What Women in Midlife Need to Know About Hair Loss

Nearly 80 percent will lose locks or experience thinning by age 60, but there are ways to minimize the damage

by Andrea King Collier • Next Avenue
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Photograph: Shutterstock.com

Baldness and its ramifications have been in the news quite a bit lately: Just this month, new research found that male pattern baldness is associated with a 30 to 40 percent increased risk for heart disease and, for African-American men, an apparent 69 percent increase in prostate cancer risk.

But women also experience hair loss, clinically known as alopecia. They make up 40 percent of hair loss sufferers, according to the American Hair Loss Association — and nearly 80 percent of all women will experience some thinning or loss by age 60. With those numbers in mind, what follows is a guide to what women need to know about hair loss in midlife and beyond.

What Causes Hair Loss?

It is normal for healthy women in midlife to lose as many as 50 to 100 hairs per day, but if you think your comb is pulling out more strands than usual or that your hair has thinned, one of a variety of health concerns could be disrupting that natural cycle.

"Our age, hormone changes and heredity all can lead to hair loss," says dermatologist Marcy Street of Okemos, Mich. "These are things we can't change."

About 30 million women will experience hereditary hair loss, or female pattern baldness, at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists. That depletion most typically occurs following the hormonal changes of menopause, specifically decreased levels of androgens.
Women (and men) can also suffer situational hair loss, brought on by stress, poor diet, smoking or a bad reaction to hair care products or treatments. "When our body undergoes stress — whether physiological, emotional or hormonal, it can manifest as hair loss," Orit Markowitz, a dermatology professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told Next Avenue. Nutritional stress, such as crash dieting, can lead to hair loss as well, she added.

Styling and chemical treatments are among the major culprits, Street says. Coloring treatments employed to hide gray hair, including bleaching, can harm some scalps. And women who style their hair in tight ponytails or braids can suffer traction alopecia, which causes thinning and loss around the hairline and in spots where the hair is pulled too tight, stressing follicles. "But if you catch it early and move to looser hairstyles and less pulling, the damage does not have to be permanent," Street says.

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Photo courtesy of vita khorzhevska/Shutterstock.com

First Published Mon, 2013-04-29 15:39

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