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Alopecia in Women

WHAT IS ALOPECIA?

Alopecia is the broad medical term used to describe hair loss. This single word encompasses a broad spectrum of hair loss issues. While most sources include a narrow descriptor beneath this umbrella term, we aim to bring awareness and education to Alopecia and all its forms, which affect both men and women.

The simple definition is that Alopecia is a medical condition in which sudden hair loss occurs. Hair can fall out or diffuse across the scalp, or it can shed in large patches. The most common form of Alopecia is Androgenetic Alopecia, otherwise known as Female Pattern Hair Loss / Male Pattern Hair loss which accounts for half of hair loss cases. But what about the other half?

FACTS ABOUT ALOPECIA

  • There are seven types of Alopecia (Totalis, Universalis, Androgenetic, Areata, Diffuse, Postpartum, and Traction), which we will discuss in greater detail below.
  • Alopecia affects nearly 7 million people in the United States, and 147 million people worldwide, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
  • 1 in 50 people will experience some form of Alopecia in their lifetime.
  • Scarring forms of Alopecia are not curable, and hair is unable to regrow, as seen in Traction Alopecia.
  • Nonscarring Alopecia may result in hair regrowth, depending on the issue and course of treatment.

What do these facts reveal? That Alopecia is a widespread issue that millions of people face, and the experience can be emotionally devastating. Despite this condition, most people with Alopecia are in overall good health. The myths and misconceptions around Alopecia lead to isolation and frustration. We are here to empower you with knowledge, resources, and solutions, starting with a comprehensive overview of each type of Alopecia.

TYPES OF ALOPECIA

The most common types of Alopecia are Androgenetic and Areata. In addition, there are rare types of Alopecia, as well as conditions that accompany specific life phases and events.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune response resulting in sharply defined, patchy hair loss the size of a quarter. Onset begins before age 30, and may also link to genetics as 1-in-5 cases have a family member with the condition. Regrowth occurs within one year for about 50% of cases but can be accelerated with Tyrosine, or with prescribed topical or oral steroids.

Who’s affected:  200,000 U.S. citizens, according to Mayo Clinic.

Alopecia Totalis

One of the rarest forms of hair loss in which all scalp, facial, and body hair falls out. The cause for this type of overall hair loss is an autoimmune response in which the immune system attacks its cells and hair follicles, mistaking them as foreign bodies. The resulting hair loss is an exacerbated response to extreme environmental stress and is the body’s way of trying to flush out a foreign invader.

Who’s affected:  1 in 4,000 people, yet ongoing research is still striving to find the exact demographic of this rare hair loss condition.

Scarring Alopecia

While several types of Alopecia are treatable, Scarring Alopecia, also known as Cicatricial Alopecia, cannot be cured. This rare hair loss disorder causes permanent damage to hair follicles, and the resulting scar tissue disables hair from regrowing. Symptoms include redness, itching, and a shabby look to the hair.

Who’s affected:  3% of hair loss cases, and some cases of chronic illness such as lupus.

Postpartum Alopecia

The female body is capable of miraculous fetes, yet the natural ability to reproduce can generate cataclysmic shifts on the body. Have you recently given birth, and if so, are you noticing excessive hair shedding since then? Postpartum Alopecia can occur 2-4 months after childbirth and is a result of a drastic shift in hormones that disrupt the hair growth cycle. During pregnancy, hair remains in the growth phase and changes into the shedding phase after birth. Fortunately, the body will resume its scheduled programming about 6-months after delivery.

Who’s affected:  Women who have recently given birth.

ALOPECIA DIAGNOSIS

Despite these various types of Alopecia, the most common diagnoses are Alopecia or Androgenetic Alopecia. However, closer investigation and assessment can isolate the exact kind, whether regrowth is possible, and what treatment is best. Diagnosis requires observation of medical and family history and the type of hair loss happening (pattern, patches, diffuse). Microscopic analysis of the scalp can also reveal what kind of Alopecia is present. A dermatologist can diagnose most forms of Alopecia during a consultation and exam.

The Daniel Alain Hereditary Hair Loss Test Kit can help determine if you will have genetic hair loss.

PREVENT ALOPECIA

Mechanical (Traction) Alopecia can be prevented by eliminating tension on the hair follicles and wearing looser hairstyles. However, repeated stress on the follicles can lead to irreversible Scarring Alopecia. Genetic hair loss is untreatable, but we can help control and postpone its onset with cosmetic and supplemental treatment. Over 40 million women deal with hair loss, with 40% of women suffering from some form of Alopecia. Both prevention and treatment depend on the individual case, the condition present, and the severity of the condition. 

HOW TO TREAT ALOPECIA

To treat Alopecia requires casting a wide net of solutions to find which ones work best for your condition. With this in mind, your treatment course will involve some trial-and-error. When treatments don’t work as anticipated, it’s natural to feel emotionally disheartened. At times, you’ll feel crestfallen and helpless to find the right solution for your condition. It’s natural to feel disheartened, but it’s important to stay proactive because there are solutions to empower you to fall in love with your hair again. It just takes a little experimentation to find the right one.

There are three main categories of treatment for Alopecia: Cosmetic, Supplemental, Alternative, and Procedural.

Topical & Cosmetic Solutions

Cosmetic solutions are topical ointments, serums, and hair beauty products created to enhance the natural appearance of hair. While they contain nutrients like keratin, biotin, zinc, panthenol, and botanicals to improve the appearance of hair health, they don’t alter hair on an anatomical level. In other words, they cannot grow hair, but they can provide a volume enhancement and a boost of confidence.

Cosmetic solutions and supplements for Alopecia include:
• Thickening shampooing and conditioners
• Hair retention treatments to reduce shedding and hair loss
• Tonics
• Styling aid
• Hair Building fiber
• Strategic styling and color solutions to enhance shine and volume

Supplemental & Medicinal

Medicinal treatment aims to re-stimulate growth on the follicular level with daily topical application. There are two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss:

Minoxidil:
A non-prescription, topical solution designed for regular application to the scalp. Initially marketed to only men under the brand name Rogaine, it became available to women in 1991. Today, it’s available at various concentration levels (2% and 5% are most common) and sold under multiple brand names. Only with consistent, ongoing, and indefinite application will regrowth sustain longterm. Minoxidil does not work for everyone.

Finasterida:
Known commercially as Propecia, this prescription medication is a pill form approved for men’s hair loss. However, some physicians will prescribe it off-label to women. The reason doctors don’t readily prescribe this drug to women is that it’s not safe for pregnant women to take Finasteride as it will harm the fetus. For this reason, most doctors only prescribe to post-menopausal women on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to medicinal treatment, there are also supplemental vitamins and minerals to boost hair health, including B-vitamins, Biotin and Folate. It’s important to note that dietary supplementation is more effective for hair loss due to poor nutrition rather than Alopecia.

The most common treatment for patients with Alopecia Areata is anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids, which suppress the immune system through injections, oral supplements, or topical applications, according to Medical News Today.

Alternative Solutions

In some cases, cosmetic or medicinal treatment aren’t useful or take too long to work. Meanwhile you’re left to watch your hair thin before your eyes. Hair loss takes an emotional toll, and many women are left feeling like a shadow of their former selves. That’s why it’s paramount to find a solution that enables women to either enhance their natural hair or emulate the appearance of full, healthy, bouncy hair. Alternative hair solutions provide a newfound sense of confidence, empowerment, and beauty--inside and out. Thanks to innovations in hair health and beauty, there are a myriad of solutions to help, including:

• Human hair wigs, Topettes, and hair pieces
• Clip-in extensions and halos/wires

Procedural Solutions

The last category of hair loss solutions is procedural. Each of these solutions is either non-invasive or elective surgery options:

• Hair transplants
• Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
• Laser Phototherapy
• Scalp Micro-pigmentation

No matter where you're at your hair loss journey, Daniel Alain is with you every step of the way.