The bald truth: When women grow bald

Gender equality is a special place in the hearts of women. It gets them contributing animatedly whenever issues arise. However, there is one aspect in which gender equality is unwelcome: Female pattern baldness or hair loss.

Gender equality is a special place in the hearts of women. It gets them contributing animatedly whenever issues arise. However, there is one aspect in which gender equality is unwelcome: Female pattern baldness or hair loss.

Receding hairline and drying scalp are things that have been associated with men. Saying women bald, too, would be rubbished by many, but female pattern baldness is a medical condition that exist

Many women enhance their beauty through their hair. Some derive their confidence from having long hair so the thought of going bald, be it partially or fully, is enough to send them to a lunatic asylum.

The American Hairloss Council, on their web site, say the most common type of hair loss seen in women is androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern alopecia or baldness.

This is seen as hair thinning predominantly over the top and sides of the head. It affects approximately one-third of all susceptible women, but is most commonly seen after menopause, although it may begin as early as puberty.

“Normal hair fall is approximately 100-125 hairs per day. Fortunately, these hairs are replaced. True hair loss occurs when lost hairs are not regrown or when the daily hair shed exceeds 125 hairs. Genetically, hair loss can come from either parents’ side of the family, the web site says.

There are two different types of hair loss, medically known as anagen effluvium and Telogen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is generally due to internally administered medications, such as chemotherapy agents, that poison the growing hair follicle. Telogen effluvium, is due to an increased number of hair follicles entering the resting stage.

Impact on self-esteem

Balding totally shatters a woman pride and self-esteem since you can’t have the chance to grow, style your own hair using different hair accessories according to Jemimah Uwase, 28, who has a partial bald head.

Uwase hardly has any hair on the sides of her scalp. This started when she was 26 when she begun losing hair gradually and now only has hair at the centre of her scalp.

She has always been sickly and used different medications.

“The doctors couldn’t clearly ascertain the cause of my partial balding but they suspect it could be because of the many medications I have used. Others said it could have been some of the hair chemicals I have used in the past,” Uwase said.

Hair treatments such as overuse or unsuitable use of hair-colouring products and hair strengtheners make the hair brittle and prone to breaking.

Although Uwase used to highly detest and loathe wigs, she had no choice but to get herself a collection of the items to cover up the bald bits on her head.

Causes of female baldness

Dr Gerald Kirenga, of King Faisal Hospital, says hair loss among women is mainly caused by use of hair chemicals that might be too strong or toxic to the scalp.

Dr Kirenga said some medications such as those for cancer also lead to hair loss or balding among women. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer can result in the loss of hair hence balding.

Drugs used to treat diseases such as arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure and cancer may cause hair loss and balding, according to Mayo Clinic.

“Poor nutrition such as mineral deficiencies could also lead to hair loss among woman, thus making them bald. Many times, balding is caused by genetics, that is,  inherit  hair follicles that are more responsive to the male hormone causing the hair follicles to shrink,” he added.

Dr Kirenga also said when balding is as a result of one’s genetics, it’s hard to reverse it or find cure for the baldness.

One’s hair may thin out if one skips dietary sources of iron and protein, such as red meat, non-fat dairy products and iron-fortified cereal.

Hair loss related to poor nutrition often accompanies eating disorders and crash dieting.

Balding can also be caused when testosterone shrinks hair follicles, causing hair loss, Dr Nathan Ruhamya, a consultant at King Faisal Hospital, said. Sometimes balding is caused by aging although where one isn’t of age, it could also be caused by a fungal infection.

Dr Robert Bernstein, an obstetric and gynaecologist, says conditions such as post-partum and post-menopausal states or ovarian tumours also cause androgenetic alopecia.

In genetically susceptible people, certain sex hormones trigger a particular pattern of permanent hair loss. Most common in men, this type of hair thinning can begin as early as puberty.

“Hormonal changes and imbalances can also cause temporary hair loss. This could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth control pills or the onset of menopause. A variety of medical conditions can cause hair loss,” according to Mayo Clinic.

Some of the medical conditions that may cause hair loss as highlighted by Mayo Clinic include thyroid problems for instance the thyroid gland helps regulate hormone levels in the body and if the gland isn’t working properly, hair loss may result.

Scalp infections such as ringworms can invade the hair and skin of your scalp, leading to hair loss but once infections are treated the hair generally grows back.

Other causes of hair loss, according to Mayo Clinic, include hair-pulling disorder, which is a mental illness that causes people to have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair.

Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots on the head.

Physical or emotional shock whereby people experience a general thinning of hair several months after a physical or emotional shock. Examples include sudden or excessive weight loss, a high fever, or a death in the family.

Certain hairstyles can also cause hair loss if the hair is pulled too tightly into hairstyles such as pigtails or cornrows. 

MYTHS RELATED TO HAIR LOSS

• Frequent shampooing contributes to hair loss.

• Hats and wigs cause hair loss.

• 100 strokes of the hair brush daily will create healthier hair.

• Permanent hair loss is caused by perms, colors and other cosmetic treatments.

• Women are expected to develop significant hair loss if they are healthy.

• Shaving one's head will cause the hair to grow back thicker.

• Standing on one's head will cause increased circulation and thereby stimulate hair growth!

• Dandruff causes permanent hair loss.

• There are cosmetic products that will cause the hair to grow thicker and faster.

• Stress causes permanent hair loss.

• Hair loss does not occur in the late teens or early twenties.

• Hair loss affects only intellectuals.

• There is a cure for androgenetic Alopecia.

Ten ways for women to prevent hair loss

1. Eat a well balanced diet with a combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and low fats. Avoid high sugar snacks.

2. If you need to lose weight, avoid fast crash diets which can often cause hair loss. Follow only a doctor recommended diet with no stimulants.

3. Take a multivitamin with a small amount of iron, especially during the childbearing years. Hair is extremely sensitive to small iron deficiencies.

4. Learn to deal with stress better: meditation, yoga, exercise, etc

5. Avoid hair care practices that are harsh on your hair and can damage hair and its root. Examples include frequently pulling back hair in a tight manner, corn rows, tight braids, using a hot iron, straighteners, excessive blow drying, hot curlers, prolonged perms for curl or chemical straighteners.

6. If you must colour hair, have it done professionally using products that do not contain peroxide and ammonia.

7. If you are a young woman on oral contraceptives, make sure it is the type that can help rather than contribute to hair loss. If your hair is naturally thin, have an open discussion with your doctor before starting any hormones.

8. Examine your extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. If there is a family history of hair loss in men or women, be aware that it could happen to you and seek help at the earliest sign. Seek out a hair loss specialist.

9. Have your hair styled and treated by a professional stylist. They may be the first person to notice a slight change. Seek help early!

10. Get annual physical check-up and have your doctor check you periodically for iron deficiency, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and nutritional deficiencies.

Compiled by Maria Kaitesi

 

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