Most men probably don’t realize it, but women can be at just as much risk of losing hair over time.
Perhaps it’s not as obvious as watching a guy turn into his shiny crowned father, but women can see patterns of hair loss similar to those in men from the same cause of male pattern baldness: androgenic alopecia.
Androgenic alopecia (also known as female pattern hair loss) is a complicated condition. If you’re reading this, you may see some signs of hair loss (early or otherwise) that are causing you concern.
We’re here to help you get some information about whether or not what you’re seeing is androgenic alopecia, but before we do that, it’s important to understand a couple of things about how your hair works.
Hair loss is a normal thing—you’ve been losing hair since before you could walk. But science is fairly particular about the “normal” amount you tend to lose. According to the experts, about 100 hairs a day is the normal amount an adult will shed, so if you’re under that number, you’re fine.
Your head (averaged of course) has around 100,000 hairs, so that amount is representative of just a tiny fraction.
That fraction is actually on schedule as part of one of your hair’s three life cycle phases: the anagen phase, catagen phase, and telogen phase.
The phases work a little like this: growth happens in the anagen phase, where 90 percent of your hair will be at any one time. This is followed by the catagen phase, which is a brief sort of retirement phase for the follicle, where the hair stops growing and rides out its last few weeks.
When the third and final phase (called telogen) begins, the hair dies, the follicle goes into hibernation, and we wait for it to start again. Up to 10 percent of your hair is typically in this phase at one time.
Hair loss happens when more of your follicles enter and stay in the telogen phase, whether it’s permanent or temporary. There are several causes for hair loss, including autoimmune diseases and trauma or stress responses, but as you age it becomes more likely that you have androgenic alopecia.
Androgenic alopecia is a particular type of hair loss caused by hormonal fluctuations. It’s often erroneously referred to as male pattern baldness,(it affects both men and women).
But there are some key differences when it comes to women. For one, it’s commonly referred to as female pattern hair loss. The hair loss pattern in women is different than it is in men. Typically women’s hair thins all over, and the hairline does not recede—also, androgenic alopecia rarely leads to total baldness.
Though more common in men, women can experience it too, with signs appearing as early as your twenties. But that’s fairly unusual. In fact, most women will see signs typically after menopause.
Treatment for androgenic alopecia can include a variety of topical and oral medications, which slow or stop the recession of your hair line, and in some cases they can even restart growth.
Generally, there are some things we can all do. While it’s generally the case that better sleep, diet, and exercise are good for your health, it can also help repair or reduce the damage from a number of these conditions.
Reducing your intake of processed foods and increasing some key vitamins — particularly vitamin A, vitamin D and biotin (like the stuff found in our Biotin Gummy Multivitamins) — can also help.
Oral medications like finasteride fight the effects of androgenic alopecia by balancing the levels of a hormone called DHT. Studies show finasteride is effective in men. For women, however, it’s not such a safe bet.
The efficacy of finasteride is unclear for women. It can also carry some serious risks for pregnant women, as it can cause a male fetus to develop ambiguous genitalia. Even in women who are not pregnant, side effects can include sexual dysfunction, and some cancer risks. Women should instead consider antiandrogens like spironolactone or cyproterone acetate.
Topical minoxidil might be an option—it increases blood flow to hair follicles, which can encourage hair growth. A study using minoxidil over a 48 week period showed up to 18 percent increases in hair growth (but this was in men).
If you’re seeing the early signs of hair loss, talk to a healthcare provider sooner than later. Proper hair care makes all the difference. Whether your hair loss is genetically predisposed or the result of a condition, your best bet at maintaining and re-growing hair is to have support. A healthcare professional will be able to help you determine the cause of your particular hair loss, and prescribe one or more treatments that will work for you.
You didn’t need to be reminded, but here we are — androgenetic alopecia can really be a bummer.
While much of its cause is genetic, there are plenty of things you can do to help lessen the severity by which if affects you. Things like eating a healthy diet, getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients and even using certain medications like topical minoxidil can all make your fight to keep the hair you have a little easier.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, the best thing to do is consult with your healthcare provider so they can get you on a treatment regimen that makes sense for you.