Hair loss in women is a frequent complaint in dermatologists’ offices and can become a big nightmare for many women. Many already try various treatments on their own without success and only then do they seek a doctor. There are several causes of excessive hair loss in women that must be researched and, consequently, different ways of treatment.
Society is prepared to accept bald men, but bald women never. Thus, hair loss becomes a desperate problem for women.
There are several causes of hair loss in women, from a physiological decrease in hair volume in women after menopause, to the use of chemicals inadvertently, to a strong genetic predisposition, being common to the association of several factors.
As there are several causes of hair loss, there are also several treatments. In some cases the underlying disorder must be treated, such as thyroid disorders, in others, the only option may be hair transplantation.
Approximately 90% of the scalp hair is in the growth phase, with this phase lasting about two to six years. The rest, 10%, is in the resting phase, which lasts approximately two to three months. The hair falls out when it reaches the end of this phase.
We usually lose 50 to 100 hairs per day, being replaced by others that are born in the same follicle, starting a new cycle. This type of natural hair loss happens more at the change of season, in the spring and, especially, in the fall, when the body’s metabolism rate is higher.
Hair grows approximately 1 cm per month. As the individual ages, hair growth tends to be slower.
Excessive hair loss can have many different causes. A person who realizes that their hair is falling out in large quantities should consult their dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating skin and hair changes. It is important to find out the cause and whether the problem will respond to medical treatment or not.
In parallel to the dermatological treatment, women should seek an endocrinologist and their gynecologist who will eliminate the possibility of diseases that may be leading to hair loss, such as: an ovarian or adrenal tumor, anemia, polycystic ovary, changes in the functioning of the thyroid and others.
Hair loss can occur in a diffuse way, as in the disorder called telogen effluvium, in which the hair becomes thin but does not leave “flaws”, as occurs in alopecia areata, also called “naked”.
Among the main causes of excessive hair loss in women are:
• Postpartum: when the woman is pregnant, she loses less hair than she normally would and at the end of pregnancy many hairs enter the rest phase of the cycle and fall out. This usually occurs 2 to 3 months after delivery, and can last from 1 to 6 months, returning to the normal cycle in most cases.
• Anemia: iron deficiency can occur due to a decrease in iron intake or absorption or a chronic loss through the blood, as for example in women with a very long menstrual period or a large volume. This deficiency can be detected through blood tests and corrected with the use of medications to replace iron.
• Low protein diet: unbalanced diets can lead to an inadequate intake of protein and the body will save the proteins in the hair, making it pass to the resting phase, which will result in a great loss of hair. This can be prevented and treated through a balanced diet, with adequate amounts of protein.
• Use of products inadvertently: the use of dyes, hydrogen peroxide, perms, straighteners, bleaches and other products can weaken the hair causing it to fall out. In these cases it is necessary to interrupt the use until the growth of new threads.
• Yeast infection: there are areas of scaling on the scalp with redness and swelling, leaving the brittle strands. This infection is contagious and must be treated with medication.
• Use of medications: some medications can have the side effect of temporary hair loss.
• Use of birth control pills: some women may experience hair loss with the use of birth control pills, and if this occurs, they should see their gynecologist. Stopping the use of pills can also trigger hair loss 2 to 3 months after the end of use. This fact occurs similarly to what occurs in the postpartum period.
• Thyroid disorders: the decrease or increase in the production of thyroid hormones, called hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively, can cause hair loss. These changes can be diagnosed by measuring the hormones in the blood and their treatment can correct hair loss.
• Fever and infections: high fever and infections like a strong flu can lead to excessive hair loss for 4 weeks to 3 months, ceasing spontaneously.
• Stress: some situations, such as major surgeries and chronic diseases, result in stress for the body, which can lead to hair loss. Psychic stress can also increase hair loss. If these conditions are transient, as in the case of surgery, the fall is reversed spontaneously.
• Alopecia areata: also known as peeled, is the loss of hair in a small round area. The cause is still unknown. It can be treated with topical or systemic medications.
• Hereditary baldness: this genetic tendency can be inherited from the maternal or paternal side, and women will have thinning hair, not becoming completely bald. Also called androgenetic alopecia, it occurs due to high concentrations of male hormones or increased sensitivity to the action of these hormones. Its appearance can start in adolescence and there are some topical medications that can alleviate the problem.
• Fall by pressure: the fall of the hair can be due to a traction of the hair, as in straightening sessions, or by pressure caused by the constant use of tight hats.
• Other causes: treatments for cancer (chemotherapy and radiotherapy), lupus, smoking, alcohol abuse and abuse of hair dryers can also be mentioned as causes of hair loss.
The treatment of excessive hair loss must first aim to correct the cause. For example, iron replacement in anemia, use of drugs to fight a yeast infection, balanced diet, etc.
In some cases, such as alopecia areata, the use of topical medications to stimulate hair growth may be indicated.
In cases where an irreversible fall has occurred, an alternative would be hair transplantation. Some women with reduced hair areas, such as hereditary baldness, and people who have lost some, but not all, hair due to burns or other scalp accidents can benefit from this treatment. Transplantation is a surgical procedure and must be performed by specialized doctors.