The distress of living with female hair loss

Male hair loss can be an upsetting thing to experience as given the choice; very few (if any) would choose to lose any hair from their head. They can no longer style their hair as they used to, as well as feeling undesirable to the opposite of sex and may receive light-hearted jibes from friends about their hair loss – which over time can affect confidence and self-esteem.

However, hair loss is not something experienced solely by men and for many women who suffer with this problem, the stress and emotional aspects involved with this can be much, much worse.  A 1992 study featured in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology contrasted psychological impact of hair loss on both sexes and found that women had a more issues about body image and were less able to accept the fact they had lost some hair.

We live in an age where media places far too much focus on what they deem as ‘beauty’ and there is an ever-growing obsession with celebrity culture, with more and more figures in the public eye resorting to whatever expensive treatment possible to retain a youthful appearance.

Hair loss can have a devastating impact on a woman’s confidence and it can be made worse by the fact some GPs are still failing to recognise female hair loss as a genuine medical problem, ignoring the huge distress endured by the majority of those who are affected, “because you are never going to die from it”, says Iain Sallis, a consultant Trichologist at a top hair clinic.

Elaine Nixon is just one of an estimated 8 million women in the UK alone who have some degree of hair loss. Elaine had such an impressive head of hair during her teenage years that she fashioned different styles for a hairdresser’s. However, when Elaine began to lose her locks by the time she was just 24 years of age, this prompted one particularly unforgettable and hurtful comment from a stranger at a bar who said: “You’re going a bit bald there aren’t you, love?”

“After that I just stopped going out” says Elaine, now 39. “You notice people looking at your hairline, not just in your eyes. It makes you so self-conscious. My confidence was stripped. I saw my GP at the time, but he was useless. I also went to see a cosmetic surgeon. But when I rang back after the initial appointment, the receptionist said ‘Oh yes, the consultant’s said there’s nothing we can do’. I was distraught. My real fear was I’d end up with a wig.”

Elaine’s hair loss was eventually pinpointed to a male hormone treatment she had been prescribed for a congenital deformity of her fallopian tubes, however there are a number of different causes for hair loss, and understanding the varying types of hair loss is important. Elaine sought help from a hair transplant expert for her hair loss, but for the majority of people this option is simple not viable. Operations cost thousands of pounds at a time, and more than one is usually required.

The main types of hair loss are:

. Telogen effluvium: General shedding/thinning of the hair that is normally only a temporary occurrence. It can develop rapidly, usually about 1 to 3 months following major ‘shock’ placed on the body such as stress, childbirth, sudden weight loss, illness, operation, or reaction to a medication. Regular hair growth and thickness is seen after a few months however persistent shedding may be caused by an iron deficiency or underactive thyroid gland.

. Androgenic alopecia: The most common type of hair loss in both men and women, striking in varying severity. The reason for the occurrence of thinning hair is connected to hormones named ‘androgens’ and in particularly; dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This powerful hormone stimulates facial and bodily hair growth but has adverse effects on hair located on the head. It is believed that DHT initiates a process by which hair follicles begin to deteriorate over time and eventually stop producing hair entirely. Women usually experience a thinning of hair from the top of the head and it can get more noticeable after the menopause.

. Alopecia areata: Thought to be an autoimmune disease, it primarily affects teenagers and young adults resulting in round, patchy hair loss areas that may merge into one over time. The hair follicles are not permanently damaged, and in most instances the person will see hair growing back after several months. In a few cases, hair loss may be permanent but treatments to stimulate hair growth sometimes work.

Female hair loss may be helped through a number of different treatments. One of these is Minoxidil, dispensed by Medical Specialists as Regaine treatment for women (containing 2% Minoxidil). Speaking after British cyclist Joanna Rowsell’s Gold during the London Olympics, David Bailey, a leading UK Trichologist said, “2% Minoxidil is likely to give a cosmetically acceptable regrowth in those with patchy alopecia areata, but, using 5% Minoxidil in clinical trials gave an 81% response (1). It would appear that an occlusion of the treated area appears to be necessary to achieve and maintain maximum results.”

Medical Specialists offer a huge range of treatments at low prices for both male and female hair loss, so do not delay and head to the Women’s Health or Men’s Health areas of the website to see which treatment option is most suitable for you.

(1)     Fiedler-Weiss VC. (1987) “Topical minoxidil solution (1% and 5%) in the treatment of alopecia areata..” J Am Acad Dermatol. 16(3 Pt 2):745-8.

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