Female Pattern Baldness
Have you been noticing that your ponytail is thinning or your parting is widening? Well, you may be suffering from a condition known as female pattern baldness.
Although pattern baldness is commonly associated with men, women pattern baldness is a condition that affects millions of females around the globe. In fact, it is the common cause of baldness in women.
Unfortunately, hair loss in women has a more significant impact on mental health and self-esteem than it does in men due to psychological and socioeconomic factors. We are here to give you a low-down to the ins and outs of pattern baldness in women and what YOU can do to help prevent it.
What Is Female Pattern Baldness?
Female pattern baldness, similar to male pattern hair loss, is caused by androgenetic alopecia. Women tend to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. However, when this hair sheds and stops regrowing, female pattern hair loss has taken action.
When men suffer from male pattern baldness, they start to experience receding hairlines and various areas of balding around the scalp. In women, however, the hair thins over time, affecting the volume and the length of their hair.
The most common initial symptom of female pattern baldness is a widening of the central parting, along with a sensation that their hair is thin. This symptom is experienced by many women, and in fact, numbers in UK have suggested that 50% of all women do not have a full head of hair their entire life.
Pattern baldness is a progressive condition meaning that the hair will thin over time, progressively. However, women do not tend to lose all of their hair as men do, but they will experience a wider parting.
There are various reasons as to why women would suffer from female pattern balding including physical and emotional stress, a side effect from medication, certain medical conditions, and genetic inheritance. If you happen to notice any thinning of hair or a widening of your parting, we recommend you arrange a consultation with your general practitioner (GP) or dermatologist in order to carry out diagnostic tests to determine the origin of your hair loss issue.
As hair loss in women leads to further psychological stress, we recommend that you ask your GP to refer you to a psychiatrist or counselor to address the mental health issues surrounding hair loss. As frustrating a problem as female baldness is, the ever-rising growth in technology and medicine has allowed for research to be carried out to find the best treatments.
When Does Female Pattern Baldness Occur
Female pattern baldness does not discriminate when it comes to age. Pattern baldness in the 20s is common, however most women tend to experience the symptoms during their midlife starting at their 40s, all the way to their 60s.
Female pattern baldness is a progressive condition meaning that regardless of when a woman will first begin to experience signs and symptoms, the hair loss will continue to progress.
Age does not differentiate between the symptoms experienced. Females tend not to experience balding on the scalp, but instead develop a natural thinning of hair which may lead to more psychological issues further down the line.
Female pattern baldness symptoms are different to the common presentations found in male pattern baldness. For example, as opposed to a receding hairline, women may develop a more widened parting. The following are common symptoms of female pattern baldness:
- Shedding – Telogen effluvium, or hair shedding, is a significant part of female pattern baldness. A hair shedding scale has been developed to allow assessment of the woman’s shedding of hair and identify the grade of hair loss they are experiencing.
The hair shedding scale is an effective and quick method of identifying the amount of hair shedding experienced. Both the doctor and the patient can compare results to this scale and find the best treatment option.
- Hair minaturisation – The hair follicles found in your scalp appear and grow in clumps of 3-4 which give your scalp a more thick, defined look, unlike other parts of your body. Those who suffer from female pattern baldness due to androgenetic alopecia will begin to lose hairs in these clumps, giving a balding look to the scalp which shows a wider parting.
Furthemore, your doctor can categorise your female pattern baldness to three different types:
- Type 1 – little thinning around your parting
- Type 2 – your parting begins to widen and shows more thinning to the surrounding hair
- Type 3 – Thinning through-out your hair and a visible scalp
Female vs Male Pattern Baldness
Both female and male pattern baldness are most commonly affected by androgenetic alopecia, a condition that is related to excess male hormones which are present in male and female pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness in females is not experienced as the onset and the symptoms differ in both sexes. As discussed, males tend to develop receding hairlines and bald patches around the temples and crown, whereas female pattern baldness is more common around the parting and thinning of the hair.
Male pattern baldness can start just after puberty, whereas female pattern baldness will most commonly start presenting in the mid-30s, 40s, and 50s.
The stages of female pattern baldness are identified using a scale called the Ludwig Scale, as opposed to the Hamilton-Norwood scale used to diagnose the stages of male pattern baldness.
The signs of female pattern baldness can be classified into four different stages of the Ludwig scale:
- No Hair Loss – the hair will be thick and even through the scalp and show a full head of hair. 15% of women do not experience female pattern baldness throughout their lifetime.
- Stage 1 (grade 1) – The beginning phase of female pattern baldness. Here, a woman will experience mild hair thinning that is usually evenly distributed along the scalp. Hair loss is unnoticable and the minimal hair loss experienced can be easily covered using different hair styles.
- Stage 2 (grade 2) – The hair loss experienced at stage 2 is more moderate, becoming more noticeable. The parting is significantly wider with a 50-70% decrease in volume of hair.
- Stage 3 (grade 3) – The third and final stage of the Ludwig scale indicates the highest level of severity of hair loss. Extensive hair is experienced at the scalp, making it more visible. Medicated hair treatment is necessary to revert the baldness.
In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis of your female pattern baldness, you must first identify the causes that have affected you specifically.
When hair loss is diffuse and uneven, the causes can be due to more detrimental underlying health conditions that need an accurate diagnosis from a doctor. A Womans pattern baldness can usually be diagnosed following the stages of hair loss the woman is experiencing, carrying out a medical history, and an assessment of the scalp.
Once all the examinations have been complete, the doctor will also check for any signs of infection or inflammation that may have affected the scalp and finally, do a blood test to further investigate the causes of pattern baldness in women.
There are three main causes of female pattern baldness:
- Genetical causes – As pattern baldness is due to androgenetic alopecia, it affects hormones and genes. Hair loss is genetic and can be passed down from your parents. You are more likely to experience female pattern baldness if one of your parents is affected.
- Lifestyle causes – A healthy diet is essential in not only maintaining physical health but also improving your hair strength and structure. Certain vitamins and minerals are essential in maintaining hair infrastructure.
- Disease and infections – Certain diseases can either affect the scalp directly such as fungal infections, which can lead to scarring and patchy baldness. Other conditions caused by autoimmune responses can cause a gradual thinning of the hair and hair loss.
Female pattern baldness genetics are passed down from parent to child. The genetic factors surrounding it are still being investigated due to the complexity of their nature.
Although the AR gene has been determined as a significant gene-altering male pattern baldness, the female pattern baldness hereditary genes are only predicted. It is thought that the genes that have a coding for the production of a protein called aromatase have an influence.
Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone into estradiol which may have a role in pattern baldness in women, and explain the reason behind why most women experience balding after the menopause.
Hair loss can also be caused due to other reasons than genetic. For example, one of the main female pattern baldness reasons is stress. Stress plays a great deal in hair loss, and excess stress can lead to a condition known as telofen effluvium, or loss of hair.
It is thought that stress can trigger autoimmune conditions such as alopecia areata and Universalis which can induce hair loss.
Studies have proven that diets influence the level of balding which you experience. Furthermore, those who maintain a mediterraneMediterraneand mainly with raw vegetables and good proteins have a reduced risk of developing androgenetic alopecia.
Disease and Infections
There are a variety of different diseases and infections that can lead to the development of female pattern baldness.
Some of the most common conditions that can cause female pattern baldness are pregnancy, menopause, thyroid diseases, and blood conditions such anemia. Furthermore, hair loss can occur as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), various skin conditions such as scalp psoriasis, ringworm, and seborrheic dermatitis.
Physical trauma to the head and scalp can also lead to hair loss and the occurrence of bald patches if scarring occurs. Lastly, diet and rapid weight loss can contribute to hair loss along with overdosing on Vitamin A.
Female pattern baldness progression unfortunately has no cure. However, the advancements in medical technology have allows for a variety of treatments and establishment of preventative measures one may take to help reduction of hair loss.
As the majority of the causes of female pattern baldness are genetic, female pattern baldness prevention can only protect to a certain degree. This means that the hair prevention methods listed below have limited effect until proven otherwise.
One method of prevention involves hair care and using appropriate treatments. Women should try and follow the list of rules found below as a preventative measure for hair loss:
- Hair treatments should be limited if the ingredients are unnatural. These may, over time, cause hair to become more brittle and fall out.
- Using hair appliances that apply heat can damage hair, and you should therefore limit straightening and perming your hair, and try to avoid getting hair extensions as these apply significant pressure on your hair follicles.
- Sun damage can trigger hair loss by destroying the natural oils that are protective of the hair. The sun can also trigger a chemical known as compound superoxide which can cause the hair follicles to stop hair regrowth and promote shedding. It is therefore vital you protect your head at all times when under the sun.
- Brushing your hair when it is wet can promote hair pulling and weaken follicles. Opt for a comb or use your fingers instead.
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet allows your body and hair to absorb essential vitamins and minerals to help strengthen your hair and maintain integrity.
- Lastly, massaging. Massaging your scalp stimulates the production of hair follicles and allows for a thicker, more dense look. Better yet, massaging helps relax the individual and promotes relaxation and reduction of psychological distresses caused by hair loss. It also feels very nice, try it sometime!
As mentioned above, these treatments are not guaranteed to work, but should be trialed until you receive appropriate hair treatment from your doctor.
As discussed, there is no current female pattern cure. However, there is female pattern baldness treatment in the form of medication.
Early diagnosis of female pattern baldness is encouraged in order to allow you to figure out the best female pattern baldness remedies and treatments that best suit you.
- Minoxidil – otherwise known as rogaine is an FDA-approved medication licensed for treating hairloss. It comes as a liquid formula in 2 strengths; 2% and 5%.
To use minoxidil you are meant to apply the solution to your scalp on a daily basis. The solution has been proven to grow back thicker, fuller hair. However, when treatment stops, then the regrowth stops.
Results are noticed 6-12 months once treatment has commenced. If the treatment has not been deemed effective during that time, your doctor can prescribe you an alternative medication.
- Finasteride – female pattern baldness NHS treatments are not yet available as medications such as finasteride, dutasteride, and minoxidil are privately prescribed.
Finasteride is also an FDA-approved medication but only for the treatment of male pattern baldness. Some doctors are recommending finasteride for baldness treatment in women, however, there is a certain stigma behind using this due to its teratogenic effect in women of child-bearing age.
- Spironolactone – This drug is a diuretic commonly used in heart conditions, as it removed excess fluid from the body (as a result of heart failure). However, it also blocks the production of the hormone androgen, increasing hair growth.
Regular blood tests are carried out when taking this medication in order to test for any electrolyte disturbances and reduced blood pressure.
Hair transplantation is a procedure that has been around for more than half a century. Now, more and more cosmetic clinics are opening and offering procedures for hair transplantation at very affordable costs.
Hair transplants are most commonly carried out using a FUE, FUT or DHI method. There are differences between the procedures and the best one suited to your needs will be explained to you in detail once you arrange a consultation with a private surgeon.
Hair transplants have come a long way due to the advancements of technology, and now make the resulting hair look more natural in comparison to the olden days’ use of hair plugs.
Not everybody makes a great candidate for hair transplantation because baldness may affect certain areas of the scalp which reduce the possibility of donor areas.
Lastly, hair transplantation surgery is costly, and there is a certain female pattern baldness recovery time that varies greatly between patients. NHS hair transplants are yet to be available, however, under special circumstances and consideration, some patients may be liable for NHS hair transplants if they are medically necessary.
Home Remedies and Other Treatments
Women are wanting more innovative treatments for female pattern baldness, and so researchers have taken it upon themselves to discover the most appropriate treatments to stimulate hair growth and enhance psychological behaviors.
Lasers – The FDA has approved the use of lasers embedded in combs and helmets which are available to buy in shops or online. These laser devices emit low-intensity laser light that helps stimulate hair growth.
Platelet-Rich-Plasma therapy (PRP) – By using your own blood, doctors are able to separate the components of your blood and extract the platelets. These are then re-injected back into your scalp to help stimulate hair growth. This treatment is still being researched, although is widely available in cosmetic clinics.
Female pattern baldness home remedies – You can try using a variety of different herbal remedies to help stimulate hair growth. For example, there is a lot of female pattern baldness homeopathy treatment available in the form of essential oils that can help preserve hair strength. These oils include onion and garlic oil.
These remedies are not yet proven to show any benefit, and so you should not expect instant results. Further research is required to validate the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for hair loss, however, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Female pattern baldness shampoo – Many hair products in the markets are advertised to promote hair growth by the addition of various supplements and caffeine. It is thought that caffeinated products aid with the stimulation of hair growth.
We’re not saying these shampoos work, but they may have worked for some people. Trying these products may help you identify which ones will work for you, but until further research is carried out on these products we cannot ascertain any type of efficacy.