Word on Health

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Word On Female Hair Loss

Whilst the majority of us are familiar with male-pattern baldness which usually starts in the late twenties with a receding hairline, followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples to eventually create a horseshoe shape of hair around the back and sides of your head. Eventually the man may go completely bald. But as we heard 'on-air'  hair loss doesnt only affect men! An estimated 8 million women in the UK have hair loss (medically known as alopecia), and it can lead to loss of self-confidence and heightened self-consciousness.

Talking to the NHS Choices website (where the support information below is taken from - please click here to visit the corresponding web page and site - a gateway to further authorative help and advice) Jackie McKillop,Alopecia UK spokesperson and junior nursing sister at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, says "Society considers hair to be an important part of how you look, so losing your hair as a woman, especially if you're young or at a vulnerable time in your life, can be a catastrophic experience".

Types of Hair loss

Telogen effluvium General shedding and thinning of the hair. It usually occurs a few months after a shock to the system, such as extreme stress, fever, childbirth, sudden weight loss, an operation or as a reaction to medication. The hair loss is usually temporary.

Female-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia)  Hair gradually thins, often from the top of the head. It usually gets more noticeable after the menopause and tends to run in families.

Alopecia areata  Affects mostly teenagers and young adults. Hair loss is patchy and linked to a problem with the immune system. The hair follicles are not permanently damaged, and in many cases hair grows back in a few months.

Alopecia totalis  Complete loss of hair on the head. Regrowth is unlikely.

Alopecia universalis  Total loss of head and body hair. 

For more information on types of hair loss click here. 

Hair loss is a well-known side effect of chemotherapy, and around 50% of women lose more hair than usual after they've given birth. To find out all the causes for hair loss click here to visit the corresponding page on the NHS Choices website.

Ways to cope  "It's important to address the psychological impact of hair loss. If you've lost your hair, even temporarily, life will be easier if you can accept what's happened and learn to live with your altered appearance, " Jackie tells the NHS Choices website. 

"How well you cope with looking at yourself in the mirror depends on your coping strategies, personality, self-esteem and the support around you," says Jackie. "It's really important to try to promote positivity in your life."

Hair loss treatments  Jackie, who has herself lost all her hair, says it can help to address the physical aspects of hair loss. Try to find out everything you can about hair loss and the treatment options available to you.

A proven treatment for female-pattern baldness is a hair lotion containing minoxidil. After using it, most women see improvements, including a stop to or slowing of the balding, as well as thicker hair. Up to 25% of women experience hair regrowth while using it.

Always contact your GP or dermatologist for advice before starting or finishing any treatments or medication for alopecia.

Self-help tips:

Share stories: It helps to know you're not alone. (Alopecia UK have an online forum, where you share your story and learn from others annonymously

Join a support group: There are a variety of groups around the country where you can meet and socialise with other people with alopecia. To find your nearest Alopecia UK support group click here

Accept it: It's not easy, but try to come to terms with your hair loss. One way to do this is to make a list of all your good qualities and focus your energy on celebrating these attributes.

Talk about it: Discuss your hair loss with your friends, family and loved ones, preferably early on. Let them know how you feel about it and what kind of support you need. If hair loss is affecting your relationship with your partner, going to therapy or couples counselling may help.

Cover up: Look into disguising and covering up your hair loss with things like wigs, hair extensions, scarves and make-up. Persevere until you find a product and style that suits you. "Equally, you may prefer not to cover up at all. Whatever works best for you," says Jackie.

If you have hair loss that you find difficult to cover up (around 50% hair loss or more), you could be eligible for a wig on the NHS. 

Be patient: many cases of hair loss in women are temporary. That said, regrowth is unpredictable and can take years. Remember too, that your new hair can be any texture and colour.

Avoid miracle cures: don't be taken in by claims for wonder products. There are no cures for female hair loss.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.