Female pattern baldness is also known as female androgenetic alopecia. It is a condition that occurs in women suffering from androgenetic alopecia. It causes a specific pattern of hair loss in women that is different from males. Male or female pattern baldness is hereditary and is more prominent in men than in women. In females this occurs mainly around menopause when the hormonal imbalance is very high. Female pattern baldness has bimodal age of onset that is it can occur in young age due to hormonal fluctuations and later due to aging or genetics. It must be taken up to a dermatologist to determine the root cause and begin treatment in time.
What Is Female Pattern Baldness?
Pattern baldness may be more common in men but over 50% of women suffer from this condition in India. Statistics suggest that around 45% of women post 80 years have a full head of hair. Usually around menopause, in the ages 50-60, pattern hair loss is common in women. However, sometimes females as early as their 20’s start experiencing this condition. It is a progressive hair deformity where hair thinning begins as an early sign. Baldness may not be apparent very soon in FPHL, but hair begins to thin out and original hair quality is lost. Then it gradually progresses to diffuse hair loss mainly from top of the head. Medically this condition is known as androgenetic alopecia as it is generally inherited from parents.
What Are The Signs Of Female Pattern Hair Loss?
FPHL is continuous in nature, which indicates that women will lose their hair in a gradual process. It starts with the widening of natural hair parting, and the hair near it appears thinner. The hair becomes fragile while combing/brushing and will break easily. In addition, the hair growth phase also slows down, making it longer for new hair to develop. The hair follicles begin to shrink and results in thinner and finer hair strands. This causes the hair to get brittle.
Female Pattern Baldness may not appear in patches (as seen with men), but the hair looses its volume and strength. It hardly ever progresses to complete baldness in women. Hair line may be intact in most cases however, the loss can be permanent if left untreated for long. Pattern baldness in women can be divided into three phases based on dermatologist treatment options –
- Type I – Small amount of hair loss beginning from natural hair parting site
- Type II – Widening of the natural parting and thinning of hair spreading across.
- Type III – Thinning of hair throughout the scalp with a prominent patch on the top of your scalp.
Also Read: Hair Loss Myths and Facts
What Are The Causes Of Female Pattern Baldness?
- Genetics – The major cause of female pattern hair loss is hereditary. Women inherit the gene of pattern baldness from either of their parent.
- Hormonal factors – FPHL becomes more common for women in their midlife, normally around menopause. This is when the hormonal fluctuations are at their peak. Androgen hormone may also cause this condition but it is not proved scientifically. Also certain conditions like PCOS and insulin resistance can be associated with FPHL
- Medicines – Certain drugs like cancer treatment medicines can cause hair loss as a side effect. The condition may reverse once medicine is stopped, but it depends on individual health factors
Other conditions that contribute to worsening of female pattern baldness include –
- Autoimmune diseases – In these diseases the immune system attacks the healthy hair follicles, worsening hair loss.
- Other ailments – Diseases like high fever, infections and surgery can also result in contributing to pattern hair loss in women
Stages Of Female Pattern Baldness – Images
Is Female Pattern Baldness Reversible?
Yes, female pattern hair loss is reversible only when the treatment is begun early on. Women can experience hair loss for reasons other than pattern baldness. If they have lost the majority of their hair for the above reasons, then the baldness can be also reversed.
Treatment Options For Female Pattern Baldness
There are various internal and external treatments used by dermato-trichologists to cure and reverse pattern baldness in women. Internal medication entails the use of androgen blockers, whereas external treatment requires the use of Minoxidil and Platelet Rich Plasma therapy or hair transplant.
- PRP – Platelet Rich Plasma is a non-invasive, safe and effective therapeutic treatment that has gained popularity for its excellent results. The method involves the use of the patient’s own blood, which is withdrawn usually from the arm, thereafter; it is centrifuged, allowing only the enriched platelets to remain. This platelet-rich plasma is injected into the patient’s scalp to encourage and stimulate dormant hair follicles. The growth factors in the activated PRP help in restoring and re-growing the lost hair naturally.
- Minoxidil – The only topical treatment approved by USFDA for pattern hair loss in women is minoxidil. It comes in foam or solution form (2%and 5%) and is applied directly to the scalp to help re-grow the lost hair. It is available over the counter, and is rated safe for women except for pregnant and lactating women. It can range from 2% to 5% in concentration and must be used only after dermatologic consultation as it comes with a few side effects. If not applied carefully, Minoxidil can cause hair growth in unwanted places such as on your forehead and sides of your cheek. Do not use Minoxidil if the side effects become severe or cause any discomfort.
- Medication – There are certain pills/ tablets that help overcome female pattern hair loss –
- Spironolactone – This is a powerful drug that can decrease androgen (hormone) production, which may have triggered.
- Cyproterone acetate – It is a birth control pill that helps block androgen in women, thereby treating Female Pattern Hair loss. This medicine rarely leads to blood clots
- Finasteride – It is mainly prescribed only for women who have entered their menopause phase, as it may cause abnormalities during menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Very useful for women who suffer from high testosterone levels in this age group
- Flutamide – Another drug that helps block the effects of excess androgen in women. It may come with several side effects; therefore, it must be used under strict medical guidance.
- Laser treatment for hair growth – Handheld devices emitting low level of laser light, help in stimulating new hair growth. USFDA approves certain kinds of devices, but they must be used under medical guidance to avoid any side effect.
- Hair transplant surgery – It is an invasive procedure where a graft of hair is removed from your scalp surgically, and then it is harvested and tiny grafts are sutured back at the bald patch. It uses follicular unit extraction technique where each graft that is removed from donor site, is divided into a few of tiny grafts containing one to two hair, and each of them is planted back in the scalp creating a slit in the bald patch. This enables new hair growth, thus treating pattern baldness. Only a very low percentage of women qualify for this procedure since their donor sites are unstable.
How To Prevent Hair Fall For Female?
- Avoid over styling of hair and heat based tools like dryer, straightener and curler as they damage the hair
- Do not pull the hair too tightly while styling, as it causes hair loss
- Limit the use of chemical based hair-products
- Follow proper hair hygiene and hair care routine
- Consume a balanced diet with adequate quantity of all necessary vitamins and minerals
- Consult with your dermatologist before using any topical medicines like minoxidil and finasteride, for hair growth
- Use a synthetic pillow cover and bed-sheet that do not cause any hair pulling.
- Check for signs of hair loss, like more than normal hair fall in a day
Can women get female pattern baldness in their 20s?
Yes, women can get androgenetic alopecia as early as 20’s due to hereditary factors.
Is hair loss in women different than in men?
Yes, as the factors that cause hair loss in men are different from those in women, in most cases. Therefore, the hair loss pattern in men is different than that of women. Women generally do not get bald completely and rarely do they develop a receding hairline and hair loss around crown and temple regions, unlike men.
How does hair transplantation in women differ from the procedure in men?
Only very few women are a candidate for this invasive and surgical procedure. As most women have diffuse hair loss instead, which cannot be treated with hair transplant. However, in men mostly 90% can go ahead and get this procedure to treat baldness. This surgery can only be done under clinical conditions. A graft of hair is removed from a donor area on the candidate’s body and many tiny grafts are cut out to be sutured back as slit over the bald patches, this would enable hair growth further. However, in women, the donor areas are usually unstable due to many reasons, hence it may not be useful in grafting at all.