For many years it was believed that hair loss was a distinctly male problem, so much so that hair loss in women was seldom even discussed. However today we know that approximately 40% of the estimated 56 million people suffering from hair loss in the United States are women. As more and more women come forward to seek hair restoration treatment, our team at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research is gaining an ever expanding understanding of different underlying causes that contribute to hair loss. While the forms of hair loss in men and women do share many similarities, it is their distinct differences that are most important in shedding light on this all-to-pervasive condition.
Both male and female pattern hair loss appear to have a genetic component, meaning that it is possible to inherit a predisposition for this form of hair loss from your relatives. Contrary to what was once thought, this inheritance is not based solely on the female parent. In fact, according to the most recent research, the genetic backgrounds of both parents seem to play a significant role in pattern hair loss. Until recently, scientists believed that androgenetic alopecia was caused, in both men and women, by hormones, particularly the predominance of the male sex hormone, testosterone, which women normally have in trace amounts. Further investigation determined that a derivative of the male hormone testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (or DHT) is actually at the core of the balding process. When DHT binds to certain receptors in the hair follicles of the scalp it causes them to shrink. Over time, this results in the production of hair that is both shorter and finer than before. Eventually, the affected scalp follicles go from producing large, thick, pigmented terminal hairs to thinner, shorter, indeterminate hairs and finally to short, wispy, non-pigmented vellus hairs before they ultimately stop producing hair altogether.
While this reaction to DHT is almost always present in cases of male pattern hair loss, it is sometimes noticeably absent in female cases, suggesting that more research needs to be done before the underlying cause of female pattern baldness can be conclusively determined. Still, the most obvious difference between the male and female versions of androgenetic alopecia is the presentation and progression of the symptoms. In men, the pattern begins at the hairline. Hair loss at the temples causes the hairline to gradually move backward, or recede, to form an “M” shape. As the hair becomes finer, shorter, and thinner, hair loss increases at the crown, eventually leaving only a U-shaped (or horseshoe) pattern of hair around the sides of the head. Female patients, on the other hand, generally lose hair diffusely over the crown of the head, producing a gradual thinning of the hair rather than an area of marked baldness. This usually begins with a widening of the midline part in the center, which leaves very good density in the back and fairly good density on the sides while preserving the frontal hairline. If left untreated, the thinning often spreads to the side areas of the scalp in the temples and above the ears, but it is very rare for women to experience complete baldness. Of course not everyone is the same, and different patients may exhibit different patterns of hair loss.
If you have questions about your individual hair loss or any of the hair restoration treatments we offer, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration to schedule a consultation. Be sure to also visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.