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Although we usually associate hair loss with men, the reality is that issues such as hair thinning and shedding can also affect women.
Whether you have curly hair or straight hair, a variety of issues may cause you to lose more hair than normal. This can give your hair a thin appearance or even contribute to bald spots in some parts of your scalp.
The good news is that curly hair balding is almost always treatable with a mix of good hair care habits and medication.
Read on to learn about female hair loss as well as what you can do to keep your hair thick, strong and healthy.
Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, from nutritional deficiencies to the long-term effects of certain hormones.
One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is androgenetic alopecia. Often referred to as female pattern baldness, this type of hair loss occurs when androgen hormones (male sex hormones) damage your hair follicles and prevent them from producing new hairs.
The chief hormone behind androgenetic alopecia is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone.
Although testosterone is usually thought of as a male hormone, both men and women produce and rely on testosterone for certain bodily functions.
If you’re genetically predisposed to hair loss, the DHT that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone can bind to receptors throughout your scalp.
Over time, exposure to DHT can cause your hair follicles to shrink, preventing your hair growth cycle from proceeding.
In men, androgenetic alopecia usually causes a receding hairline, typically in the form of a bald patch at the crown of the scalp or complete baldness.
As a woman, you may instead notice your hair getting thinner around your part line (if you have one) or in spots all around your head.
Hair loss that’s caused by DHT exposure is permanent, making it important to act quickly if you want to stop it from getting worse.
While androgenetic alopecia is one of the most common forms of hair loss, hormones aren’t the only issue that can cause you to lose hair.
Another common form of hair loss is telogen effluvium. This temporary form of hair loss tends to occur as a reaction to other health issues such as infections, illnesses that cause fever, chronic stress, surgery, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or sudden changes in hormone levels.
Unlike female pattern hair loss, which causes permanent hair loss around your part line (if you have one) or in various spots around your head, telogen effluvium usually causes diffuse shedding that affects your entire scalp.
If you have telogen effluvium, you may notice that your hair looks thinner than normal, and that large amounts of hair fall out when you brush or shower.
In some cases, it might become easy to see your scalp through your hair, especially under bright artificial light.
Other health issues can also cause shedding or hair loss, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pregnancy, autoimmune disorders and some types of medication.
Learn more in our guide to the most common causes of sudden hair loss.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no real difference between straight hair and curly hair when it comes to hair loss.
Since hair loss is primarily caused by hormonal, genetic, health or environmental factors, the type of hair you have doesn’t significantly impact your risk of experiencing hair loss. This could also be said if you use hair type specific shampoos, like DevaCurl.
This means that curly hair bald spots are caused by the same issues and treated the same way as other forms of female hair loss.
However, there’s one exception: a form of hair loss referred to as traction alopecia, or ponytail hair loss.
This type of hair loss is caused by tight hairstyles that pull on your hair roots, such as tight ponytails, braids, cornrows and dreadlocks.
If you have tightly curled hair, you may have a higher risk of developing this type of hair loss.
In fact, traction alopecia is more common in women of African descent due to the coiled shape of African hair as well as the treatments typically used to tightly braid or straighten this type of hair.
While hair loss and bald patches can be distressing to deal with, the good news is that they’re almost always treatable, whether you have naturally straight or curly hair.
The most effective way to treat female hair loss is by using a topical medication called minoxidil.
Minoxidil, which is available as a liquid solution or foam, works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
It also stimulates blood flow to your scalp and hair.
Numerous studies have found that minoxidil helps treat hair loss and improve hair growth in men and women.
In one study, both 2% and 5% minoxidil produced measurable improvements in hair growth in women over the course of 48 weeks.
In addition to treating hair loss after it starts to develop, it always helps to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Try the following habits and lifestyle changes to protect your hair and promote optimal growth and thickness.
Use a hair loss prevention shampoo. While the wrong shampoo can harm your hair, the right one can help keep it looking thick, full and healthy. Try a shampoo specifically made to control shedding and keep your hair full of volume after every wash.
Limit tight hairstyles. Tight ponytails, braids, dreadlocks and cornrows can all pull on your hair follicles, potentially causing traction alopecia. Limit your use of tight hairstyles and let your hair relax, especially during the night.
Eat a balanced diet. Some nutritional deficiencies such as iron or biotin deficiency, can cause you to shed hair. Try to eat a balanced diet that contains lots of fruit, vegetables and lean sources of protein
Avoid damaging your hair with heat. Any devices that apply heat to your hair, such as curling irons and straighteners, can damage the hair shaft and cause breakage and hair loss.To keep your hair healthy, limit its exposure to heat. When you use a blow dryer, hold it a reasonable distance from your scalp. If you curl or straighten your hair, select the lowest heat setting and limit your use of these tools to once a week.
Avoid brushing your hair too often. Contrary to popular belief, brushing doesn’t have any positive effect on hair thickness. However, brushing excessively can put tension on the hair follicle and contribute to hair breakage and shedding.There’s no need to brush your hair 100 times a day. Instead, it’s best to brush your hair only when you need to style it. To limit damage, use a wide-tooth comb and make sure not to pull on your hair as you brush.
Hair loss and hair shedding can affect every hair type, from straight to wavy and curly.
To keep your hair looking its best, pay attention to its thickness and take action if it ever starts to look thinner than normal.
If you’re starting to develop hair loss, a combination of treatments like minoxidil and good hair care habits can improve your hair texture, density and coverage.
To get started caring for your hair, you can access our selection of hair loss products for women online.
It’s also helpful to try products specially designed for stimulating hair growth including hair growth vitamins.
Our guide to minoxidil explains how the most effective treatment for women’s hair loss works, as well as how you can use it for thicker, healthier hair.
And as always, if you’re noticing hair loss, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional, to help determine the root cause of your hair loss, as well as the best ways to treat it.
Mary is an accomplished emergency and trauma RN with more than 10 years of healthcare experience.
As a data scientist with a Masters degree in Health Informatics and Data Analytics from Boston University, Mary uses healthcare data to inform individual and public health efforts.
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