Hair loss can come in many forms. No matter how or when hair loss starts, you should know that affordable and easy-to-use solutions exist for stopping and preventing hair loss. Most importantly, you should know the one universally accepted fact about effective treatment:
The earlier you start, the better.
Hair loss in women is more common than you probably think. As many as 30 million women are affected in the U.S. alone! Hair loss in women typically begins in their 40s and 50s. Unlike men, who experience “directed” hair loss resulting in a receding hairline or as a bald spot in their crown, women typically experience “diffuse” hair loss, leading to thinner hairs throughout their entire scalp.
For women, hair loss primarily results from androgenic alopecia (also called female pattern baldness), a common hereditary and genetic cause of hair loss.
Hair follicles are particularly susceptible to a hormone known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone). This naturally occurring hormone is an important hormone, and is formed by the conversion of testosterone. DHT is far more potent than testosterone – and yes, women do produce testosterone, just much less than men. DHT works to make hair follicles smaller, leading to thinner and thinner hair production, even baldness in extreme cases.
In women with androgenic alopecia or female pattern baldness, genetics are believed to contribute to increased DHT production and/or activity. The DHT then acts on delicate hair follicles, causing them to shrink, weaken, and eventually stop producing new hair altogether.
Humans average about 100,000 hair follicles on their head, and we form no new hair follicles after birth. This is why it’s important to maintain the hair follicles we already have.
Left untreated, hair loss from androgenic alopecia can grow in severity. Fortunately, there’s a number of over-the-counter products that can counter the deleterious effects of DHT on hair follicles – like minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) – but early intervention is key to slowing and preventing hair loss.
Worried hair loss has started already? Check where you stand on this chart!
The Ludwig-Savin Chart for women is a commonly used visual diagnostic to rate the severity of hair loss.
Images 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D all illustrate the part becoming progressively wider, indicating thinner hair along the center of the scalp.
Images 2A and 2B demonstrate diffuse thinning over the top of the scalp.
Image 3 demonstrates extensive and diffuse hair loss on top of the scalp, with some surviving hair.
The Advanced images shows a very advanced stage of crown hair loss.
The last image illustrates frontal recession, where hair loss has begun at the front of the scalp.
Here are the early signs you should be looking for:
- Your parents. Androgenic alopecia is genetic. If your parents have struggled with thinning hair, there’s a good chance you will too. This is one of the first and earliest signs that you may face thinning of your own.
- A wider part. If you regularly part your hair, keep an eye on the width of your part. As hair loss worsens, your part will look wider. This is often one of the most noticeable early signs of hair loss.
- General thinning. Unlike for men, hair loss in women happens slowly over a wide area of the scalp. Rather than a single bald spot or an obvious receding hairline, women may deal with general thinning across the head. Check your brush regularly for noticeably thinner strands of hair!
- Hair build-up in brushes and on pillows. It’s normal to lose 50-100 strands of hair per day, any more than should be a red alert. If you’re surprised by the amount of hair in your brush or on your pillow on a regular, it may be time to think about hair loss solutions.
- Hair in the drain. Keep an eye out for excessive hair in your shower drain, too. Dramatic changes can be an early warning sign.
As with many things, early detection is the key to preventing hair loss before it can progress further. Compare recent photos of your hair to older photos. Consider taking photos of your hair (the top of your head especially!) each month to monitor for hair loss. Watch out for the flash! Bright lights tend to make hair look thinner, so try to keep lighting consistent for each shot.
Women have a variety of solutions available to counter hair loss. However, most solutions available to women typically focus on slowing and preventing further hair loss, which is why early detection is key. Regrowing lost hair is much more difficult than strengthening and keeping the hair you already have.