Women's hair loss cause and remedies: Facts and myths
Aging, some medications and underlying medical conditions can all contribute to thinning and hair loss among women. Knowing the cause and what you can do to remedy the problem and understanding myths that can lead to money poorly spent are important for women concerned about their options for optimal health and beauty. It’s also important to remember that some women have thin hair simply because it’s in their genes. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia.
A common cause of thin hair is from pulling it too tight into a ponytail or other style that puts traction on the roots. Thinning hair or hair loss that comes from persistent pulling is known as traction alopecia.
Some women twist and pull the hair often, in response to stress. The condition is known as trichotillomania that can become an unrecognized habit. Being aware and seeking stress reduction with counseling or medications can help. Twisting and pulling hair results in broken off patches, making the ends of the hair thinner overall appearance uneven.
Several types of drugs can cause alopecia in women. You’ll want to discuss your prescriptions with your doctor before stopping any of them.
Medications that can cause hair loss in women include some antidepressants, anti-fungal and epilepsy drugs, birth control pills, antibiotics, some blood pressure medication, steroids, thyroid medication and weight loss pills. You can speak with your pharmacist or physician to find out if your prescription drugs are causing thinning hair or hair loss.
A condition known as Telogen effluvium can cause widespread hair loss in women, as opposed to patchy loss of hair. It happens when you start to find hairs in the sink and on your hair brush. One reason it can occur is from low levels of thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Drugs, stress, surgery and other chronic illnesses can also cause your hair to fall out. If all other reasons have been explored, you might need to ask your doctor to check your thyroid hormone level that can be done with a simple blood test.
Myths about women’s hair loss
There are myths that women with thinning hair or hair loss should avoid hair sprays, coloring, teasing the hair and frequent shampooing.
Hair products can make a positive difference for women whose hair is thin or falling out. Contrary to popular belief, hair products won’t make the problem worse.
The only FDA approved hair loss treatments are minoxidil and finasteride – a drug used to treat enlarged prostate gland in men, but has been tested for hair loss in women. Vitamins, herbs and other products applied to the scalp are not shown to remedy thinning hair or hair loss in women or men.
Supplementing the diet with biotin, a B vitamin, is suggested as a hair loss remedy, but no clinical studies show the vitamin supplement will help unless there is a chronic underlying health condition that causes a biotin deficiency. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables instead to ensure you’re getting B vitamins that also promote healthy skin and nails.
There are several causes for hair loss or alopecia in women. Thinning hair may be a natural part of aging that can be remedied by taking advantage of modern day shampoos and other hair products that make hair appear thicker. Hair loss can occur from too much pulling, thyroid deficiency, genes, stress and some prescription drugs. When all else fails, consider adding a new and shorter style that can make your hair look fuller and thicker.
American Family Physician
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Hair loss remedies: Separating fact from fiction
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