Most women with pattern hair loss don't get a receding hairline or bald spot on top of the scalp as is common in men. Instead, there is visible thinning over the crown. In men and women, hairs are miniaturized because of a shortened growth cycle where the hair stays on the head for a shorter period of time. These wispy hairs, which resemble forearm hairs, do not achieve their usual length.
Alopecia areata is a patchy hair loss associated with immune disturbances. In this condition the immune system attacks the hair follicles thereby impairing hair growth. It is more likely to occur in people with other immune-related disorders and has also been linked to psychological stress as well as with certain drugs like some types of ARVs used for HIV treatment. Alopecia areata does not only affect the scalp as commonly thought. The eyebrows and beard area, as well as hairy parts anywhere on the body may be affected.
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.
In order to prevent drying and breakage, it’s best to stay away from heat tools, such as hair dryers and straightening irons. Extensions and other styling methods can also weaken your hair and cause early hair loss. If you must dye your hair, choose an all-natural hair color. Artificial chemicals found in dyes and perms can compromise your scalp and hair health. When you wash your hair, always use a nourishing conditioner to keep your scalp healthy and promote healthy hair growth.
MICHAEL REED, MD: Over-the-counter minoxidil, which is the brand Rogaine, is FDA approved. It's been shown to be effective in scientific studies. Propecia is the new drug on the block, and that probably is more effective. It's a pill that you take once a day, and that has been shown to slow down hair loss and grow hair in a significant number of individuals. Most of the other preparations that are heavily advertised or marketed are not proven to be effective.