Four common causes of hair loss in women

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 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.