Why is my hair falling out? Reasons women go bald

It’s not just men that find themselves balding or shedding hair — nearly half the female population will suffer from hair loss, too.

The pain of hair loss is something Katrina Hoult, 39, knows all too well.

As a child, Katrina was diagnosed with alopecia, and has battled hair loss and baldness throughout her life.

Katrina’s hair grew back in her teens, but the condition struck again in her 20s.

“I ended up wearing wigs because if I was out with a group of friends, someone would say something,” Katrina says.

“People would look and point. It was tough.

“There is so much emphasis on hair for females.

“Every time you go to a party with friends, everyone does their hair before going out, especially if you go to a wedding.

“Even just doing your hair every day — it is things like that you don’t get.”

These days, Katrina embraces her baldness rather than hiding it.

After having her two pre-teen children recently diagnosed with the same condition, she’s spreading awareness and wants people to be kinder and more accepting.

Who experiences hair loss?

When we talk about hair loss, typically, people believe it’s something that happens to men.

But in reality, women encounter it, too, and much more regularly than you might think.

About 49 per cent of women will be affected by hair loss (known as alopecia) at some point in their lives, which can cause a lot of embarrassment and emotional stress.

And like balding in males, genetics can play a part in hair loss for females.

What constitutes hair loss?

Research shows it’s normal to lose hair, with most people shedding between 50 and 100 strands a day.

It can become a problem when losing more.

For women, the most common condition is female pattern hair loss, where hair starts to thin all over.

However, there are also more severe conditions where women lose all their head hair and, in some cases, hair from the rest of their body, including eyebrows.

The emotional fall-out of hair loss

Of course, any level of hair loss is upsetting, but it’s especially so for women, with females reporting higher levels of distress compared to men when it occurs.

“It’s hard on women and children,” Chel Campbell from the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation says.

“There’s a stigma about it and there are questions constantly asked of women in regard to their condition.”

She adds that women who suffer severe hair loss are often stared at in public, assumed to have cancer, or probed with awkward questions, even when they try to hide their condition with wigs.

What causes female hair loss

Every woman is different, but there are a few well-known causes that trigger hair loss.

Postpartum shedding is common with new mums.

The sudden fall of the estrogen hormone after giving birth causes hair to shed around the face, which tends to peak between four and five months after delivery.

In most cases, though, it’ll grow back by the baby’s first birthday.

Another key stage in life when hair loss happens is menopause.

This is a time when a high number of women report thinning across the scalp.

Professor David Salinger of the International Association of Trichologists says estrogens are good for the hair, while androgens (another hormone) are bad for the hair.

“So, as estrogens decrease after menopause, androgens have more influence, triggering or worsening female pattern hair loss,” Prof Salinger explains.

“Oral contraceptives can also have an influence.”

Other common causes of hair loss

Alopecia areata affects more than 600,000 Australians, Chel says.

With this autoimmune condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles.

It can cause hair to fall out and stop it growing back.

It is usually diagnosed in childhood but can happen at any stage of life.

Hair loss can also be caused by stress, such as the death of a loved one or work pressure.

Ongoing stress causes hair follicles to enter a resting phase and hair will stop growing.

Patches of hair can also be lost when pulled out as a way of coping with nervous energy or negative feelings.

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