Four common causes of hair loss in women

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Around four in ten women will suffer hair loss at some point in their lives, which can be very distressing – especially if you don’t know exactly what’s causing it. Crown Clinic’s Dr Asim Shahmalak is here to talk you through four of the most common causes of female hair loss. 

Dr Shahmalak explains: ''Thinning hair does happen in around 30% of women going through menopause. This typically happens between the ages of 40 and 55, with the most common ages between 45 and 50. The changes in a woman's body lead to hormonal imbalances which result in hair loss for around a third of women.

''The most effective way of treating this is HRT – hormone replacement therapy. This is effective in restoring the hair in around 50% of cases.

''Unfortunately, hair lost during the menopause does not grow back in women for whom HRT was not effective. This can be very stressful for women who, like men, suffer a loss of self-esteem through having thinning hair. However, like men, they can treat this hair loss with a hair transplant which is effective is more than 90% of cases.

''Around 10% of my hair transplant patients are women – and half of these are post-menopausal. It is wonderful to see women who have lost their hair during what is a vulnerable time of their lives anyway regaining their confidence through having their hair restored. It is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.''

Traction alopecia 
Dr Shahmalak said: ''Traction alopecia through pulling hair too tightly is a fairly common problem, particularly among women of Afro-Caribbean origin. The most famous example is the supermodel Naomi Campbell who was pictured a few years ago with a significant bald patch at the front of her scalp.

''She obviously has access to the best hairdressers in the world and had covered this condition up quite effectively with hair extensions, but her bald patches were highly visible when she has pictured swimming. Naomi will have damaged her hair follicles permanently at the front of the scalp through pulling hair back too tightly.

''This condition doesn't only affect women either. Calum Best, a hair transplant patient of mine at Crown Clinic, damaged his hair permanently by wearing his hair in the so-called 'Croydon Ponytail'- tightly pulled back at the front – when he was in his early 20s. He believes this may have led to his early onset of hair loss, and I’m inclined to agree with his analysis. Most hair loss in men is hereditary, but there isn’t a history of hair loss in Calum’s family, so traction alopecia partly explains his early hair loss.''

Dr Shahmalak said: ''Sometimes, random bald patches can happen to anyone for no particular reason – we call this condition alopecia areata. Thankfully, it is very rare, but we have seen people who lose their hair for no clear reason and remain bald.

''Unfortunately, there is very little doctors can do to treat this condition. It is not caused by stress or poor diet – it just happens. If it affects the whole scalp, it is called alopecia totalis, which is even more rare. However, the rarest type is alopecia Universalis, where there is no hair on the body at all. I have only seen one patient with this in almost 30 years of practice.

''One way of treating alopecia is the use of steroids but these aren't always effective. Sadly, hair transplants tend not to be effective for alopecia sufferers because there is no guarantee that the transplanted hair will grow back.”

Dr Shahmalak said: “Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may experience thinning hair. This is quite a common condition, and it happens when multiple cysts on the ovary lead to a hormonal imbalance, which can trigger the loss of hair. Women with PCOS will often develop facial hair and new hair on their arms, chest and buttocks, yet they will recede on the scalp. It is an extremely unpleasant condition. It is estimated one in five women in the UK has polycystic ovaries, yet only half of these have any symptoms.

If you are suddenly experiencing hair loss but are not sure what’s triggering it, make sure to visit your GP to give you peace of mind.

Our Surgeon

Dr. Asim Shahmalak

Dr Asim Shahmalak is a world-renowned hair transplant surgeon who performed the UK’s first eyelash transplant in 2009. He runs Crown Clinic – one of Britain’s most successful and best known hair transplant clinics. He has treated a number of high-profile industry leaders and celebrities including the medical broadcaster Dr Christian Jessen, best known for Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.

Expert hair transplant surgery by Dr Shahmalak

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When the sun comes out, we know that we need to apply sunscreen to protect our skin, but many people forget to pay the same care to protecting their hair. Between the sun, sea and swimming pools, many of our favourite summer activities can significantly damage our hair – so the next time you go out to enjoy the sunshine, find out what you can do to protect it.


Why does sun damage the hair?


Sun damage to the hair is caused by the harmful UVA and UVB rays, which damage the outermost layer of the layer – the cuticle – and weaken the protein structure of the hair, making it dry, brittle and more prone to breaking. Some people find that their hair lightens in the sun, as the rays act in a similar fashion to bleach, stripping the melanin from the hair.


Protecting your hair from the sun


Wearing a hat is an easy way to protect your hair and scalp from the sun, especially if you’re outside when the sun is at its strongest. Hair SPF is also an option, which can usually be bought as a spray to be misted over the hair. Pay extra attention to the scalp – many people forget that the scalp can burn just as easily as the rest of the skin, ending up with an itchy, flaky, burnt scalp. If you do burn your scalp, rinse your hair in cool water and apply aloe vera to the affected areas, and make sure to keep your head covered when going outdoors.

If your hair is looking dry, try a deep conditioning treatment to restore some of the lost moisture to the hair, and avoid wearing your hair in any tight styles that may pull on the scalp. Summer is also a good time to temporarily stop using hairdryers, straighteners and any other hot tools to avoid adding to the sun damage.


Protecting your hair from the sea


Salt water is notorious for drying out the hair. It leaches moisture out of it, making it incredibly brittle and tangled, which can cause significant breakage. Before you go swimming, saturate your hair with clean water to prevent it from absorbing as much salt water, and don’t let it sit in your hair – rinse it thoroughly as soon as you get out of the sea. Deep conditioners and hair masks will also help replenish the moisture.


Protecting your hair in a swimming pool


Just like salt water, chlorinated water is very harsh and drying on the hair, so you can take similar precautions to swim in the sea. You could also try a swimming cap, as this not only prevents the chlorine from damaging your hair, but it will also protect your scalp from sunburn. If you have highlighted or blonde hair, be especially careful when in a swimming pool, as the copper and chlorine in the water have been known to form a film that sticks to the proteins in hair, turning it a green shade. Thankfully, this isn’t permanent, but make sure to enter the pool with wet hair and rinse it as soon as you get out.

However you are spending your summer, if you have any questions or queries about your hair, take a look at our hair advice or give our team a call.

Over the past few months, there have been a significant number of reports in the news of people experiencing hair loss after being diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed hair loss as a possible long-term effect of the illness, along with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and joint pain. 

A study published by the medical journal The Lancet reported that 22% of the patients it had observed suffered from some degree of hair loss six months after falling ill, with women being more affected than men. 


Why does COVID-19 cause hair loss? 


Although there are several studies linking coronavirus and hair loss, many of the reports we hear about are anecdotal – at the moment, it’s too soon for scientists to officially establish a link between the two. 

However, the type of hair loss that COVID-19 sufferers are reporting seems to be consistent with telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hairs than usual suddenly enter the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle at once, causing a more noticeable amount of hair to shed at once. It’s normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day, but if you spot that you’re losing much more than that – such as clumps coming out when you’re brushing or washing your hair – it could be telogen effluvium. 

Due to the length of the hair cycle, telogen effluvium typically occurs two or three months after a period of significant stress, which can include illnesses such as COVID-19. When undergoing stressful situations, the body puts all its resources into maintaining essential functions only – which, unsurprisingly, does not include hair growth. As a result, you end up with hair loss. 

However, several other conditions can cause hair loss – such as thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies – so if you are concerned, visit your GP, who can rule out other underlying causes with a simple blood test. 


Will my hair grow back after having COVID? 


If the hair loss is the result of telogen effluvium, most people will find that the hair will eventually grow back without the need for treatment. Typically, once the trigger or stressor is removed, the hair will grow back on its own. 

If you notice that the hair loss is persisting, there are a number of medical, cosmetic and hair transplant treatments available to help – Crown Clinic offers a range of options to support those struggling with hair loss, so don’t hesitate to get in touch

When performed by a qualified, experienced hair transplant surgeon, hair transplants are a very safe procedure. Hair restoration is a minimally invasive treatment that allows patients to return home the same day, with the procedure only requiring local anaesthetic. 

However, if you undergo a hair transplant abroad – such as in Turkey – the risk attached is much higher. 


Risks of hair transplants in Turkey 


It’s no secret that undergoing hair transplant surgery in countries such as Turkey is a gamble. Every year, countless patients are reeled in by the low prices and package deals offered by overseas clinics. Many of the clinics boast ‘five-star’ ratings and an active social media presence, duping unsuspecting patients into thinking they are visiting a reputable clinic. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you may discover the reviews are faked and the ‘after’ pictures are heavily edited or taken from other clinics. 

Another trick that patients fall for is believing that a surgeon will be carrying out the procedure, as many of the clinics advertise that a surgeon leads them to convince patients that they are legitimate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a surgeon will be carrying out the hair transplant itself. In fact, many clinics hire under-qualified technicians with little training to keep the costs down, only seeking the supervision of a surgeon if the procedure goes wrong. 

Over the years, Crown Clinic has fixed countless botched hair transplants, mainly from overseas clinics. The most common problems that we see are unnatural-looking hairlines and unsightly scarring as the result of the surgery being carried out by unlicensed practitioners. Other risks are infections, as sanitation is often extremely poor at the clinics and damage to the scalp due to the result of the incorrect tools being used to carry out the surgery. 


Are there any side effects to having a hair transplant? 


If you choose to have a hair transplant in the UK with a reputable surgeon, side effects will be minimal. The hygiene standards will be incredibly high, meaning the risk of infection is negligible, and you will be given clear instructions on how to take care of your scalp after the procedure. Crown Clinic has an excellent aftercare service, offering a day-by-day guide to ensure optimum healing and results.  

Unlike at overseas clinics, where it can be impossible to follow up after the procedure to discuss any concerns related to your hair transplant, Crown Clinic is more than happy to answer any questions you may have during this phase.