Understanding Bald Truths About Hair Loss in Women

This article breaks down the different hair disorders which typically affect women. It will also highlight methods that can promote healthy hair growth, including the use of traditional Chinese medicine.

Woman holding strands of hair that are stuck to a brush

It is commonly believed amongst women that hair loss is equivalent to losing part of their identity. Therefore, women (and men) need to seek out the triggers of hair loss and identify suitable treatment options that can reverse the effects of this debilitating condition. 

First, you must understand that a person’s hair typically undergoes three distinct cycles — anagen, catagen and telogen. The anagen phase (growth phase) spans over 2-8 years. It’s responsible for the growth of 85-90% of the hair on the head. The catagen phase (transition phase) usually lasts for 2-3 weeks and involves shrinking hair follicles. The telogen phase (resting phase), on the other hand, will last for 2-4 months and involves hair fall.

Here are the causes of hair loss and the steps you can take to treat them effectively.

The Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women

A woman holding her hair as she strokes it with a brush in front of a mirror
Ageing and post-menopausal women are more likely to experience pattern hair loss than women of a younger age. 

Hair loss in women results from an abnormal hair growth cycle and disorders that cause hair follicle damage. 

Androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss)

This type of hair loss is prevalent amongst ageing and post-menopausal women. In fact, there are 3 characteristics of androgenetic alopecia in women — Type 1, 2 and 3 hair loss.

Type 1 causes minimal thinning that one can camouflage with a few different hairstyles.

Type 2 is identified through a significant decrease of hair volume and visibly wider mid-line hair parting.

While type 3 indicates diffuse thinning, which presents a see-through appearance on the top of the scalp. 

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a medical condition that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues like hair follicles. Because of this, a person’s hair will start to fall out and stunt new hair growth. 

In some cases, alopecia areata can also cause a person’s eyebrows and eyelashes to fall out. If left untreated, this condition can lead to alopecia totalis, which refers to a complete loss of hair.

Traction alopecia

Styling hair a particular way, including tight ponytails and braids, can pull hair away from the scalp with excessive force. This will cause hair strands to become damaged and fall out. If a person does not change their hairstyle, this can cause hair to be thin and bald spots to appear.

Telogen effluvium

A disorder that usually develops after a medical event or condition like pregnancy, surgery, or a thyroid imbalance, telogen effluvium occurs when many hair follicles enter the telogen phase of the hair cycle but don’t progress to a new anagen phase. 

Telogen effluvium can also develop because of a vitamin or mineral deficiency, the use of certain medications, or the start and stop of oral contraceptives. But unlike alopecia areata, telogen effluvium will not cause baldness. Still, it can result in a person losing 300-500 strands of hair daily and hair appearing thin at the crown and temples.

How to Treat Hair Loss in Women

A woman undergoing a scalp examination performed by a medical professional
A dermatologist may opt to perform a scalp examination to determine the actual cause of a woman’s hair loss.  

To ascertain the right treatment options, a doctor will need to recognise the specific signs of hair loss through several tests. This includes a gentle pull of the hair, scalp biopsy or examination, and blood tests. 

Alternatively, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners believe that a person’s hair (or lack thereof) reflects their overall health. An example of this notion is that a lack of blood in the body is the primary cause of hair loss. Given that the liver and spleen govern blood, TCM perceives that hair loss is associated with problems in these organs.

Direct application of a topical solution on the scalp

The use of a topical solution like minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) can help stop thinning and stimulate hair growth in women. Consistent, direct application of a minoxidil solution onto the scalp over 2-12 months is ideal for encouraging the growth of fine hairs.

Getting a scalp massage or acupuncture treatment

A study finds that giving yourself a scalp massage with a mechanical device can help to improve hair thickness. This same study also suggests that healthy hair growth could be attributed to an improvement of scalp blood flow and direct stimulation of dermal papilla. These are the layers of skin in which hair follicles and sweat glands reside. 

Similarly, the ability of acupuncture treatment to promote positive blood flow is one of the main reasons it is used to treat pattern hair loss. Modern medical research has also discovered that acupuncture is beneficial for inhibiting the accumulation of dihydrotestosterone, a type of androgen that accelerates hair loss by shrinking follicles.

Consuming foods that are beneficial for the spleen

Limiting your consumption of cold, fried, oily and sweet foods can maintain the health of your spleen, which supports blood production. Instead, it would help if you ate more grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as moderate amounts of lean meat and whole fruits. 

Consuming a refreshing herbal beverage that combines ingredients like goji berries, longan, and red dates can have a nourishing effect on your blood. You may also choose to mix a powdered formula that includes black sesame seeds and black beans with soy milk or oatmeal to prevent hair fall. 

Hair loss can severely impact your self-esteem. Following these tips can help you to achieve thicker, more lustrous hair in the long run. Consuming TCM can also maintain the healthy functioning of your organs. This is evident through the appearance of visibly healthy hair.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Hair Loss in Women. [Accessed 19 July 2021] 
  2. NYU Langone Health. Types of Hair Loss. [Accessed 19 July 2021] 
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. Treating female pattern hair loss. [Accessed 19 July 2021] 
  4. US National Library of Medicine. 2016. Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. [Accessed 19 July 2021] 
  5. US National Library of Medicine. 2020. A randomized controlled clinical study of acupuncture therapy for Seborrheic alopecia in young and middle ages. [Accessed 19 July 2021] 

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