• Surprising Causes

    7 Surprising Hair Loss Causes
    Genetics may be the primary reason for hair loss, but what about all the not-so-common causes? Here are 7 that may surprise you…

Female Hair Loss: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

By Denise Mann; reviewed by Neil Sadick, MD

While most people think of hair loss as a male issue, female hair loss is also very common. It is even more pervasive today as growing numbers of women turn to harsh straightening techniques, frequent blow drying, highlights, lowlights, color treatments and other herculean methods to try and change the texture and style of their natural hair.

Male pattern baldness refers to the onset of a receding hairline and thinning crown, while female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is diffuse, spreading around the whole top of the head.

More than 30 million women in the United States suffer from excessive hair loss, according to statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Causes of Female Hair Loss

There are many different causes of female hair loss. The most common cause is genetics, but additional causes of female hair loss include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain medications
  • Changes in hormone levels such as those that occur during menopause
  • Anemia
  • Crash diets
  • Over-styling.

New research is delving further into the autoimmune angle as a cause of female hair loss. Researchers at the Sadick Dermatology Group in New York City have found that many women with hair loss develop antibodies in their hair follicle. This suggests an autoimmune inflammatory process. Put another way, some women's immune system is engaging in friendly fire against their own hair follicles, preventing hair growth.

Identifying the precise cause of hair loss is essential to determining the optimal treatment strategy.

Female Hair Loss Treatments

The only FDA-approved medication for female hair loss is the topical solution minoxidil.

This topical solution works on hair follicles to reverse the shrinking process and stimulate new growth on the top of the scalp. It is applied twice daily and must be used for at least four months to achieve results.

Steroids are often used to treat autoimmune diseases, and some doctors are prescribing steroid lotions for women with autoimmune-related hair loss. These steroid-infused lotions can be used with or without minoxidil.

Lasers also play a role in female hair loss treatment. For example, a red light-emitting diode (LED) can stimulate some degree of hair growth by increasing the blood supply to hair follicles that are essentially on life support. In such cases, a laser may help follicles back into a growing stage.

Hair transplants are also increasingly an option for many women. There are many different types of hair transplantation procedures available today to help women achieve a fully, healthy natural looking head of hair. Hair transplantation involves removing healthy hair follicles from one area of the scalp and transplanting them to the areas of hair loss.

Certain drugs that block male hormones may also help slow down female hair loss. Some cases of female hair loss may be caused by changes in the hormonal milieu which could mean that there are high levels of male sex hormones. In these cases, drugs that block male hormones may play a role in the treatment of female hair loss.

Some women may choose wigs and/or hair weaves to help hide hair loss.

Preventing Female Hair Loss

Prevention is also key to staving off hair loss in women. The following preventative measures can aid in the fight against female hair loss:

  • Avoid tight ponytails
  • Use gentle shampoos
  • Always use conditioner
  • Avoid over styling such as excessive ironing, blow drying and brushing

Talk to a doctor at the first sign of hair loss

Eyelash and Eyebrow Hair

Thin hair in the eyelashes and eyebrows is a concern among some women. Latisse treatment can enhance hair growth and improve the appearance of the eyes by creating fuller, darker eyelashes.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Neil Sadick, MD, FAAD, FAACS, FACP, FACPh, is a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and the president of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation. Dr. Sadick is the immediate past president of the Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and a board member of the American Society for Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. He is a member of the Board of Examiners for the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery and the Global Medical Advisor for Christian Dior Beauty. He has authored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has contributed more than 75 chapters to medical books. In addition, he has written or edited more than 10 books on cosmetic surgery, hair and vein treatment. Dr. Sadick has also performed many of the clinical trials on Thermage and other up-and-coming non-invasive body contouring procedures.