Regrettably, thinning hair is a very natural part of growing old. Unfortunately, the problem of such thinning hair and the further problem of baldness in women, causes embarrassment to many thousands of people. Indeed, Dr Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist and director of healthcare transformations at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, states that ‘it’s perfectly normal to lose about 100 hairs a day, no matter your age’.
For many of us, the effects of losing hair may not show very much, but for some, the effects can be quite noticeable, leaving you feeling self-conscious and even unattractive.
What Causes Thinning Hair and Baldness in Women?
There are a number of reasons why your hair may thin or fall out as you grow older. One of the causes is a condition called alopecia, which affects around 8 million women in the UK alone.
The most common types of alopecia are androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male or female pattern baldness, and alopecia areata.
Androgenetic alopecia classically manifests itself in a receding hairline in males, followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples, whereas in females it tends to only thin on top of the head. Alopecia areata often starts with individual bald patches about the size of a 10p piece. The condition can remain as patches or can develop to total baldness and in the most severe cases can even result in loss of eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair. There are many other types of hair loss too.
Regardless of the type of alopecia, the emotional impact of losing hair is something that medical professionals can often overlook.
Additionally, even just going through the menopause can trigger hair-loss. Benabio continues, stating that ‘it’s not uncommon for menopausal women to experience hair thinning and hair loss simultaneously.’ Additionally, as we age, our hair follicles naturally get smaller, which produces hairs that are so thin, they cannot be easily seen. This creates the impression of baldness in women.
And of course, if you’re going through chemotherapy, losing your hair is a well-known side-effect. In most instances, this is only temporary and the hair will return after treatment.
Emotional Responses to the Condition
As Jackie McKillop, spokesperson for Alopecia UK and junior nursing sister at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge comments: ‘For women, there is a social stigma attached to going bald. Hair loss can affect your sensuality and how you perceive yourself.’
Naturally, this can have a knock-on effect in terms of self-confidence. Women may feel shyer about leaving the home and reluctant to engage in activities such as swimming or going to the gym, due to embarrassment about exposing their head in front of others.
It may also leave you feeling less attractive, which can be detrimental to your relationship with your partner. A survey conducted by Hairline International, a baldness support group, revealed that 78% of its female members didn’t feel like women after losing their hair and close to half reported that it had affected their marriage.
Finding the Solution
If your thinning hair is only a minor problem, you may be able to use hairsprays and gels to add volume to the existing hairs. Choosing the right hairstyle may also help; and generally, having shorter hair makes it easier to conceal the fact that your hair is thinning. Be aware that darker hair dyes may make the condition more noticeable.
There are certain products available in your local high street pharmacy that may help reduce the effects of thinning hair; though a review featured in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 indicated that only 13% of users experience moderate results, with 50% noticing slight improvement.
It may also be worth discussing the issue with your doctor, particularly if you’re taking HRT, as this can sometimes exacerbate the situation. For those who are suffering complete or partial baldness, a hair transplant could be a viable option. Again, it’s best to talk things through with your GP before making any decisions.
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