Balding and thinning hair aren’t problems unique to men. Hereditary hair loss in women is more common than you may think. But unlike other types of hair loss caused by periods of stress, medical conditions and use of certain drugs, hereditary hair loss is permanent. According to the American Hair Loss Association, or AHLA, women have fewer options to treat their hair loss than men.
Hereditary hair loss in women — and men — also goes by the name “pattern baldness” and “androgenetic alopecia,” alopecia being the medical term for hair loss. This type of hair loss is characterized by a shortened period of hair growth; as cycles progress, the roots of your hair are less entrenched in your scalp, and hair sheds more easily. You’ll also notice a change in texture, as your hair grows out finer. According to the AHLC, hereditary hair loss is the most common type of hair loss in women.
Hereditary hair loss is typically more noticeable in men, who first notice a receding hairline and thinning hair and balding on the top of the head. Women experience diffuse or “all-over” hair loss that’s usually restricted to the front, sides and crown, according to MayoClinic.Com. Unlike men, women typically don’t go completely bald and generally still have a well-delineated hairline.
Who and Why
Hereditary hair loss affects some 30 million women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD. Your heredity plays a large role in androgenetic alopecia; it can be passed down from either your mother or father’s side of the family. However, the AHLA also notes that andogenetic alopecia can be influenced by hormones and their effect on your body, including hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause and when using certain types of oral contraceptives.
Hair loss that occurs due to a medical condition can be reversed with proper medical management. However, hereditary hair loss is difficult to treat in women. Men have the option of taking a prescription medication called finasteride. Because this is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in women, sufferers of female pattern baldness have limited options. Minoxidil 2-percent topical treatment is the only FDA-approved medication for hair loss in women, according to the AHLA. Hair replacement surgery may also be an option, if you’re a good candidate.
Hereditary hair loss in women isn’t just a cosmetic issue, according to the AAD; it can affect your overall quality of life, making you feel less attractive and taking a toll on your self-image. However, your hair loss may not be hereditary; sudden hair loss can be caused by illness, poor nutrition, pregnancy or a medication you’ve been taking, in which case hair grows back after the underlying cause is addressed. Contact your doctor with your concerns. The AAD also advises women to seek help from a dermatologist with expertise in treating hair loss.