Female hair loss common and women shouldn’t be embarrassed to seek treatment, dermatologist says – ABC News

Posted: July 26, 2020 at 4:57 am

For most people, hair is not just about keeping their head warm and for protection from the sun; it is a mark of youth, vitality and how we present to the world.

Losing hair at any age can be very confronting, and for many women it can be hard to simply shave it off and embrace the bald look.

Dermatologist Clare Tait told Jessica Strutt on ABC Radio Perth that she has been seeing many female patients seeking hair loss treatment.

"Our appearance, and how we present to our family and our friends in the community, is very important and the head of hair is one of the most visible aspects," she said.

"Ever since I've been a dermatologist there's been a constant demand for women seeking help for hair loss."

Dr Tait said more women than ever have been seeking treatment when they noticed they were losing their hair, but that may be because they are increasingly aware that help is available.

"I think it is partly an awareness that that there are things that we can do, and that it is a very legitimate concern," she said.

"I think it's also that there is a greater emphasis in our society today on how we look and how we appear youthfulness is highly prized and a youthful look is often equated with a full head of hair."

While a person's appearance may be seen as a trivial concern, or the domain of late-night TV ads, Dr Tait said no one should feel uncomfortable about seeking medical treatment for hair loss.

"I think that it's quite common and that sometimes people are embarrassed and almost feel ashamed to be seeking help for something that they perceive is a cosmetic issue only," she said.

"If it's causing anxiety, if you feel it impacting on your quality of life, then that is the time to seek help."

Androgenic alopecia, often better known as male or female pattern hair loss, is fairly common, Dr Tait said.

"It is an interesting condition because it's almost statistically normal for women to develop this condition, particularly after the menopause, with a generalised thinning of hair and sometimes some increased shedding as well," she said.

"Probably about 40 to 45 per cent of women by the age of 50 are noticing some thinning."

Many people believe stress is the cause, but Dr Tait says that while stress can exacerbate female pattern hair loss it is unlikely to be the root cause.

Female listeners anonymously texted their hair loss stories to ABC Radio Perth:

"I'm 46 and lost all my hair to alopecia 5 years ago. I feel like I have a handle on wigs, though they'll always be a pain to wear. I really miss being able to tie my hair out of the way in a ponytail. What I really struggle with is doing make up without eyelashes I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing."

"My hair fell out at menopause. My hair was thick so my doctor didn't take me seriously. I started keeping the fallen hair in a bag and presented it to the doctor he finally took me seriously. Hair loss is cyclical; [it] happens every eight years or so. [My] last fall [was] about a year ago another bag of hair. It never quite grows back as thick."

"I am female in my 60s and have long, thick hair; [it's] always thick and shiny. Eighteen months ago it started falling out more than normal. Testing revealed severely low iron levels. Two infusions of iron, along with [the] removal of all caffeine from [my] diet, [and] six months later it [my hair] was back to normal."

While many women may lose hair due to their genetics, an iron-related condition called telogen effluvium can also be a commonplace cause.

"It is absolutely correct that iron deficiency is one of the commonest causes of this condition," Dr Tait said.

"I would routinely test iron levels as well as a number of other things to make sure there's nothing that's easily reversible and that will help the hair grow back."

In cases where it's not just hair but eyebrows and eyelashes that are falling out, Dr Tait said it was more likely a condition called alopecia areata.

"That's a completely different condition that requires different treatment," she said.

Dr Tait said it was not uncommon for patients to stop washing their hair as they attributed the washing to their hair loss.

"A lot of people that I see who are losing their hair to tell me that they have stopped washing it, or wash it much less frequently, because they're concerned that washing their hair makes it fall out more," she said.

"When we wash our hair we do lose more hair on that day but overall it balances itself out.

"I can reassure people; how often you wash your hair will not have any long-term effect on how quickly you're thinning or how much hair you're losing."

When you get older your hair and nails change. Will diet or supplements make a difference?

Dr Tait said the same was true for using hair dryers, hair straighteners and dying hair.

"If you're over-drying hair you may find that the shaft becomes more brittle," she said.

"It may break off more easily but neither of those things will stop the hair growing.

"Providing you're not having any reaction from your hair dye, and you're not getting an itchy, irritable scalp, it's perfectly safe to dye your hair with these conditions."

Dr Tait said she hoped more women would realise that it was possible to seek treatment if their hair loss was bothering them.

"I think that's really very appropriate that people do come and ask what can be done about it and let us know how it's distressing them."

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Female hair loss common and women shouldn't be embarrassed to seek treatment, dermatologist says - ABC News

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