What is alopecia in women and do I have it?

Alopecia in women can take many forms and there are many causes. But maybe all is not lost.

There a few different types of alopecia in women as well as many other reasons you could be losing your hair unrelated to alopecia. A misconception seems to exist that ‘alopecia’ means chunks of your hair spontaneously falling out and never returning. This is not really the case, and if you read on, you will discover that whilst alopecia can mean complete hair loss, it’s more likely to mean something far less dramatic.

Types of alopecia in women

Alopecia Areata. Chances are that this is what’s popping into your head when you think of alopecia. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease which can present with patchy hair loss all over the scalp which you can see pictured here (diffuse alopecia areata), complete baldness of the scalp (alopecia totalis), baldness in one area of the scalp (alopecia areata monolocularis), hair loss in multiple areas (alopecia areata multilocularis), and total hair loss including: head, face, body, pubic hair etc. (alopecia universalis).

Areas of hair loss in patients with alopecia areata are usually well defined, rounded patches. Like most autoimmune diseases, it occurs due to the body’s inability to differentiate between its own cells and foreign cells. This leads to the body attacking its own cells, in this case, the anagen hair follicles. Alopecia areata is pretty rare (affecting 0.1 – 0.2% of people) so it’s unlikely alopecia areata is the reason for your hair loss. It is, however, more likely if you have other autoimmune diseases or have family members with alopecia areata or other autoimmune diseases.

Thoroughly examine the pattern of your hair loss, and if you believe your hair loss is occurring in well defined, circular patches, you may, in fact, have alopecia areata. Ask your GP to have a look and perhaps refer you to a specialist.

If it is determined that alopecia areata is the reason for your hair loss, don’t fret, because often the condition will fix itself within a few months to a year. There are also medications (most commonly corticosteroids) that you can take to speed up the return of your hair. You may get flare ups from time to time, especially during periods of stress, so it’s important to keep yourself happy and healthy.

Female Androgenic Alopecia. Androgenic alopecia is also known as female pattern baldness (yep, just like male pattern baldness, but don’t worry, you’re unlikely to experience as much hair loss as men do!). This actually IS likely to be your problem and will affect more than 50% of women at some point in their life. If this is your problem, you will likely notice a widening part and/or thinning at the crown/back of your head.

Visit your GP for a general health check and mention you are experiencing thinning hair. A blood test can be ordered which could rule out other possible causes. The bad news about this one, though, is that there is currently no cure. While there are some products that may increase hair regrowth for the time you are using them, they never actually reverse the issue in any permanent way.

Be careful not to buy into the vast array of expensive chemical lotions, potions and drops that are supposed to regrow your hair – they have a very limited efficacy. Your doctor may recommend some dietary changes and/or supplements to ensure that there’s nothing else causing your hair loss, but for the most part, you’re going to want to invest in a cotton hair fibre like BOOSTnBLEND which will cover any thinning patches you may have.

Non-Alopecia Hair Loss

So what if you don’t have alopecia? Why is your hair falling out!? Well, there could be a number of reasons. The good news about these is that they are usually temporary and will fix themselves up!

Telogen Effluvium. Just like androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium is really common. This occurs when your body has been through a period of stress. This could mean emotional stress like a divorce or losing your job or it could mean physical stress like major surgery or dramatic weight loss. Your body reckons your hair is pretty unimportant, so as soon as you go through a stressful event and your body needs to assign resources all around your body, it pretty quickly stops seeing hair as a priority.

You may be thinking, “well this isn’t me. Life’s good at the moment.” Well, your hair goes through various phases, so it may be weeks or even months until your hair reacts to your stress. The good news, if this is your problem, is that your body will likely regain its equilibrium on its own and your hair will come back.

Pregnancy. Similar to telogen effluvium, this is all to do with those good old hair cycles! When you’re pregnant, your higher levels of estrogen prolong the growth phase of your hair so that you actually shed fewer hairs. Once you’ve given birth, these levels fall along with all that extra hair you were holding on to! Most women find that their hair returns to normal within a year. Some women find that they don’t go through this experience with all their pregnancies and some can be on their third or fourth pregnancy and experiencing it for the first time whilst some women will experience it in their first pregnancy.

Menopause. Just like with pregnancy, menopausal hair loss is all about estrogen. Aging changes the density of your hair as well as the quality of your hair follicles. The bad news here is that, unlike with post pregnancy hair loss, your hair is unlikely to return to its former glory. All is not lost, however, as BOOSTnBLEND can cover your thinning areas and give you the overall appearance of thicker hair.

Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies. This reason for hair loss is actually quite common in women, so it’s worth getting a quick blood test from your doctor. Like telogen effluvium, once your deficiencies are corrected, your hair should return on its own.

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