Hair loss isn't a problem just for men - it can happen to women too. Female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in women.
What is female pattern baldness?
Female pattern baldness is a term used to describe hair loss and thinning in women. It is also known as female pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, in women.
It's a similar condition to male pattern baldness, but the hair loss and thinning follow a different pattern. The hair usually thins across the whole scalp. A receding hairline or a bald patch on the top of the head is rare, although this can happen.
Female pattern baldness can develop at any age. It usually progresses slowly, but can also come in bursts.
It often becomes more noticeable after menopause. Almost half of all women show signs of hair loss by the age of 50.
What are the causes and types of female pattern baldness?
Genetics usually plays a part in the development of female pattern baldness. A woman can inherit the genes that cause female pattern baldness from one or both of their parents. It’s also possible that hormones contribute to the condition. For example, hair loss is a symptom of the hormonal condition, polycystic ovary syndrome.
Female pattern baldness is different from alopecia areata, which is an auto-immune disease resulting in hair loss from the scalp and other parts of the body.
How is female pattern baldness diagnosed?
Talk to your doctor if your hair is thinning. Your doctor will examine your hair and scalp, and might refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specialises in skin problems.
They might also recommend removing a tiny piece of skin from your scalp to test for hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata.
How is female pattern baldness treated?
The main aim of treatment is to slow down or stop hair loss. Treatment might also stimulate hair growth, but this kind of treatment works better for some women than others.
If you have female pattern baldness, your doctor might prescribe minoxidil, or a cream containing minoxidil. This active ingredient is found in lotions like Hair Revive Extra Strength, Hair Retreva, and Hair A-Gain. It’s important to discuss the potential side effects of these treatments with your doctor.
There is not enough evidence to show that laser treatments, plasma injections, ‘hair tonics’ and nutritional supplements will stimulate hair growth.
Living with hair loss
For some women, hair loss can be incredibly distressing and can affect their self-esteem. Others might accept their hair loss a little more easily.
Some women find that scarves, hats and wigs can help. Others find that synthetic ‘spray-on hair’ products are a clever way to disguise thinning hair.
Where to seek help
- The Australian Alopecia Areata Foundation provides material about alopecia areata, as well as information about support groups.
- Read more about polycystic ovarian syndrome and other women’s health issues at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
- Beyond Blue can help if you feel anxious or depressed, including as a result of hair thinning or loss. Call 1300 22 4636 anytime.
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Last reviewed: April 2020