insulin resistance usually found in women with PCOS can help regulate PCOS.
- Thyroid imbalance (2)
Prolonged hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can cause hair loss and the hair loss is spread all over the head.
Typically, taking thyroid medications to regulate the hormone imbalance should regulate the hair loss as well, but the hair may not return to its original state.
- Alopecia Areata – is an autoimmune disorder that sees hair follicles as foreign. Typically, people who develop this disorder also have hypo or hyper thyroidism. This condition can be temporary or permenant and can include hair loss all over the body including eyelashes and eyebrows. Injection treatments may be required to stimulate hair growth.
- Birth Control Medications: affect hormone levels so starting, changing or getting off birth control may cause temporary shedding until the body adapts and/or you change to one that works better for you.
4. Medications – specifically those that are utilized for cancer treatment, blood pressure, depression and arthritis have been noted to cause hair loss.
5. Nutritional Deficiencies and Over-Supplementation of Nutrients (3)
The follow may cause hair loss:
- Drastic weight loss or a great decrease in protein intake.
- Iron deficiencies or Anemia. In these cases, supplementation is required but people with iron deficiency who are NOT anemic, need to be followed individually due to toxicity risk of over-supplementation.
- Vitamins such as selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C deficiency.
- OVER-SUPPLEMENTATION of selenium, Vitamin A and Vitamin E can have the same effects and cause hair loss because like excessive levels of iron, this can be toxic.
It is also ironic that the most popular hair treatment products sold are these vitamins. If nutrient deficiency is not the cause of your hair loss, this treatment will cause more harm than good.
6. Skin conditions:
- Dandruff – is the easiest type to resolve with the proper hair products.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – is a more severe version of dandruff.
- Scalp Psoriasis – an autoimmune disorder that causes thick patches of skin on the scalp which also causes itching like dandruff.
Although the latter two are harder to manage, see a dermatologist because although it may take more effort and time, there are treatments for these types of hair loss problems.
- Lupus – is an inflammation of the skin and scalp that causes hair loss and can be treated if the lupus is treated. However, in some instances, people develop lesions on the scalp which can cause permanent hair loss. (4)
Diagnosis Is Key
Other than age and genetics, most causes of hair loss is treatable but we do not want to make it worse with over-supplementation. If you have hair loss in your family, be aware that you may not be able to reverse the effects completely, but you can use products to prevent or slow down hair loss.
If you start to notice hair loss that is more than normal for you, it is important to try to determine if there is an underlying root cause before starting to supplement.
Blood tests can reveal your DHT levels, but even though your levels of DHT may fall within the normal range, it can just be your body is more sensitive to these levels (genetic). With this, a doctor may not necessarily diagnose you wil DHT triggered hair loss.
As other many health issues in women, a large majority of hair loss problems is the result of hormonal imbalances. You should go see your doctor if you are experiencing hair loss and one or more of the following symptoms:
a. Irregular periods;
b. Are more moody, more impatient or more depressed than usual;
c. You are losing or gaining weight without explanation;
d. You are feeling more weak and fatigued than usual;
e. You have symptoms of thyroid disease..
And finally, as we have discussed before, stress plays a huge role in your health. And this stress does not need to be obvious traumatic or external stress. Internal stress inflicted on your own through worry, anxiety and fear, which I am guilty as well, can amplify or worsen the situation.
My hair loss caused me a lot of anxiety but anxiety causes stress which can perpetuate the situation. But since I started to use treatment a few years ago, I no longer felt that anxiety but of the amazing results. If you want to read about Rogaine and why I believe it is worth a shot, read my review about minoxidil, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine.
We should not feel guilty that hair loss affects us emotionally and psychologically, because compared to men, hair loss is not socially accepted for women. We can not blame ourselves for worrying about it. We just need to acknowledge that we may be influencing our hair loss negatively and continue utilizing stress management techniques in your daily life to help with your overall health and hormonal balance.