It is perfectly normal for people to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day. This generally doesn't cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time that hair is shedding. However, hair loss occurs when this hair growth cycle and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle becomes destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. Female pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common form of hair loss in women. This occurs gradually and is caused by genetics (from either side of the family), age, and the action of a specific male hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone is found in lesser amounts in women and it preys on the hair follicles, preventing them from receiving vital nutrients for proper hair follicle growth, leading to the hairs shrinking, and resulting in a shorter lifespan. Interestingly, DHT does not need to be elevated to generate hair loss. Estrogen, when lowered as commonly seen in menopause, creates a change in the ratio of male to female hormones, giving an edge to these male hormones. Compounded with the sensitivity of DHT to the hair follicles, heredity can affect the age at which a woman begins to lose her hair, as well as the rate of hair loss and the extent of baldness.
Hair loss is something that everyone experiences sooner or later, but some get it earlier than others. Losing hair prematurely can be traumatic. Because of that, there is an infinite number of products that claim to cure and reverse the problem. But what if you could find out the likelihood that you will experience hair loss so that you could prevent it before the symptoms even showed? Researchers in the United Kingdom have reportedly found a way to predict who is at risk.
It’s natural for estrogen levels to fluctuate throughout a woman’s life, but drastic drops can disrupt the hair growth cycle and cause telogen effluvium. For example, during pregnancy, a woman’s estrogen levels are at their peak. Fewer hair follicles enter the telogen stage of the hair cycle, so hair looks thicker than usual. A few months after pregnancy, however, estrogen levels drop and the excess hair falls out. While totally normal, this type of telogen effluvium can be very upsetting for new mothers.
While these factors contribute to hair loss for any woman, it’s particularly dicey for those of us with PCOS because when the follicle is exposed to our elevated androgens such as DHT (di-hydro testosterone, an active metabolite of testosterone) it gets damaged. Whenever a cell is damaged it generates oxidative stress which further alters the androgen receptor in the follicle perpetuating the issue.