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Life moves pretty fast. One day you’re worried about landing that dream job fresh out of college. Then before you know it, you’re peering into the mirror, staring at your part and wondering if you’re seeing wayyy more scalp than usual.
First, you should understand that you’re not alone, and a widening central part can be super common. In fact, female pattern hair loss (FPHL) affects approximately 40 percent of women by age 50.
In this article, we’ll dive into the root causes of why your part may be getting wider, along with tips on what you can do to fix it (both instantly and for the long-run).
Just like there are signs before a relationship goes kaput (no, the ghosting isn’t just in your head), you can think of a widening part as one of those little signs that could be leading to something bigger, like hair loss.
With male pattern baldness, the telltale signs of hair loss are pretty common to spot — a receding hairline or obvious thinning over the crown of the head, resulting in a bald spot.
Female hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia), on the other hand, usually involves diffuse hair loss that first appears around your part line, versus at the temples.
This can gradually become more severe, resulting in noticeable hair loss and a wider (and sadly, even wider) part as a clear pattern of hair loss develops.
Over time, as hair follicle damage intensifies, a widening part line can develop into a “Christmas tree” pattern, with a wide part line at the front that narrows as it moves towards the back of your scalp.
Hair loss can present itself in different ways, and not everyone is equally at risk. Experts believe that genetics play a significant role in this type of hair loss, and cause some women to be more sensitive to the effects of androgen hormones like DHT than others.
Females with FPHL may have other symptoms or general signs of hyperandrogenism, such as hirsutism (a.k.a. facial hair), acne, irregular periods, infertility and insulin resistance. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a type of hormonal abnormality, is also associated with FPHL.
However, these symptoms aren’t very common, and the link between androgens and female pattern hair loss still isn’t entirely clear.
You can learn more about the different causes of female hair loss in this guide.
Just like a breakup, hair loss can be caused by various factors. If you think you’re not dealing with androgenetic alopecia, there could be other potential causes of hair loss.
Severe or chronic stress: No, it’s not just in your head. Stress can actually lead to hair loss, called telogen effluvium. Our article on stress hair loss is an awesome resource if you want to dig a little deeper.
Infections and illnesses. Telogen effluvium doesn’t just come into play with a toxic boss. Even a sudden illness, like COVID-19, can cause telogen effluvium hair loss.
Trauma and shock. Just like a sudden illness, surgery can cause stress on your body, leading to telogen effluvium. If you’ve recently had surgery or undergone some other shock to your system, this can also be a factor.
Changes in hormone levels. Hormones can trigger many different effects, from acne to postpartum hair loss and post-menopausal hair loss. Postpartum hair loss is generally accepted to be telogen effluvium or telogen effluvium unmasking androgenetic alopecia. Post-menopausal hair loss is typically androgenetic alopecia. If you’re concerned, we recommend having your hormone levels checked by your healthcare provider.
Dieting. Eating a well-balanced diet is key to healthy hair growth. If you’re a picky eater or know you’ve been reaching for more ice cream than spinach, you might want to read up on the best foods for healthy hair. Nutritional deficiencies can also affect your hair growth.
Tension on your hair follicles. This form of hair loss, called traction alopecia, occurs with hairstyles that pull on the hair, causing targeted hair loss over time — think tight buns, slicked-back ponytails and braids. Learn more about ponytail hair loss in our article if you think this may be an issue for you.
Styling and hair care techniques. As much as we love some golden highlights, regular chemical treatments or using a hot iron can damage hair. Over time, damaged hair can break and lead to hair loss. Ease up on these treatments if you think you’re dealing with breakage.
Medications. The side effects of certain prescription treatments can cause hair loss from medication. If you’ve experienced sudden hair loss and recently started taking a new medication, you may want to check with your healthcare provider.
We’re going to go back to relationships here. Just like therapy can save some couples, there are different therapies you can also try to help fix a widening hairline. And hey, they don’t require you sitting around awkwardly on someone’s couch.
One of the most popular treatments for hair loss is minoxidil, commonly sold under the brand name Rogaine®. Available as a topical or oral medication, it stimulates hair growth.
Though its exact mechanism of action is still unknown, it’s believed to work by encouraging more oxygen, blood and nutrients to the hair follicle.
Topical minoxidil is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for female pattern hair loss. Unlike a lot of other hair loss treatments, minoxidil also has the data to back it up. In a 2014 placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that both 2% and 5% versions of topical minoxidil improved hair thinning.
If you’re interested in minoxidil, Hers offers the following kinds:
Minoxidil drops. This 2% solution uses a dropper to be applied directly to the areas you’re experiencing thinning (like along your part).
Oral minoxidil. If you’d rather not change your styling routine, this once-a-day pill is also a great option. Plus, studies have shown that low-dose oral minoxidil can be an effective treatment of numerous hair disorders, including female-patterned hair loss (FPHL).
Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray: This spray-on combination of hair loss treatments is primarily prescribed for postmenopausal women.
If you think your hair loss may be hormonal, spironolactone may be the right treatment for you. Spironolactone helps hair growth by decreasing the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Doctors may also prescribe spironolactone to help with androgenic alopecia, hirsutism, and acne, due to its effects on androgens. These issues can especially be common in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (also known as PCOS).
If it seems like you’ve been dealing with blemishes along with a wider part, talk to your healthcare provider about spironolactone. They can determine the best dosage for you.
Note that you should be on a reliable form of birth control if you opt for spironolactone. Antiandrogen drugs are potentially teratogenic, meaning they may cause fetal abnormalities. Animal studies have indicated fetal risk, so spironolactone comes with a Category C pregnancy rating from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you’re planning to try for children soon or you’re already pregnant, you’ll need to consider another treatment option.
Back in the day, celebrity hairstylists would allegedly use eyeshadow to cover up their clients’ scalps so their hair looked thicker on the red carpet. Today, there are products made for exactly that. Hair powders usually contain pigment and fibers to help conceal scalp so thinning hair looks fuller.
While surgery might seem major, it can be helpful when other hair loss treatments just don’t do the trick. Hair transplant surgery involves transplanting individual follicles of hair from one location to another. If you’re interested in this option, our guide to hair transplants for women will give you more details on all you need to know.
Healthy hair is part genetics, part environmental and lifestyle factors. Using the right hair care products, giving those strands a little TLC and ensuring you eat a healthy diet are important for getting a lush head of hair. Some things you can do include:
Eat a balanced, healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. If you think you may have a nutritional deficiency, try a supplement like our multivitamin gummies to help round things out.
Use a shampoo that will add volume and wash away excess sebum, which can lead to scalp issues. Healthy hair starts at the root (sorry, we had to!). If you want to learn more about proper scalp care, this guide will give you more tips.
When you blow dry your hair, use the lowest heat setting and continuously move your hair dryer to avoid damaging your hair. Learn more about how to get stronger hair in our comprehensive guide.
Detangle hair gently, and avoid yanking a brush aggressively through your strands. Instead, slowly brush through and avoid pulling on the hair roots.
Stick to looser styles that put less pulling pressure on your hair follicles.
Avoid using hair straighteners, curling irons, hot combs or other products that apply heat directly to your hair shaft.
If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking can damage your hair’s DNA and contribute to hair loss.
While a wider part can feel alarming, there are definite steps you can take to help narrow the gap. And TBH, treating hair loss is probably easier than dating for some. But here’s what you should take away from this:
Figure out the root cause. Whether it’s stress-related hair loss or androgenic alopecia, knowing what you’re dealing with will help you figure out the best hair loss treatment. Which brings us to…
Know your treatment options. Different types of hair loss call for different measures. Changing up your routine with hair-thickening shampoos, rounding out your diet with a vitamin like biotin, or even taking medications like minoxidil and spironolactone are all considered effective.
Practice patience. Hair loss can be complicated to treat, and hair growth can take time. Be consistent with your treatment and wait at least three to four months to determine if your regimen is working.
If you want to learn more about your options to treat hair loss, our guide to female pattern baldness is a great way to dig deeper.
If you’ve already made the decision that you’re ready to dive in and get a healthcare provider-recommended hair loss treatment today, meet with one of our medical providers online from the comfort of your home, easy peasy.
Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.
Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.
Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/
Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false
Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700
Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209
Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/
Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/
Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/
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