Hair loss at any age can be difficult to process. Gradually you look less and less like the person you once knew; you might feel like 21 but your receding hairline tells another story.
However hard it can be for blokes though, it’s far worse for women. Male baldness is distressing but at least it’s fairly common – and you don’t have much to lose in the first place.
For women, it’s our crowning glory, our defining feature.
Why do some of us suffer from hair loss and is there anything we can do to reverse or avoid it? According to Sally-Ann Tarver, consultant trichologist at The Cotswold Trichology Centre and Theradome GB, about one in four women will suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives. ‘This can be due to a wealth of different reasons,’ she says. ‘The common causes in younger women are nutritional – particularly iron deficiency due to heavy periods, childbirth or vegetarianism. ‘Low Vitamin D is also very common as it’s made in the skin during sun exposure – something we are limited on in the UK. ‘In older women, it tends to be due to hormones and genetic factors. Even women who are not genetically predisposed to hair loss will still experience a change in their hair due to ageing, where hair becomes thinner and finer with age.’
While it might be incredibly alarming and distressing, in many cases hair loss can be reversible. ‘With nutritional hair loss, it is a case of finding out what the cause is and treating it accordingly,’ Sally-Ann says. ‘Usually, hair will improve to some degree or at least stop getting thinner. For this, it is important to get help in establishing the cause then correcting it accordingly. ‘Hair loss in postmenopausal women is treatable but it depends on how thin the hair has become. As in the case of men, the earlier it is treated the better.’ So what can menopausal women do about it? ‘The problem here is, you don’t know that you have it until your hair has changed to some degree,’ Sally-Ann says. ‘You can’t prevent it with supplements and I certainly wouldn’t recommend all women use topical hair loss treatments just in case they develop postmenopausal hair loss. Laser Phototherapy can be used as a preventative treatment at any age.
‘It has no side effects and although it is largely used for moderate male and female pattern baldness, it also helps to reduce the signs of hair ageing, improving the thickness of individual strands over time.’ She says that for many women, it’s a ‘crushing experience’ that some never get over. ‘It affects their marriages, work, home life, drive and self-esteem,’ she says. ‘Some may reconsider having a family or more children for fear of repeating the hair loss trauma. Some centre their whole lives on doing or not doing things that may affect their hair. ‘I’ve had husbands call and email me at their wits’ end, not knowing what to do or how to support their wife. In some cases, people – not just women – become so consumed by their hair loss that even once it has been treated, stopped and grown back – they still obsess over it, like a kind of hair OCD.’ One former patient of hers, 10 years on after her initial one-off shedding (which happened due to coming off the pill), still sends her photos of her hair every few months for reassurance.
‘She has a massive amount of hair, twice as much as the average woman but is still convinced she is losing it,’ Sally-Ann says. ‘She counts the hairs lost daily and becomes hysterical if she loses 20 hairs in the wash rather than 10. Around 20 hairs is a very small number of hairs to lose during the washing process but for this lady, it is enough to spoil her day.’ But if you think that it only happens due to big upheavals like hormone and dietary changes, think again. One of the most common causes of hair loss is traction – wearing hair tied up for long periods of time. ‘Even tying loosely has a detrimental effect in some cases,’ says Sally-Ann. ‘Hair extensions also cause traction, even the really lightweight ones if they are repeatedly applied without breaks to allow the hair to rest and recover. ‘Basically, any hair regime that causes repeated tension to the same area, will cause a thinning in that area over a period of years due to hair being repeatedly pulled out.’
So that’s alarming. But Sally-Ann says that if you do notice more hair than usual coming out when you let your hair down at night, then the last thing you should do is stick your head in the sand. Long term hair loss becomes harder to treat the longer time ticks away – so the best thing you can do is book yourself to see a trichologist.
Article Credit: Miranda Larbi