Female Pattern Baldness
Q: I've always had a thick, shiny head of hair, but recently I've
noticed clumps of it coming out when I brush. I usually blow-dry in the morning,
but I don't use dyes or any harsh chemicals. It's hard to believe
that hot air could be causing this much damage. Could it be something more serious?
Dr. Donnica: Yes, frequent blow drying, and even overenthusiastic brushing,
can exacerbate hair loss in women. We usually think of hair loss as something
that only affects men, but at least 20 million American women suffer from it!
The causes of hair loss or even baldness in women are poorly understood, but may
result from a combination of genetic factors, hormonal changes, improper hair
care, stress, certain diseases and certain medications.
To begin with, you should limit your blow-drying to special occasions only
and see if that helps. You can also lower the temperature or wait until your
hair has mostly air-dried before you use the blow dryer for styling only.
Did you recently have a baby, start taking birth control pills or are you nearing
menopause? Increased hair growth during pregnancy and then hair loss afterwards
is common, but levels off after 3 months. Similarly, hair loss can also occur
after a woman stops taking birth control pills.
Healthy hair is usually found on healthy people. Crash diets, hyper or hypothyroidism,
polycystic ovaries, and lupus can also cause hair loss. Chemotherapy is infamous
for causing reversible hair loss, but other medicines such as beta-blockers,
antidepressants, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs can also cause this.
Classic male baldness begins with a receding hairline. In women, hair loss
is common over the crown of the head. A diffuse thinning may occur, but frank
baldness is rare. Hair loss can also begin at the time of menopause. Estrogen
levels decrease and androgen ("male hormones") levels rise in proportion,
resulting in some hair loss for nearly 60% of menopausal women. While most women
react by covering it up, talking to your doctor may help: When hair loss is
the result of a medical condition, treating that condition may restore the lost
hair or prevent further loss.
In the meantime, if you're not already taking a multivitamin supplement,
you may want to start. There are even supplements specifically designed for
healthy hair (such as Nature's Bounty Vitamins for Hairô). For more information,
go to www.hairlosstalk.com.
Created: 11/24/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.