With the term female alopecia we refer to the pathology which causes hair loss, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, localized or widespread.
Symptoms can be different and sometimes hard to notice. It starts with a thinning of the hair stem and then results in a progressive hair loss.
In case of female alopecia the problem normally occurs after the age of 40, but in the last decades it is found always more often in young women too.
There are three types of alopecia: alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia and seborrheic alopecia.
Let’s analyze them one by one:
It is an autoimmune disease, the immune system recognizes as stranger a part of the body and attacks it, in particular the hair follicle, it occurs with a quick hair loss.
So there is a quick appearance of spotswhich normally appears on the scalp, but they can also occur in other areas of the body.
Causes of alopecia areata
Unfortunately it is not very clear why this disease occurs yet, there are only hypothesis about it. It could have a genetic origin or could depend on strong stress or lack of iron.
There are very valid natural cures for it:
- zinc supplements, fundamental element for hair growth
- aromatherapy, using topical essential oils based on cedar, rosemary and thyme
- vitamin D, which seems to prevent or cure autoimmune diseases in animal models and therefore can also be a valid help for humans. This vitamin must be taken under medical supervision.
It is the most common one and can affect, also in a mild form, beyond 50% of women.
It occurs with a progressive thinning of the hair stem due to an excessive sensitivity of the hair follicle to androgens, such as testosterone, which decreases a lot its dimensions until it becomes completely atrophied.
The pathology can arise since the young age of 16 with slow progression until 40/50 years of age, in case of genetic predisposition or after menopause.
Causes of androgenic alopecia
The causes are normally genetic related, but can also be hormonal, polycystic ovary syndrome or stress related.
There are distinctions among female androgenic alopecia based on the localization of hair thinning:
- Christmas tree pattern which affects young teenager girls: the thinning is more extended in the central hairline and it has a triangular shape, which looks like a Christmas tree, hence the name.
- Hamiltontype which presents a receding hairline and a thinning in the area at the top of the head, just like for male subjects, normally it occurs after menopause.
- Ludwig type which affects the upper head causing a very pronounced widening of the central line, practically a sort of medallion is formed in the area at the head summit where there is a more or less pronounced hair loss.
Ludwig in 1977 classified the severity of this pathology starting from the minor level, passing through an intermediate one, up to the most serious.
The first grade affects the summit area and a little parietal areas, leaving the frontal hairline intact for 1/3 cm and affects the vast majority of women.
The second grade presents a pronounced rarefaction of hairs in the crown area, without damaging the frontal part.
The third grade, instead, causes an almost total hair loss, always in the same area.
Then there is an even more serious form, where the thinning is extended to all the head and also the front part, but fortunately it is very rare.
The most common natural remedies are:
- Shampoo based on nettle or aloe vera, letting it rest for a few minutes before rinsing.
- Lotions based on essential oils, such as thyme and rosemary which, massaged using fingertips in an accurate way, stimulate the microcirculation helping the regrowth.
- Food supplements such as zinc, which we have already seen to be a fundamental element for a healthy hair growth and magnesium which is a hair follicle stimulant.
This type presents a quite diversified symptomatology, hair weakness, tingling, burning sensation and hypersensitive scalp, caused by an excessive sebum production.
Shampoos and not too aggressive astringent lotions, which help eliminate sebum in excess, are useful in this case too.
Causes of seborrheic alopecia
In case of women, there are a lot of different causes:
- Lack of iron: for a lot of women this phenomenon occurs when their period is abundant and when the body has not a sufficient iron intake through nutrition. It is important that ferritin value are greater than 30 ng/ml. Any possible deficiency in addition to causing anemia, produces free radicals which make follicles get old and generate hair loss.
- Lack of Vitamin D: it can lead to a significant thinning. Vitamin D is fundamental for the functionalities of hair follicle.
After pregnancy a decrease in estrogens, which are fundamental for the follicle protection, could facilitate hair loss, normally this is a reversible and short term process.
During breastfeeding, prolactin extends the telogen phase, when hair growth stops and hair loss starts.
- Menopause: there is an increase in androgens and a decrease in estrogens, because of these hormonal imbalances androgenic alopecia often occurs.
- Thyroid disease: the proper functioning of the thyroid not only prevents a large amounts of pathologies, but also uncontrolled hair loss.
- Hypocaloric diets: they are one of the triggering causes for androgenic alopecia in teenagers. The caloric intake must be at least 1500-2000 daily calories. The lack of proteins, vitamins and minerals is one of the most common cause of hair loss.
- Stress: it is among the most widespread causes of hair loss. We talk about psychogenic alopecia. Clinical studies have proven that the hair thinning generally starts to occur 2-4 months after the traumatic event. In those cases the help and support a psychologist can give are essential.
- Exposure to sun UV rays and tanning lamps: they are a frequent cause of hair weakening. For that reason it is always recommended protecting hair and scalp during summer with specific products or even just with a hat.
- Smoking habit: it worsens androgenic alopecia because it causes a vasoconstrictor effect which involves a blood circulation reduction in hair follicle and a production of free radicals, which cause an oxidative damage and result in a reduction of estrogen levels. A recent study has shown that baldness worsening is more frequent in subjects who smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day.
For women, a prompt diagnosis is fundamental to stop the degenerative process of follicles, allowing the hairs to regain their original beauty before the problem gets worse and irreversible.
The most important exam for the purpose of an accurate diagnosis is trichoscopy, an accurate exam of the hair with a microscope, associated with family history.
It is clear that a proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle with no stress can influence our body health and consequently our hair too.