What you need to know about female pattern hair loss

It can be traumatic for women to lose their locks but new procedures are proving to be a game changer for female pattern hair loss.

Did you know, nearly half of all females will be affected by hair loss during their lives, with female pattern hair loss (FPHL) being the most common cause?

When it comes to losing hair, it is men who tend to get all the limelight.

But, in reality, anyone can lose hair on their head.

Though we all shed up to 100 hairs daily, an unusual amount of hair falling when you brush, or in the shower, drain or on your pillow, can be a telltale indication of hair loss.

Here is what you need to know.

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What is female pattern hair loss?

Female pattern hair loss is a common condition causing a gradual thinning of hair in women.

It typically follows a distinct pattern, with hair thinning primarily at the crown and along the part.

Baldness is only seen in a minority of women — less than five per cent.

In contrast, men develop a receding hairline at the temples, thinning and eventually a bald spot on top before, ultimately, baldness over the entire crown.

“Female hair loss remains significantly under-represented in the health care landscape,” hair loss expert and Hair Doctors co-founder Dr Ateka Khan says.

“Unfortunately, we’re still seeing a lack of awareness and services for women grappling with hair loss.”

What causes female pattern hair loss?

FPHL, medically termed androgenetic alopecia, typically occurs due to a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors.

“FPHL is primarily rooted in genetic factors,” Dr Khan says.

“But it is important to recognise that shedding is often a complex and multifactorial issue, and hormones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and external stressors — from illnesses to significant weight loss — can all contribute to increased hair shedding.”

Is female pattern hair loss the same as alopecia?

While the word “alopecia” means hair loss, FPHL is not the same as alopecia areata — an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles.

In this type of alopecia, hair loss can occur on any part of the body that grows hair, including the scalp, eyebrows, arms or legs.

Can you prevent female pattern hair loss?

With hair loss, prevention is better than cure — it’s far easier to hang on to your hair while you have it, rather than try to grow it again later.

“Although genetics plays a large role in determining predisposition and age of onset of hair loss, there are ways to stabilise, stimulate, regrow and, importantly, retain your hair,” Dr Jared John, of the Hair Retention Clinic, says.

What treatments are available?

Because there are many potential reasons behind FPHL, you should speak to an expert before embarking on a treatment prescribed by Dr Google.

“Any treatment plan should begin with a practitioner or doctor looking at a patient individually — as their health, family history, diet and lifestyle can all have an impact,” Dr Khan says.

“I often encounter women who have undergone numerous treatments at cosmetic clinics for hair loss without receiving a proper diagnosis for the underlying causes.”

Do hair transplants work?

One option to replace what has been lost is a hair transplant.

Dr Khan says significant advancements in procedures over the past decade mean a more natural-looking result — as opposed to the earlier, less desirable “pluggy” appearance.

Hair transplants these days are also minimally invasive and involve no major surgery, no stitches and no overnight stay.

A follicular unit extraction procedure removes grafts of hair one at a time from the donor area of your head without a scalpel incision and then implants them where you need more hair coverage.

It is performed under local anaesthetic and leaves no permanent scarring.

Another option is direct hair implantation.

“This technique … grants the surgeon full control over the angle, depth and direction of hair placement,” Dr Khan says.

How to choose a hair transplant clinic

Dr Khan stresses the importance of research before committing to a clinic.

“When seeking a hair transplant clinic, it’s crucial to do your research and to ask the right questions,” she advises.

Ask about the clinic’s longevity

“A longer history often indicates experience and reliability,” Dr Khan notes.

Look at reviews

Read customer reviews and pay attention to who conducts the initial consultation.

“A hair transplant is a medical procedure and should be handled by qualified medical professionals,” Dr Khan says.

Consider their approach

Are they focused on providing a holistic plan or do they merely emphasise the transplant? “A comprehensive approach is essential to prevent further hair thinning,” Dr Khan says.

Talk money — and experience

“Make sure they’re transparent about cost and aftercare,” Dr Khan advises.

“ And lastly, experience counts — understand the qualifications and experience of the medical professionals who will be performing the procedure.”

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Written by Paul Ewart.