Science of Female Pattern Baldness
Female Pattern Hair Loss is the term used to describe a genetic tendency for hair loss in women. The genetic tendency is strong, and makes the hair sensitive to hormonal changes, particularly estrogen and male sex hormones. It is the most common cause of thinning and hair loss in women. 90% of female hair loss is genetic and affects about 30 million women in the U.S. The risk of Female Pattern Hair Loss increases when there is a family history of hair loss.
46% of women hide their hair loss and feel shame and embarrassment. Female pattern hair loss affects a woman’s confidence and personality. Dissatisfaction with appearance, body image distress and low self-esteem, as well as stress, depression and anxiety impact quality of life. Many women view hair loss as life-altering.
What is the pattern in Female Pattern Hair Loss?
The pattern of hair loss in women is different than in men. The hair line does not recede. Instead, the first sign is widening of the part, that over time progresses to diffuse thinning to the front, temples and vertex (the crown) areas. Sometimes a woman will notice that her ponytail diameter is smaller.
Some women have diffuse hair thinning all over the head. Hair thinning may accelerate for a few months, and then stabilize for a few months due to the normal cycles of hair and hormones.
However, most women do not go bald or lose all their hair. Rather, as they age, new hairs grow in finer and thinner, evidence of shrinking hair follicles. Eventually the follicle stops growing hair.
What causes female pattern hair loss?
The genetic tendency combined with the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes the hair follicles to produce thinner and finer hair.
Women do experience higher blood levels of testosterone as they age and estrogen levels decrease during and after menopause.
The current science shows that Female Pattern Hair Loss is genetically predetermined, and multifactorial including hormone and non-hormone causes. The science is clear that there is an alteration of the hair growth cycle which causes a gradual reduction in the growth phase and an increase in the time between hair is shed and new hair grows.
Who is affected by Female Pattern Hair Loss?
In genetically susceptible women, Female Pattern Hair Loss usually begins between the ages of 40 and 60, but can begin earlier. It is most common after menopause because of a decline in production of estrogen which is protective of the hair follicles.
Is Female Pattern Hair Loss reversible?
All hair loss is not the same. Early diagnosis and treatment of Female Pattern Hair Loss are effective to avoid progression of hair loss. If you are concerned about your thinning hair, schedule an appointment at the Strand MD in Newport Beach, California to get the correct diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.
Preventative Hair Loss Treatment
Restorative Hair Loss Treatment
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- Ioannides D, Tosti A (eds): Alopecias – Practical Evaluation and Management. Curr Probl Dermatol. Basel, Karger, 2015, vol 47, pp 45-54
- Davis DS, Callende VD, Review of quality of life studies in women with alopecia.
- Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018 Jan 9;4(1):18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.11.007. eCollection 2018 Mar.