Written by: Toni Foot
Hair loss (alopecia) can be difficult to deal with because (unlike many other medical conditions) it may be quite obvious and therefore affect a person’s confidence significantly. Some women worry that their partner will no longer find them attractive, or are concerned about going out in public, fearing people might notice their condition. Whilst you may not be able to prevent or stop hair loss, there are ways you can cope with female hair loss.
There are many reasons for female hair loss, many of which are temporary. Understanding what is happening can be very empowering and can really help you to decide how to cope with your situation.
- Genetics. Female-pattern baldness, for example, often runs in families. This is where the hair thins over time, starting at the top of the head.
- Chemotherapy. Hair loss is one of the most well-known side effects of chemotherapy, sometimes leaving no hair at all, sometimes leaving patches or a fine covering of soft, downy hair.
- A shock to the system. If you have a sudden shock, illness, or are under intense pressure you may also experience hair loss. Childbirth or sudden weight loss can also trigger hair loss as your body temporarily shuts down unessential processes to channel energy (survival mode). It may not be initially obvious what caused this type of hair loss as it often happens several weeks after the event (as the damaged hair reaches the surface of the scalp) so it is worth thinking back to ascertain the potential cause for sudden increased hair loss.
- Alopecia areata. This is where hair falls out in patches, usually affecting teenagers and young adults and is linked to the immune system. Hair usually returns a few months later.
If you are not sure why you are suffering hair loss or need help dealing with it, consult your GP.
Will it grow back?
In many circumstances hair loss is temporary. For instance, if you experience hair loss after childbirth, your hair should return a few months later. For some individuals undergoing chemotherapy, hair returns after chemotherapy stops. However, if you experience alopecia totalis (complete loss of hair) or alopecia universalis (complete loss of hair of the head and body) then hair regrowth is unlikely. It is also possible that hair re-growth will be different to the original hair in texture or colour.
Once you understand why you are losing hair and whether it is likely to be permanent or temporary, you can start to make decisions about how to deal with it. You could try to disguise it, or learn to adapt your look to accommodate your new appearance. However you choose to deal with it, it is important to accept what is happening and stay positive. Your outward appearance is only part of what makes you an individual so whilst you may not be able to choose to have hair again, you can choose to be a positive and beautiful person.
Experiment with a new look
If your hair loss is patchy, you may want to consider a shorter style that does not make the patches quite so obvious. A short hairstyle may also be appropriate if your hair is starting to grow back after a sudden loss. Scarves, hats or other accessories can cover hair loss and provide protection from the elements. They can also be great fun to experiment with, creating new and interesting looks for you. If you would rather try a more discrete option, wigs can be a good option. If your hair loss is significant you may be entitled to a wig through the NHS, so ask your GP to help you access this service.
Don’t be fooled by miracle cures
There are many products claiming to stop hair loss and encourage re-growth. Unfortunately these products are unlikely to have any real effect on your alopecia. Whilst it can be appealing to think there is a miracle cure out there somewhere, the reality is that this is not true. Constantly searching for a miracle cure will simply lead to disappointment, damaging your confidence when you are probably already feeling emotionally vulnerable.