Hair Loss…It’s Not Something That Just Happens To Dear Ole’ Dad!
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on June 16, 2012 • Updated May 24, 2023
Hair There Everywhere! What's a Woman to Do When She is Losing Her Hair?
As we celebrate Father's Day, we are appreciative of the masculine parenting influence. Both males and females have nurturing, mentoring and coaching abilities. And both sexes, after puberty, produce both androgens including testosterone and estrogen hormones which have protean effects throughout the body. In fact, women produce more androgens than estrogen on a milligram per milligram basis, while males produce 10 times the amount of testosterone compared to females. Besides muscle strength, testosterone affects hair and the hair follicle. Which brings us to hair! Men tend to be hairier than women, though many lose hair on the sides and tops of their head if genetically susceptible to the influences of androgens on the hair follicle.
Most Women Will See Some Hair Thinning With Age
For centuries, long, plush, shiny hair has been a mark of female beauty while cut muscles are a sign of masculinity. So when many women, who are genetically predisposed to androgenic hair thinning (also called "male patterned hair loss" in men or "female patterned hair loss" in females), note excessive hair shedding, many panic and have visions of looking like a cue ball! This panic can increase the stress hormones made in the adrenal glands which in turn worsens the hair shedding which in turn worsens the panic. A vicious cycle ensues. Part of the treatment for women with hair loss includes controlling stress and anxiety. Rest assured, complete hair loss, called alopecia, is very rare in women. However, just like our bodies change with age, most women will note some hair thinning with age.
Causes of Hair Loss
- If you notice more than 150 hairs shed per day (compared to the usual 100 hairs) it is time to be evaluated by a physician sensitive to your concerns.
- Sometimes hair loss is just transitory from "telogen effluvium" which occurs when the resting and growing phases of hair growth are out of synch.
- Nutritional deficiencies are another cause. Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a prominent Cleveland Clinic dermatologist who specializes in hair loss, has found that low iron stores contributes to hair loss and optimal ferritin/iron stores are around a level of 50.
As far as female patterned hair loss, 90 percent is genetic and 10 percent is hormonal. At menopause, estrogen levels plummet and this can unmask the androgen driven hair loss in women as androgens are still made even when female eggs run out and thus estrogen production virtually stops. Postmenopausal estrogen therapy is beneficial to the skin and hair as well mucosal membranes like the vagina and also the bones which are very sensitive to estrogen loss.
Tips and Tricks For Women Suffering From Hair Thinning
While I can prescribe hormone therapy and treat vitamin deficiencies, I have not been trained in cosmetology. However, some of my patients have taught me clever tricks that I have been able to share with other patients who suffer from hair thinning, including:
- Styling tips to minimize the part line.
- Having hair color if possible approximate the scalp color.
- Using hair shampoos containing silicone to coat the hair and thicken the appearance of the mane.
- Using a clever product that comes in several hair colors called TOPPIK that is put on hair and scalp to make the hair look instantly thicker.
So ladies, while I can not change what genetics you inherited from your dear ole' Dad and Mom, there are medical, hormonal, and cosmetic options that you have to help you feel and look good. Having confidence is an important part of being strong, healthy and in charge! Strength is something that needs to be fostered in everyone and many fathers help us develop our strength and fortitude.
Cheers to all of those devoted Dads who have helped their children Be Strong, Be Healthy, and grow up to Be in Charge!
Happy Father's Day!
-Dr. Holly L. Thacker
About Holly L. Thacker, MD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.
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