Hair Loss in Women

What is female hair loss?

womens hair lossDespite the share of media attention, hair loss isn’t just a male problem. Affecting up to six million women in the UK alone it’s a common problem that is often incredibly distressing yet still one that is neglected by many health providers.

Often a life-changing condition for women, affecting confidence, sex life and happiness, hair loss isn’t as well understood or socially acceptable as its male equivalent. Women are affected by similar forms of abnormal hair loss to men, with androgenetic alopecia, female pattern baldness, and alopecia areata the most common.


Androgenetic alopecia in women is caused by an imbalance of, or sensitivity to, the androgen hormones, particularly the male hormone, DHT, which is normally present in small quantities. Sensitivity to DHT, which has a strong genetic component, is thought to shrink hair follicles.

A change in levels or sensitivity can be due to ovarian cysts, certain contraceptive pills, pregnancy and menopause. Also hair loss is one symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the most common female hormone disorder yet often goes undiagnosed.

Alopecia areata presents as hair loss in patches and is often linked to genetics, stress, chemical exposure or infections. Traction alopecia is caused by tight hairstyles that cause trauma to the hair follicles over time, particularly hair extensions, tight ponytails, cornrows and braiding.

Available treatments

Unfortunately research dedicated to female hair loss is a small percentage of a small field and the effectiveness of treatments tend to vary from case to case.

Systemic treatment of female hair loss, with internal treatment such as a pill, is usually limited unless it’s certain the symptoms are caused by androgen hormone levels. Therefore localised (topical) treatments are more commonly prescribed, such as Minoxidil solution. Other treatments are often used, such as hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives and other topical solutions though results are highly varied.

Trying to identify the cause of hair loss is often the key to treatment and if caught early short-term cases can be easily fixed. However some sufferers, especially those with unknown causes or a genetic factor, can struggle with hair loss their entire lives.


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Hair Loss in Women by Dr Tony Steele (Index Medical Ltd) ().