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It’s estimated that 50% of women over 65 are affected by female-pattern baldness, a genetic condition where the hair on top of the head gradually thins. This does not account for women who are affected by other types of hair loss such as alopecia areata or telogen effluvium. Though male hair loss is more commonly talked about, hair loss in women is also a widespread problem.
Women can be more susceptible to certain types of hair loss than men due to hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy and menopause. Hair loss in women can also be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition where harmless follicles develop on the ovaries, disrupting ovulation, causing fertility problems and increasing levels of male hormones.
If you begin experiencing hair loss – whether it’s gradual thinning or sudden patches– it’s advised that you talk to your GP. There is no cure for hair loss, but in many cases hair loss that is not caused by an irreversible condition such as female-pattern baldness or scarring alopecia will grow back on its own.
There are also some ways to stop hair loss in women in the short term, or to encourage regrowth while you are waiting for your hair to naturally return. To find out how to stop hair loss, read on.
Can hair loss in women be permanently stopped?
There are many different types of hair loss and none of them can be permanently cured with medical treatment.
In the case of alopecia areata (which causes the hair to fall out in patches), anagen effluvium (widespread baldness caused by medical treatments such as chemotherapy), and telogen effluvium (widespread thinning on the head caused by illness, stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications), the hair loss is usually temporary. This means that hair growth will normally resume on its own and that treatment is not required – although certain treatments are available for alopecia areata.
In the case of scarring alopecia, which is associated with certain aggressive conditions affecting the skin, hair loss is irreversible; however receiving proper treatment for the underlying condition may help to prevent hair loss in the future.
In the case of female-pattern baldness, hair loss cannot be permanently reversed, however it can be halted in the short term. Women experiencing thinning hair from female-pattern baldness can apply minoxidil every day to halt hair loss and promote regrowth.
What is the best way to stop hair loss in women?
As described above, the treatment minoxidil can be used to stop hair loss caused by female-pattern baldness, but only in the short term. In one study minoxidil – an over-the-counter lotion or foam applied directly to the scalp – halted hair loss in 88% of women, and for some also promoted regrowth. However, though it is effective, it has to be applied once or twice every single day; if you stop using minoxidil for a long period your hair loss will resume.
Minoxidil can also be applied to the bald patches caused by alopecia areata; other treatments for this type of hair loss include corticosteroid injections, topical corticosteroids, dithranol cream, and light therapy – however these treatments vary in efficacy and can cause side effects.
If you are experiencing traction alopecia, which is associated with strain on the hair follicles, you may be able to stop and reverse your hair loss by wearing your hair in a different style. Women who wear weaves, tight braids or hair extensions can be vulnerable to traction alopecia.
There’s very little evidence to suggest that products marketed towards women with hair loss such as caffeine shampoo and hair growth supplements have any significant effect upon hair loss.
Taking care of your hair
Taking good care of your hair cannot stop or reverse permanent hair loss, but it can keep the hair you do have healthy. Hair can be broken and damaged by bleaching, dyeing and the use of heated styling implements such as hairdryers and straighteners. None of these will cause permanent hair loss but they may lead to damage and breakage.
Washing, conditioning and brushing your hair regularly will keep your hair and scalp clean, and stimulate blood supply to the scalp. There is no precise recommendation for how often you should wash your hair, as it depends upon your hair type; people with fine, thin, straight hair may need to wash it several times a week, while people with coarse, curly, oily hair may only need to wash it once or twice a fortnight.
You can also take good care of your hair by eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding hairstyles that put too much strain on the follicles (e.g. weaves and hair extensions).
The treatment and management of hair loss depends upon the nature of that hair loss. If you are experiencing female-pattern baldness, then you might consider using minoxidil, an over-the-counter treatment applied directly to the scalp. This is not a permanent cure, and it must be used every day to be effective.
Other forms of hair loss can be difficult to stop, or may not require treatment as they are temporary. If you do experience unexplained hair loss, however, you should visit your GP.
Having a restricted diet that lacks certain nutrients, or following “crash diets” can sometimes lead to hair loss. You may find that eating a healthier, more balanced diet improves your hair growth.
Most cases of hair loss are not related to hairstyling. However, it is possible to lose some hair if you often wear your hair pulled back very tight (e.g. braids, tight ponytails), or if you wear a weave or extensions. This is because these kinds of hairstyles – when worn regularly – put a lot of strain on the follicles, causing them to weaken and the hair to fall out.
If you have experienced this kind of hair loss, changing your hairstyle and giving your follicles a rest should help stop hair loss and promote regrowth.