Hair Loss in Women

We rarely associate hair loss with women, so It might be surprising to hear that hair loss is almost as common in women as it is in men, with the majority of women likely to experience some hair loss and thinning in their lifetime. The most prevalent form of hair loss, or alopecia, is known as female pattern baldness or pattern alopecia and is sometimes referred to as androgenetic alopecia. Pattern alopecia happens to at least one in three women at some point in their lifetime. Among post-menopausal women, as many as two thirds suffer thinning hair or balding spots.

Thinning hair and hair loss can be particularly distressing for women, leading to reduced self esteem, reduced confidence and can impact interpersonal relationships and love lives.

Hair loss is a complex process, involving a number of contributing factors and what most people don’t realize, alongside it’s high prevalence, is that it is also more complex in women over their lifetime than in men.

The Main Symptoms of Hair Loss in Women

Hair loss isn’t always as obvious for women as it is for men. Women don’t tend to go completely bald like men, but rather progressively thin over the top of their head.

The first signs of an issue in women can be a gradual widening of the part, more hair in the brush, being able to see the scalp under bright lights or spotlights, or you may notice that your ponytail has become thinner. For many women, the short growth phase associated with hair loss also means they can’t grow their hair past a certain length, e.g. not past the shoulders. Changes in hair quality, such as hair becoming more brittle, losing its shine, or the hair shafts becoming thinner are also signs and symptoms of changes in the hair cycle, hair aging and the early stages of hair loss.

Learn more about the symptoms and causes of hair loss in women

Causes of Female Pattern Baldness & Other Alopecias

To truly understand Female pattern baldness, how we lose hair and how hair ages, we first need to understand how hair grows. The hair on our heads is quite unique in the way it grows: it does this over a long, repeating cycle called the hair cycle. The hair cycle is a repeating pattern of growth, rest and fall that happens many times over your life, with the average hair cycle being 6 or 7 years in length. The hair on the head is not cycling in unison, rather the hair cycles asynchronously, with each hair following its own timing and pattern. This leads to the loss of about 100 hairs a day, which is completely normal. if this sounds like a lot, you have to remember that you have around 100 000 to 150 000 hairs on your head, so this only represents 0.001% of your total hair, and after they fall they are generally replaced by a new hair growing in its place.
 At the center of the whole process, controlling hair growth and the repeating hair cycle, are the hair follicles. Hair follicles are actually little organs, much like any other organ in your body and like other organs, are made up of different parts that do different jobs. Ultimately, hair follicles are little machines geared up to manufacture hair shafts out of keratins. The follicles have to work extremely hard to do this 24/7, burning a lot of energy in the process. The body’s control over the process is complex and like anything complex, it can be quite easy to disrupt the balance and for things to go a little awry. This is part of aging, but it is also the root cause of hair loss and thinning.

At the center of almost all forms of hair loss and hair aging is shortening of the growth phase of the hair cycle. When the growth period becomes too short, hair falls out too quickly, excess shedding occurs, and the regenerating hair comes in finer and is less substantial. The hair follicle changes happen, to some extent because the hair follicles are under external pressure, or in aging that they get a little tired, but we also know that this happens because of a build up of a protein called FGF5. FGF5 is what is known as a negative regulator of hair growth and is often referred to the “master regulator” of the hair cycle. The only job of FGF5 is to tell hair to stop growing and start resting. So too much FGF5 means that there is more hair fall, less hair growth, slower hair growth, and the growth of finer, less substantial hair. We have also seen in a number of clinical studies, that treatment of the follicles by blocking FGF5 increases hair growth, reduces hair fall and increases the proportion of happy, active follicles.

FGF5 is important in most forms of hair loss. The imbalance in the hair cycle causing too much FGF5 can come from number of contributing factors. Many of these are also unique to women:

Hormonal changes – this can happen after and during pregnancy, when starting or changing contraceptive medication, or during menopause. Changes in hormone levels alter the body’s signals in truly profound ways, affecting many peripheral processes including the hair cycle.

Hereditary factors – some women have hair loss that runs in families, similar to the situation in men, the specific genetic factors associated with this are not well known or well-studied. In men the situation is complex with >100 genes involved, and it is highly likely that hereditary hair loss in women is equally as complex

Diet – yo-yo or extreme dieting can lead to hair loss in many women, as the body shuts down hair growth to direct nutrients to the organs. A balanced diet is critical for strong, healthy hair growth. It is important to maintain healthy levels of the B vitamins such as biotin, as well as Zinc, Iron, and vitamin E

 Stress – extremely stressful events can result in hair loss. Generally, the stress levels have to be very high for the impact to be large, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or bankruptcy. Stress promotes high levels of cortisol, which when combined with a “fight or flight” energy preservation strategy, can result in the body shutting down hair growth in favor of other organ functions

Illness - any periods that put stress on the body can affect hair growth. Similar to the situation in extreme dieting and stress, the body shuts down hair growth to preserve energy. Medical Conditions such as the various thyroid diseases (e.g. Hashimoto’s disease), Anaemia or Vitamin B12 deficiency, Coeliac disease or IBS can place extended stresses on the body’s energy reserves, and alter metabolic function. Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy are well known to cause a temporary hair loss, but in many cases the hair will not grow back as strongly as before. A special case for women is ongoing hormonal treatment following breast cancer. These can cause ongoing hair challenges.

Separate to the issue of hair loss is hair greying. Hair greying happens as we age and as our hair goes through multiple cycles. As the hair cycles, falling and re-growing again, we gradually lose some of the special pigment producing cells known as melanocytes. Melanocytes produce two pigments, eumelanin (brown/black) and pheomelanin (red), which together account for all the different hair colors when combined in different quantities. As we start to lose melanocytes, hair by hair, our pigmented shafts are replaced by grey ones. These hairs are not actually grey but clear/ colorless. Unfortunately, no one has worked out how to stop this process from happening.

Hair changes over a woman’s lifetime:

20’s

Hair will generally be at its best in the early 20’s where hair is cycling with a long growth phase and growing quickly. Hair shafts are thick and cuticles are tight. Hair challenges can occur in your 20’s due to stress, for example college exams and break ups, dieting. Often, hair changes occur as a result of the contraceptive pill or active IUD’s, which all can interrupt the hair cycle, leading to increased hair fall, poor quality growth and thinning.

30’s

In their thirties, many women have children. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding change the hormones in the body, which can profoundly affect the hair cycle, leading to excess shedding and hair thinning. Pregnancy also affects the oil glands that lubricate and moisturize hair, with hair becoming more lustrous and beautiful during pregnancy, followed by a big change after childbirth where hair becomes dull and more brittle. Towards the end of the 30’s, the hair follicles will also begin to get tired, grey hairs will start appearing and the hair may also start to thin out as the hair cycle changes.

40’s

the decade of the 40’s is often the most professionally and personally busy for many women as family and careers compete for time. This leads to increased stress, poor dieting habits and sometimes, less exercise. The 40’s are also the decade most likely to see a divorce, resulting in high stress levels. All of these combine to cause hair cycle changes. Hair shafts also become more brittle and prone to breakage, cuticles less tight and hair may also become dull. The associated coloring that many women regularly perform, damages the hair further. In addition, hair follicles are becoming increasingly tired, more grey is appearing and thinning my become noticeable. By the time many women notice thinning at this point, they have already lost 30-50% of their follicles.

50’s

In the decade of the 50’s things begin to slow down, hair growth rates decrease, hair follicles become more tired, and towards the middle and end of the decade, menopause often begins. These factors combine to result in a shorter hair cycle, more hair fall, shorter maximum length and dull brittle hair as the oil glands change their production. Many women are completely grey by this point as their melanocytes have disappeared

60’s

In the decade of the 60’s menopause is complete, metabolism slows and with these there are more changes to the hair. With menopause comes a drop in the female hormones (estrogens etc.), leading to a relative increase in the influence of testosterone. Testosterone can affect women’s follicles in the same way as in some men, so a proportion of susceptible women will experience some hair loss due to this. In the 60’s hair will also be noticeably more brittle and dry, hair fall may be increased and for some women their hair will be quite noticeably, thinner meaning that hair style choices change to cover up the effects.

The Most Common Types of Female Hair Loss

There a quite a few varieties of hair loss in women. Each with their own causes but all with resulting changes in the way hair grows and cycles

Female Pattern Baldness

The mechanisms underlying pattern hair loss in women are more poorly understood than in men’s hair loss. In women the hair loss tends to not form a pattern but is distributed across the entire scalp as diffuse hair loss. This often however is most visible at the part in women with a center parting or at the temples in women with hair pulled back. In a similar manner to male pattern hair loss female pattern hair loss can be classified along a progressive scale that describes the stage of hair loss: the Ludwig scale

The Ludwig scale in Women

As discussed above The underlying causes of female pattern hair loss are varied are not well understood. We do know however, that female pattern hair loss, like male hair loss, is associated with a dysfunction and shortening of the hair cycle.

How to prevent or treat hair loss naturally

The évolis® hair care system was designed specifically to help improve pattern hair loss in both men and women. A common feature of both male and female pattern hair loss is the shortening of the hair cycle. évolis products, specifically the activators and tonics blocks a hair cycle regulatory protein called FGF5 to increase the length of the anagen phase, which extends the hair cycle to a more natural length. The companion shampoos, conditioners and masks, promote a healthy scalp, help restore volume and thickness for resilient, voluminous hair, to make you feel and look great, while the active ingredients in the activator go to work on the follicles

  • évolis® activators promote hair growth and extend the hair cycle. The Activators also contain a blend of scalp protecting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory botanicals to support optimum follicle health.
  • évolis® shampoos gently cleanse the hair shaft and scalp, removing sebum and build up. Antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and essential oils promote scalp health and volumizers give fine and thin hair a boost.
  • évolis® conditioners contain powerful antioxidants and a variety of botanical and expertly chosen ingredients that nourish the hair shaft, penetrating and smoothing the cuticles and providing shine strength and flexibility. Volumizing agents add body and give fine hair a boost and antioxidants promote scalp health.
  • évolis® masks are luxurious treatments that penetrate and hydrate each hair strand. The masks revitalise and strengthen dry and damaged hair, providing volume and luxurious shine.
  • A good balanced diet rich in B vitamins, Zinc, Iron, with adequate trace elements such as selenium is important for growing strong healthy hair. We recommend a diet rich in leafy greens, legumes, nuts, fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit, fish and seafood, with adequate red meat intake, for healthy hair growth. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium but should be eaten in moderation. Vegetarians should find good alternatives to meat and seafood for their zinc and iron requirements. Pregnant women should consult a doctor before changing their diet.
  • As stress is an important factor in hair loss, we also recommend daily exercise or meditation as a form of stress relief

Telogen effluvium

Your hair is quite sensitive to external and internal pressures, partially because the biology of its growth is so complex, but also because of the way the body manages energy. Your hair follicles, the organs that produce your hair fibers, have to work hard and divide faster than almost any other cell type in your body. When the body is under various types of stress, the hair growth process slowed down to preserve more necessary functions, such as core metabolic functions.

Stress, illness, change in diet, and even pregnancy/childbirth can have profound effects on the human body. As the body reacts to these challenges and changes energy usage, energy will be directed away from the hair and large numbers of the hair follicles may prematurely enter telogen (stop growing). This cessation of growth will be followed by a period of shedding that occurs one tow three months after the stress or challenge occurred. This phenomenon, known as telogen effluvium appears as diffuse thinning all over the scalp and shedding of larger amounts of hair than usual. Individuals with telogen effluvium may also notice white spots or grooves in their fingernails and toenails that also corresponds to the systemic stress.

The shedding happens because all of the follicles that prematurely entered telogen at the same time are released and pushed out by newly growing hair.

Telogen effluvium is normally fully reversible and people will generally begin to recover after several months. However, they may notice that their hair doesn’t grow as well as it used to. In these instances, there may be residual dysfunction in the hair cycle. évolis can help to reset this dysfunction and return the hair cycle to a more natural pattern. In cases of prolonged stress, individuals will take longer to recover unless the stress is removed, évolis can be a useful support and preventative product in these instances .

The most common causes of telogen effluvium are:

●Pregnancy and childbirth

●A very high fever

●Sudden illness or major surgery

●Severe Emotional stress

●A serious infection

●Intense diets, a lack of protein, or eating disorder

What to do about, Telogen effluvium.

Any sudden hair loss should be discussed with a doctor, however, after a check-up and potential diagnosis there are a number of strategies that can help grow strong healthy hair

  • A good balanced diet rich in B vitamins, Zinc, Iron, with adequate trace elements such as selenium is important for growing strong healthy hair. We recommend a diet rich in leafy greens, legumes, nuts, fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit, fish and seafood, with adequate red meat intake, for healthy hair growth. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium but should be eaten in moderation. Vegetarians should find good alternatives to meat and seafood for their zinc and iron requirements. Pregnant women should consult a doctor before changing their diet.
  • Use the évolis® system as with pattern hair loss to help maintain hair thickness, prevent further shedding, cleanse the scalp and nourish weakened or damaged hair shafts. The volumizing agents in évolis will add body and volume to the hair while the active ingredients support a long hair cycle
  • Protect the potentially fragile follicles by not applying too much traction or brushing to vigorously

Anagen effluvium

Anagen effluvium is a sudden and rapid shedding of anagen hair follicles as a result of a serious systemic insult such as cancer chemotherapy or poisoning. This can result in diffuse or total hair loss. If there is no recent history of chemotherapy or severe sickness, any person with rapid unexplained hair loss should see doctor.

This form of hair loss is most often completely reversible and follicles will regenerate after the poison or medication is removed. However, lasting hair cycle dysfunction may remain.

We recommend a support program of adequate hair health diet, with a maintenance program using évolis systems to maintain the healthy hair and scalp, and support long hair growth by keeping the growing hair in anagen.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that results in local patches of hair loss on the scalp, usually round in shape, sometimes this is associated with inflammation. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune problem where the body attacks the hair follicles. Sometimes this can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Any sudden loss of hair in patches or unexplained sudden total hair loss should be shown to a doctor or dermatologist.

Recovering form alopecia areata can involve some hair cycle dysfunction in the effected area. évolis can help this by restoring and repairing the hair cycle, recovering hair growth and maintaining a healthy scalp environment.

Scarring alopecia

As the name suggests, scarring alopecia (with various types known as e.g. known as cicatricial alopecia or fibrosing alopecia) involves inflammation and scarring, caused by underlying inflammation or infection of the scalp. The inflammation and damage results in destruction of the hair follicles and replacement with scar tissue. The areas of hair loss in individuals with a scarring alopecia may be itchy, painful and red. Pus or pimple like sores may be present.

Scarring alopecia with crusts and scarring on the scalp (left) and a scarring alopecia with inflammation (redness) near the follicles

Source Levy and Emer, International Journal of Women’s Health 2013

What to do about scarring alopecia?

Any hair loss associated with any signs of inflammation, discomfort or pain should discussed with a doctor or dermatologist.

If you have seen a doctor and are recovering from scarring alopecia, you should be able to use évolis products as part of you hair and scalp care routine, provided the inflammation is not active, there is no broken skin and after consultation with your doctor or dermatologist

Traction alopecia

Traction alopecia results from the extended hairstyling in very tight ponytails, pigtails or from long braided hair, heavy extensions and dreadlocks.It can also occur as the result of long hair extensions, which can also result in loss of hair from the sides of the head, or depending on the hairstyle can also occur at the crown of the head. Traction alopecia is often seen in African American women and in some circumstances can cause scarring in this population. African American women can also suffer from a scarring condition known as CCCA (central cicatricial centrifugal alopecia) seen initially as thinning at the crown of the head, which results from both traction and the repeated use of harsh chemical straighteners and heat for hair straightening.

Traction alopecia of can manifest as scarring or non-scaring and mainly appears as a gradual receding of the hairline as the frontal follicles are damaged from being continually pulled backwards (traction). As mentioned above, this can also be seen at the crown, part and along the sides depending on the hairstyle most commonly worn.

After extended periods of traction the follicles can become severely weakened, and if damaged enough will become dormant and no longer be able to produce hair.

What to do if you suspect traction alopecia.

If caught early, much of the damage caused by traction alopecia can be reversed:

  • by changing the hairstyle to one that does not put excess stress on the follicles
  • The évolis® treatment system will help will help maintain the remaining follicles in the growth phase, and encourage the growth and thickening of the hair line. The treatment mask and conditioner will help repair any traction damaged hair shafts.
  • We recommend that anyone with evidence of scarring or inflammation (redness and heat or hard scarred tissue) or severe hair loss be directed towards a dermatologist.

Start Tackling Hair Loss Today

While losing your hair can be stressful, it’s important to remember that it’s also fairly common - even among women. Just ask évolis creator Maria Halasz .

At évolis we have always recognized that hair loss in women is as important and almost as common a challenge as it is in men. Led by our CEO Maria Halasz, we have always had a strong affiliation with women and we focus on female hair loss as much, if not more, than male hair loss. In Japan, where our technology was discovered and developed our biggest customers have always been women.

From the beginning we developed evolis so it will be “female friendly”, and doesn’t just address hair loss but hair thinning and hair aging as well. It was important that we can solve all hair quality concerns from root to tip.

Check out our hair loss products today.

évolis is the first, and still the only natural, scientifically and clinically validated anti-aging hair product that affects the biology of the hair. There are certainly other products that are great for the condition of the hair, but evolis is the only true technology that looks after the hair from root to tip.

évolis is based in strong science and proven technology. évolis is the result of over 20 years of research in our dedicated labs in Japan where we have examined the various aspects of the hair cycle. In particular, the transitional period where hair stops growing and starts resting and gets ready to fall. Our technology specifically targets this area to combat hair cycle shortening common to all forms of non-scarring hair loss. Specifically, we target the key culprit in hair cycle shortening: a protein called FGF5

évolis has leveraged our knowledge of the hair cycle and the negative action of the protein FGF5 to look for specific solutions to hair loss and thinning. Instead of going down a synthetic path we decided to take the natural approach. In our dedicated labs, we have used sophisticated laboratory methods to screen thousands of plants and plant derived molecules, specifically starting with those used in traditional medicine, to find the most powerful FGF5 blockers in nature. Each évolis formula is packed with our patented évolis blend of botanicals that work to restore the hair cycle, reducing hair fall and promoting hair growth

Each évolis product is also loaded with a range of supporting botanical extracts specifically chosen for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as natural hair protecting and fortifying essential oils and extracts

Importantly, our technology is backed by a number of clinical studies in both men and women, as well as scientific usage studies assessing the benefits of our support products in men and women with hair challenges

Check out our hair loss tonics and serums for women today.



About the Author

d-burg-head-2.jpg

Dr Dominic Burg
PhD, Chief Scientist

Dr Dominic Burg is a biochemist and systems biologist with expertise in hair and scalp biology, particularly hair cycle signalling. An accomplished science communicator with a career spanning academic research and the private sector, Dr Burg is the Chief Scientist for pioneering hair and scalp health leaders évolis.

 

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