Fortunately, understanding the mechanism of hair growth and its link to hormones can help a woman prevent or even treat this symptom. The number and thickness of hair strands on a human head varies. This depends mainly on color. Blond hair tends to be the thinnest, but at the same time the densest, averaging about 140,000 strands at any given time. Brown hair is about 110,000 and quite thicker. Black hair is 108,000 and significantly thicker. Red is the thickest, but the least dense with an average of 90,000 hair strands. Of course these numbers may vary depending on ethnicity, heredity, nutrition and life style.
Hair is composed of a protein called keratin, which is generated under the skin inside the hair follicles. The visible part of the hair is basically dead keratin cells, same as those constituting the nails. Each person loses an average of 50 to 100 hairs each day. This is perfectly normal and should not be alerting or confused with hair loss. These hairs are constantly being regenerated. Each new hair strand continues to grow constantly for about 2 to 6 years. This phase is called anagen. By the end of this period, growing stops and the hair enters a transitional phase, which is called catagen and lasts for 2 weeks. During this phase, the papilla detaches from the hair follicle and blood stops nourishing the hair. The hair though will still remain attached to the scalp for another 1 to 4 months after which it will fall. This last phase is called telogen.
Hormonal factors can disrupt and/or slow down the hair regeneration process both in men and women. Female hair loss is most common during menopause and is not to be confused with male baldness, which follows a completely different pattern and is known as androgenic alopecia. In that case hair starts falling out above the forehead and on top of the head, while female hair loss manifests mainly as thinning and an overall reduced density of hair on the entire scalp. A recently introduced scientific term for this condition is female pattern hair loss.
Signs of hair LossSince a certain amount of daily hair loss is normal and female pattern hair loss affects most of the times the entire scalp evenly, it might not be easy for a woman to notice it on time. Therefore, it is important, especially during menopause, to pay extra attention to any differences that might occur on your hair shaft, without of course developing a phobia of whether it will happen to you or not. This might cause stress, which is one of the main reasons for hair loss, as we will see further on. Your hair stylist is also someone, who might notice it and has the knowledge to determine if any real symptoms are present. Ask for his/her opinion, if you notice any of the following hair loss symptoms:
• Diffuse thinning of hair at the temples, front or crown of the head
• Receding hairline above the forehead and/or top of the head
• Bald patches with itching and redness
If you notice any of the above symptoms, you should immediately see a dermatologist. Be aware that the sooner this condition is diagnosed and treated, the biggest the chances of it being stopped or even reversed.
Note: If you do not comb or brush your hair on a daily basis, but when you do, you see large snarls of hair on your brush, comb or in the bathtub, it is absolutely normal, if it is not accompanied by any of the aforementioned symptoms.
Hair Loss Causes
One of the most common causes for hair loss in women is hormonal imbalance due to menopause. When women enter this phase, female hormones decrease. Estrogen is the hormone, which maintains the length and density of your hair. Its loss is the main cause of female pattern hair loss or otherwise known as estrogenic alopecia, which results in diffuse thinning of hair over the entire scalp.
As female hormones decrease, they are replaced by male hormones. Specifically an androgen called dihydrotestosterone or DHT, which is also the one responsible for male baldness, when present in high levels it appears to gradually shrink the hair follicle. This shortens the regeneration cycle of each hair and causes them to grow thinner, until they eventually stop being replaced after they fall. At the same time, dihydrotestosterone increases facial hair even on women.
In addition to the hormonal imbalance, which is usually the main reason for menopausal hair loss, there are many other causes, which contribute to this condition, such as pituitary and thyroid disorders, anemia, chronic illnesses or even pregnancy. Eating disorders, stress, depression and traumatic experiences are some other very important factors. We cannot stress enough the importance of vitamins and supplements, as well as exercise. Poor nutrition, smoking, drugs, deficiency of iron, B, C and E vitamins, insufficient protein intake and excessive vitamin A intake can sometimes trigger hair loss more rapidly than hormonal imbalance. A radical change in one’s lifestyle can significantly decrease or even completely treat menopausal hair loss.
Chemical hair dyes and frequently used styling products damage hair. Be careful not to pull or twist your hair on a daily basis. Long-term Afro-textured hairstyles should be avoided, as they cause permanent, irreversible hair loss in all ages, regardless of hair color, hormone levels and heredity.
According to the American Hair Loss Society 99% of the treatments used annually by Americans bring no results. Therefore, an alternative, more natural approach should be followed, one which holistically regenerates, heals and balances the whole body. Hair and skin are only the visible indicators of one’s overall, inner health. In addition to the aforementioned necessary life style changes, homeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, herbal remedies and yoga can also do miracles. Chemical medications and hair transplant surgeries should only be one’s last resort.
Know all causes for menopausal hair loss.