In many cultures, the length of female hair is often associated with beauty and desirability, so it can be a huge blow to a woman’s self-confidence when extreme hair loss and baldness occurs. While male baldness is by every means more common than baldness in women, the latter can happen to females of all ages. Here are the most common causes of baldness in women.
Possible Causes Of Pattern Baldness
The most common type of female baldness is pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia (also known as androgenic alopecia). It is characterized by predominant thinning over the top and sides of the head, as well as miniscule hairs replacing long hairs. Some potential causes of pattern hair loss in women include:
Genetics: For some women, female baldness is a hereditary trait passed down through the family. Those individuals’ hair follicles tend to be more sensitive towards the effects of male androgens, and are more prone towards hair loss than other women.
Female hormone imbalance: Even if a woman is not genetically susceptible to female baldness, hormone imbalance can wreak havoc on her hair follicles. Common examples of hormone imbalance that has female pattern baldness as one of its consequences include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Birth control formulated with androgen
Other hormone disorders that can also affect women, such as hypothyroidism, can also cause baldness. In some cases, hair loss can stop if the hormonal imbalance is temporary, such as the case with pregnancy. However, it is best to consult a physician to correct the imbalance so baldness will not worsen.
Possible Causes Of Non-Pattern Baldness
Another common type of female baldness is from non-pattern hair loss, which characterizes conditions other than androgenetic alopecia, usually due to outside factors. This condition happens more frequently in women than men. Some causes include:
Trichotillomania: This is a psychological condition characterized by compulsive hair pulling, and its appearance is usually patchy. The underlying emotional condition will need to be addressed prior to hair restoration options.
Alopecia areata: This is a form of autoimmune disease where white blood cells attack hair follicles, causing them to stop producing hair. It is not clear why this happens, but it is probably due to a family history of autoimmune disorders (such as lupus, thyroid diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.).
Scarring alopecia: This type of baldness is due to scarring of the scalp, which obliterates hair follicles in the scarring area. Women who have inflammation of hair follicles or who often tightly pull the scalp hair due to hairstyling are susceptible to scarring alopecia.
Triangular alopecia: This condition happens when baldness occurs in the temporal areas of the head, and can begin during childhood. The cause is unclear, but medical and surgical treatment options are available.
Other Possible Causes Of Female Baldness
Here are more possible causes of baldness in women:
- Chemotherapy: Regardless of gender, individuals who undergo chemotherapy for cancer lose their hair. Radiation from the therapy can kill hair follicles, but there is a good chance of hair growing back after the end of chemotherapy.
- Stress: Any type of traumatic stress can shock the body and cause significant hair loss in women. Sometimes, such stress can be a gradual buildup and not as evident. For example, a grave illness can leave patches on the scalp, or a major medical surgery unrelated to the scalp can cause so much stress that hair loss will increase with each combing of the hair. Starting a new family or changing environments can also be contributors. Fortunately, hair regrowth is very high once the stress dissipates.
- Malnutrition: Considered a form of physical stress, malnutrition can lead to significant hair loss and baldness. For example, extreme hair thinning is a symptom of anorexia nervosa, a common eating disorder prevalent among females. Anemic individuals can also lose enough hair to cause baldness so be sure to consult a doctor if you suspect hair loss is due to malnutrition.
- Other medications: Similar to chemotherapy, certain medications intended to treat other preexisting medical conditions can have balding or hair loss as a side effect.
- Skin conditions: Sometimes, we forget that our scalp is a large piece of skin, and any skin conditions affecting the scalp can also cause hair loss. For example, serious cases of seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) or psoriasis can cause baldness. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can also cause baldness. Be sure to see a dermatologist right away to treat the underlying cause. Otherwise, excessive scarring may occur from such conditions, rendering the scalp unable to produce new hair.
Fortunately, most cases of baldness in women are not as severe as male baldness. If you are a woman who starts to experience drastically thinning hair as well as bald patches, be sure to see a doctor right away for the correct diagnosis and treatment options.