Hair Loss – Not Just a Male Issue

By on September 23, 2013
woman holding hairbrush

By Beth Havey –

Hair loss, or thinning hair, is a condition no one wants – especially women.

My hair is very fine and I don’t have a lot of it.  I envy women with thick, luxurious hair and was shocked when a friend lamented her voluminous locks and wanted to have them thinned.  Really?  Aging will do that for you.  True, it’s another fun aspect of the roller coaster ride we get on in our fifties.  Finding more strands on your comb in the morning?  It’s a gift from the gods of the later decades.  Hair loss and balding doesn’t happen only to men!

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But in our current culture the shaved-head look suits many men.  Guys, are you starting to lose it?  Shave the head.  But seriously, when hair loss or thinning hair happens, it’s healthy for a man or a women to find out why it’s happening and what can be done to stop it or slow it.

It’s Called Alopecia – The medical term is alopecia and many men don’t want the bald look and are eager to avoid it.  That’s certainly true for women.  Unfortunately hair loss affects 1/3 of both sexes in their lifetime and should not be ignored.

Male-pattern baldness, considered a genetic condition, can happen in the teens or early 20s.  The hairline recedes at the temple and balding occurs on the top of the head.  The end result can be partial or total baldness.

Women’s hair loss is usually thinning of the hair at the front, sides and crown of the head; it rarely leads to total baldness.  Women often notice this thinning in their 50s and 60s.  The American Academy of Dermatology says it’s normal to lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands a day, but women will notice the loss increasing when there is hair on the pillow, when an abnormal amount stays in the comb, or when noticeable thinning occurs at the part.

Reasons for Hair Loss – There are two types of hair loss, scarring and non-scarring. Scarring hair loss means that the hair follicle is being damaged and hair can no longer grow. Non-scarring means that though you are experiencing hair loss the hair will grow back.  When you are losing larger than average amounts of hair, it’s a good idea to get a check-up that includes blood work.

Many conditions can bring about hair thinning and hair loss: pregnancy and a change in hormones is common.  Extreme stress, physical trauma like surgery, a major illness, and a dramatic weight loss over a short period of time can also contribute to hair loss.  Sometimes the loss occurs six months after any of these occurrences.  Poor nutrition where there is inadequate protein or iron in the diet, certain medications, diseases like diabetes and lupus, as well as poorly applied chemical treatments to the hair and scalp can also cause hair loss and damage.  And there is always heredity.

What type of doctor should you see if you have hair loss? A dermatologist. A visit to a dermatologist for hair thinning will probably include a pull test and some lab work.  To perform the pull test, gentle traction is exerted on 40-60 strands of hair on different areas of the scalp to see how easily and what number of hairs can be extracted.  Lab work includes a thyroid test and blood work, as thyroid disorders and anemia are common conditions leading to hair loss.  More rare medical conditions that cause hair loss include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), skin conditions that affect the scalp, and autoimmune diseases.

When scarring alopecia is suspected, one or more skin biopsies are done to confirm the diagnosis and help identify the particular form of scarring alopecia. A small biopsy of 2 to 4 mm in diameter is taken and examined under a microscope. A pathologist or dermatologist will look for destruction of the hair follicles, scar tissue deep in the skin, and the presence and location of inflammation in relation hair follicles.

Alopecia Areata  This is a hair loss condition that dermatologists frequently see.  This is different than thinning as the cause is immunologic and affects the production of the hair follicles.  Alopecia areata has a rapid onset that leaves a sharply defined round or oval bald area and can occur in children or adults.  If not treated future loss can occur.  Treatment consists of corticosteroid injections into the scalp every 3-4 weeks until a downy growth appears.  This usually takes 1-3 months.  However a new area of loss may develop, extending the time of needed treatment.  Often an iron supplement, multivitamin, and 1,000 mcgs of biotin per day are prescribed.  Biotin is a B vitamin that supports healthy nail and hair growth.

Scalp Applications  Minoxidil (Rogaine), a liquid or foam rubbed into the scalp, is a non-prescription medication approved for the treatment of alopecia areata and male-patterned baldness.  Statistics show that only 30-40% of clients using Rogaine experience hair growth, but that people often use it to preserve what they have.  If a woman wants to use Rogaine she should be post-menopausal as it can affect hormone function.  Hair re-growth can take 8-12 months and if treatment is stopped, hair loss will resume.

Nioxin Shampoo and Conditioner  For men and women like me who have always had thin hair or are starting to see thinning, the right hairstyle for your hair type and length is a good place to start.  Thinning hair can also be given a boost with hair products like Nioxin shampoo, conditioner and leave-in application.  The products are prepared for normal to thin-looking hair that is either chemically or not chemically treated, as well as for noticeable thinning hair, chemically or not chemically treated.  Hair can be a crowning glory or not!  But if you are experiencing hair loss or thinning hair protect your health and find out why this is happening.

Submitted by Beth Havey


Beth Havey is a Boomer, member of the sandwich generation, passionate about health and the snags in the fabric of life that affect our children and grandchildren. “Help me slow life down on BOOMER HIGHWAY Be sure to stop and to chat with me.”

About Beth Havey

Beth Havey is a Boomer, member of the sandwich generation, passionate about health and the snags in the fabric of life that affect our children and grandchildren. Help me slow life down on BOOMER HIGHWAY Be sure to stop and to chat with her.


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Hair Loss – Not Just a Male Issue