Any woman who's experienced hair loss knows how devastating it can be, but there are options for those suffering. We've called in the expert knowledge of Dr Sharon Wong, consultant dermatologist and leading hair and scalp specialist, to share her knowledge. This really is everything you need to know about hair loss in women.
What causes hair loss in women?
Dr Sharon says that the most common cause of hair loss and thinning in both sexes is genetic hair loss and common balding. However, women can also suffer hair loss as a result of hormonal fluctuations, such as post pregnancy shedding, menopause-related hair loss, starting or stopping some forms of contraception, and underlying hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In addition, over-processing the hair with heat and chemical styling, or wearing hairstyles that pull on the hair can also cause weathering, hair breakage and traction hair loss. Dr Sharon emphasises that it is also important to realise that women can often have more than one cause of hair loss or thinning at any one time.
How much hair classifies as hair loss?
One question many of us want to know is how much hair loss equals actual hair loss? Many of us might be familiar with the experience of standing in the shower, watching strand after strand come out with our conditioner, but this is usually completely normal. Dr Sharon says that throughout our lifetime our hair is constantly undergoing repeated cycles of growth and shedding. Every individual has a different number of hairs that they shed per day as part of their normal hair follicle cycle. Depending on the number of hair follicles on the scalp it can be normal for a person to shed up to 100-150 hairs per day. This makes us a lot less worried about the amount of hair on our tangle teezer everyday! Dr Sharon notes that ultimately any prolonged shift in a person's baseline hair shed will result in perceivable hair loss with reduction in volume and thinning.
Are some people more likely to get hair loss than others?
Yes! There are many myths around common balding, like "you can only inherit from your maternal grandfather" or "it is only passed on to men". A family history of early onset genetic hair loss is a risk factor for any member of that family. The earlier the age of onset, the stronger the genetic trait.
What should women change in their hair care routine if they think they are losing hair?
Minimise damage from external factors by reducing the frequency and level of heat and chemical exposure, and using products that contain UV filters. It is important to see a doctor or a trichologist to diagnose and address the underlying causes of hair loss. If you've already been diagnosed with female pattern hair loss (common balding in women), consider starting topical 5% Minoxidil either as solution or foam, applied to the affected areas once at night. Topical minoxidil is the only topical product proven and licensed to help with female pattern hair loss, and can be purchased over the counter or online.
Is it advised to stop dying hair if someone is experiencing hair loss?
Yes, whilst dyeing hair does not directly cause hair loss (unless you develop a severe allergic reaction on the scalp), it can significantly damage the protective cuticle layer, making hair dull, frizzy, lack lustre, and prone to breakage.
What else do you advise to those experiencing hair loss?
Dr Sharon says hair follicle cells are some of the fastest dividing cells in the body, and therefore requires the full spectrum of nutritional support provided by a healthy well balanced diet including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. There is no evidence that routinely taking supplements improves hair growth when there is no deficiency present. In some women with low iron stores (ferritin), hair growth improves when the ferritin levels increase with iron supplementation. Supplementation needs to be tailored on a case by case basis and monitored for any effect on hair growth.