Hair is an important aspect of a woman’s identity. For this reason, hair loss and thinning—even in its most early stages—can cause great emotional distress. This may be partially due to the social misconception that not many women lose their hair and that noticeable hair loss in women is unacceptable. Both of these untruths make the subject of female hair loss a particularly sensitive topic.
Although hair loss is most commonly associated with men, millions of women experience hair loss. In fact, more than half of all women will experience some form of hair loss or thinning during their lifetime. Men and women lose their hair for different reasons, with women having a wider variety of contributing causes. Moreover, women usually lose hair in different areas of their scalp. Because of these differences between the genders, women's hair loss must be treated differently.
Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances can occur due to menopause, postpartum, chemotherapy treatments, stress or depression. Birth control pills, thyroid disorders and ovarian cysts can also contribute to hormonal imbalances which may cause hair loss.
Medications: Among others, certain medications for blood pressure, heart conditions, contraception and depression are known to cause hair loss.
Disease and Illness: Women are generally more susceptible to a wider variety of medical conditions that can lead to hair loss than men. Many diseases and illness cause hair loss.
Chemical Hair Treatments: Some salon and at-home hair treatments like relaxers and dyes can damage the hair and cause hair loss.
Hair Styles: Pulling hair too tight in braids, buns and ponytails for long periods of time can damage the hair follicle and prevent hair from growing back properly. This is known as Traction Alopecia.
Compulsive Hair Pulling: Hair loss can result from a compulsive hair pulling disorder, Trichotillomania, which causes one to pull out their own hair resulting in noticeable bald patches. Only about 2% of the population is affected but women represent about 90%.
Poor Nutrition: Eating the wrong foods, crash dieting or getting insufficient nutrition can lead to hair loss. Extreme weight loss can also cause hair to fall out.
Female hair loss usually consists of a more diffuse, overall thinning of the hair, which leads to increased scalp exposure. This is different from men, who most often have a receding hairline at the temples and thinning at the top or crown of the head. Women’s hairlines are usually maintained while the part line and top area behind the bangs experience the most loss. The back and sides of the head may also be affected and is the pattern most ideal for hair transplantation.
The Ludwig Scale
While the Ludwig Scale helps broadly categorize female pattern hair loss, there are many women who do not fall neatly into one of these boxes or have a different type of hair loss.
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