Hair Loss In Women: Learn More About Androgenic Alopecia

The effects of Female Pattern Hair Loss

Alopecia is the medical term that refers to hair loss. Approximately 33 percent of women suffer from this condition at one point or another. Menopause is a particularly vulnerable time; up to 66 percent of women notice either bald spots or thinning. While men also suffer from hair loss, it seems to be harder for women to deal with. It is not quite as common and it holds more of a stigma. Therefore, alopecia takes a toll emotionally and can affect daily life.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most prevalent type of hair loss, for both men and women. Men generally notice a receding hairline begin near the temple; eventually, the hair takes on an “M” shape. It is not uncommon to have less hair on top, either, and some men eventually become bald.

For women, androgenetic alopecia starts with thinning near the area where they part their hair. There is then additional hair loss on the top of the head. Women are different from men in that they usually do not experience a receding hairline and they almost never become bald (although it is possible).

There are a lot of reasons why hair loss may occur. For some with female pattern hair loss, there is a medical issue involved. For others, it is the result of stress or a particular medication that they are taking. If you are losing hair, and you are not sure why, speak to your doctor right away. He or she can figure out what is going on and come up with a plan to help you going forward. In addition, depending on how you feel about the hair loss, you may want to request a referral to a support group or therapist. Hair loss can be very difficult to handle, but there are a lot of resources available to you on your journey.

Female Hair Loss: Type I, II & III

There are three types of female pattern hair loss. Type I is the least severe; the hair is thinning, but the issue can be concealed with creative hair styling techniques. Type II is a little more serious; the mid-line part is affected and there is less hair volume. Type III is the most severe; there is a lot of thinning, and the scalp shows through.

Androgenic Alopecia

The term “androgenic alopecia” was introduced earlier in this text, but many people are not familiar with it. Most women experience female pattern hair loss at some point in their lives. It can begin as early as puberty, but most women do not see a difference in their hair until menopause. There is a greater chance of hair loss as you get older, and the condition is genetic as well.

Androgen are hormones that both men and women have. They play a role in sex drive and hair growth. Androgenic alopecia results from the action of these hormones; it can be genetic. However, it can also come about because of an endocrine condition. For example, some people have too much androgen, while others have an androgen-secreting tumor. Regardless, the hair loss is thought to have something to do with heightened androgen activity. Androgenic alopecia is a little more clear cut with men. However, in women, it is difficult to figure out the role that androgen’s play in hair loss. Because there could potentially be a tumor, women need to have their androgen levels monitored if they are experiencing this issue.

Why do people with androgenic alopecia experience hair loss? There is less time for the hair to grow and more time for the hair to shed. As a result, once the hair falls out, there is a longer than normal delay before the hair begins to regrow. In addition, the follicle is different; it is smaller and shorter. Therefore, hair that is thicker (and lives longer) sheds and then a smaller, shorter hair takes its place.

Hair has three growth stages. The first in anagen; this is when the hair actively grows, and it can last anywhere from two to seven years. Next is catagen; this phase is much shorter at just two weeks. The hair shaft begins to go to the surface, while the dermal papilla starts to come apart from the follicle. The last phase is the resting phase, and it is known as telogen. Telogen lasts about ninety days, and when it is over, the hair sheds from the body.

A doctor makes a diagnosis based on a physical examination of the scalp and by looking at the patient’s medical history. If a pattern of hair loss is present, it may be necessary to run blood tests to figure out why the loss is occurring. For example, iron deficiency, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism could be part of the problem.


Most women with hair loss are prescribed medication to combat the issue. There are several types of medication that may be used. For example, Minoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, was initially created to help with high blood pressure. However, patients quickly realized that they were growing hair in areas where there had been previous loss. Studies showed that minoxidil was effective in helping hair growth. No one really knows why this is true, however.

There are several studies that show that minoxidil is effective. For example, in one, half of the participants had minimal hair growth (compared to 33 percent in the placebo group). Thirteen percent had moderate hair growth (compared to six percent in the placebo group). In another study, 60 percent of the women that received minoxidil saw some hair growth (40 percent in the placebo group reported hair growth).

Minoxidil does have drawbacks, however. Some users state that there is a residue from the solution that bothers their skin. This issue is known as contact dermatitis and is likely the result of the alcohol that is in the solution rather than the minoxidil. Ask your doctor about a prescription for the five percent solution rather than using the over the counter two percent solution. The former is available as a foam, which appears to be easier on the scalp.

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