While baldness is more common in men, estimates suggest that over 50 percent of women will experience some form of noticeable hair loss.1 It is a natural part of life for many women, but with some small changes, you may be able to reduce hair loss and support healthy hair growth. Read on to learn more.
What Female Baldness Looks Like
Early stage of female baldness is generally characterized by a dramatically slowed down hair growth phase and a lengthened hair resting phase. This results in shrunken hair follicles. Hairs grow much thinner and finer, and you experience an increase in the number of hairs lost.2
While this balding process is similar in both men and women, the actual appearance varies significantly. In men, hair loss typically begins at the front of the head, receding backwards along the temples to the crown. In women, hair loss starts in the middle at the hair part and works its way wider and towards the back of the scalp. Women are less likely than men to go completely bald, more often experiencing significant thinning.2
Female pattern is also often divided into three different types:
- Type I – A small amount of thinning that usually starts at the hair part
- Type II – A widening of the hair part with increased amounts of thinning around it
- Type III – A general thinning of hair throughout the scalp accompanied by a “see-through” area at the top of the scalp2
What Causes Female Baldness?
Hair loss is still a complex condition that researchers are still studying. Why do some women experience baldness while others do not?
The most predominant understanding of hair loss is a genetic sensitivity to certain hormones, primarily androgens. Some women have a genetically predisposed sensitivity to androgens, resulting in the shrinking hair follicles characteristic of hair loss. There’s no exact link, but you are more likely to experience hair loss if either of your parents or a blood relative has experienced hair loss.2
Your hormones are essential to just about every aspect of your health. Androgens (male hormones) are responsible for sexual development, sex drive, and hair growth regulation. However, an increase in androgen activity, particularly DHT, is known to shrink hair follicles, shorten the growth phase, and increase the resting phase.3
Menopause is natural in all women and marks the period when women are at the end of their reproductive period. It is most often characterized by a decline in estrogen and progesterone, while testosterone and other androgens maintain their regular levels. This sudden hormonal imbalance can result in hair loss. Menopause may also result in an increased sensitivity to testosterone. Menopause-related hair loss usually peaks between age 50 and 60.4
The thyroid secretes several hormones that affect various elements of your health, including metabolism, body temperature, and general growth and development. Severe and chronic forms of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) have been shown to contribute to hair loss.5 Studies suggest that thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) directly alter hair follicle functions, from hair cycling to pigmentation.6
How You Can Reduce Female Baldness
Currently one of the only FDA-approved treatments for hair loss in men and women, minoxidil has been shown to help reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth. A once-daily 5% minoxidil foam solution and twice-daily 2% minoxidil foam solution were found to be effective in reducing hair loss. While the exact mechanisms are unclear, studies suggest that minoxidil may work by increasing blood flow to the scalp, allowing for more oxygen and nutrients sent to the hair follicles. Interestingly, minoxidil has not been shown to have any effect on hormones.7
Spironolactone is most commonly prescribed as a treatment for hormonal acne, but it may also be effective in reducing hair loss in women. Spironolactone is an antiandrogen compound that may help to effectively lower both testosterone and DHT levels.8 A combination of minoxidil and spironolactone will take about six weeks of treatment to see improvements.
Finasteride is the only FDA-approved DHT blocking treatment for hair loss. As a DHT blocker, finasteride works to actively reduce DHT levels by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT. A study found that a daily treatment of 5 mg of finasteride per day effectively reduced androgenetic alopecia in postmenopausal women.9
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Hair Loss
Along with prescription medications, small changes to your lifestyle can go a long way to reduce your hair loss.
Take an iron supplement
While more research is required, some studies suggest a link between iron deficiency and hair loss. Taking an iron supplement, particularly if you are pregnant, can help you maintain healthy iron levels and potentially prevent hair loss caused by iron deficiencies.11
Manage your stress
Cortisol is the primary hormone released during times of stress. Studies show that consistently high cortisol levels may disrupt the natural hair growth cycle and contribute to hair loss.12 Meditation, a regular exercise routine, and other stress management techniques may go a long way in promoting better health and reducing hair loss.
Take a biotin supplement
Biotin is a B vitamin that plays an important role in the healthy growth and development of your hair, skin, and nails. Thinning hair and hair loss are linked with biotin deficiencies. Although studies are generally lacking, experts often recommend taking a biotin supplement to improve hair growth and maintain thicker, healthier nails.13
Take a Vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health but it has been found to have roles in immune and skin health as well. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with many autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and alopecia areata (AA).14 Alopecia areata is a condition in which small patches of hair are lost. The severity of AA is correlated with the severity of vitamin D deficiency.15
Not only are low Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with both androgenetic alopecia but lower levels of it are also associated with telogen effluvium (hair loss that occurs all over when the body is stressed) and female pattern hair loss (FPHL).16
Whether or not supplementation with vitamin D will reverse these conditions has not been studied. It would not be surprising if supplementing one’s diet with Vitamin D, at the very least, would decrease alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and androgenetic alopecia/female pattern hair loss.
Maintain good hair habits
How you care for your hair every day plays contributes to its growth. Some daily habits to keep in mind:
- Shampoos often work to remove natural oils and moisture from the scalp. Cleaning your hair too often may leave your hair and scalp feeling dry, irritated, and inflamed. Depending on the oiliness of your scalp, avoid washing your hair every day, instead opting to wash your hair three to four times per week.
- Avoid hair products that contain sulfates, which are common detergent agents that often contribute to dryness and irritation.
- Always condition your hair after you use shampoo. Conditioner adds back much of the oil and moisturizer that your shampoo stripped away. This also prevents your hair from overcompensating and producing too much oil. Many conditioners also include additional ingredients to nourish your hair and scalp. Take some extra time to massage the conditioner into your scalp and get the circulation going.
- Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for nearly all cells in the body, including your skin and eyes. However, too much of it has actually been linked to hair loss. Avoid going overboard on your vitamin A consumption.
- Iodine is essential for a healthy thyroid. Too little iodine may result in an enlarged thyroid, contributing to hypothyroidism. Along with iodinated salt, iodine is commonly found in seafood, dairy products, and whole grains.
- Zinc influences numerous enzymes involved in cellular growth and replication, and zinc deficiencies are associated with hair loss. Maintain healthy zinc levels by eating shellfish, legumes, dairy, and eggs or taking a zinc supplement.
Take a DHT Blocker
An increase in DHT causes hair loss in women as well. Women with an excess of DHT may experience female pattern hair loss (FPHL), losing their hair in the same way that men do.
If you are experiencing an excess of DHT, consider taking a DHT blocker. Natural DHT blockers can ensure that you don't have too much DHT in your body and that you are, in turn helping to minimize the above-mentioned health risks.
Hair loss is common in women and often comes as a result of hormonal fluctuations. Using a supplement containing natural DHT blocker ingredients, like DrFormulas® HairOmega®, may provide the hormonal balance you need to support hair growth and reduce hair loss.
Vitamins for Hair Growth