Although hair loss patterns differ among males and females, the fact still remains that many members of both sexes experience alopecia at some point in life. However, there are a few differences in how hair loss affects men and women. The majority of these dissimilarities involve hormonal changes, as well as lifestyle choices and coping mechanisms.
Differences aside, most of the underlying causes of balding or thinning are the same for both sexes. With that, let’s take a look at each side of the coin first before moving onto comparing aspects that are the same for both.
What Causes Hair Loss for Men
According to WebMD, “two-thirds of American men will have some degree of appreciable hair loss” by the time they turn 35. A quarter of men who haven’t even reached their 21st birthday are said to be already seeing signs of male pattern baldness (MPB), which is one of the most common forms of alopecia.
These alarming statistics may prompt you to ask: what causes men to lose their thick mop of hair so early in their adult life? There’s no one answer to this question. There are many factors that come into play when dealing with balding. Here are the major ones:
Contrary to popular belief, you do not get the “bald gene” from your mother – you get it from both parents. So, if your mother and father both dealt with hair loss, you’re highly likely to experience the same condition as well. If the problem has only affected your dad, you’re still highly likely to inherit the same problem. If it’s only your mom, you have a bit more chance of escaping a future plagued with hair loss.
There’s a joke about frustrating situations making you want to tear your hair out. Well, that emphatic gesture is not really necessary – strands of hair can actually fall out without you needing to tug at them in times of great anxiety or stress. This condition is called telogen effluvium. This phenomenon can also happen when the body has undergone extreme changes or received “shocks” to the system, such as an accident, sudden weight loss, or even grief.
Medicines used to treat hypertension, cardiac problems, cancer, depression, and even arthritis may cause baldness as a side-effect. However, this is typically reversible and is only temporary. Such drugs affect the normal hair growth cycle as these throw the body’s biochemistry off balance in the efforts to aid the body in fighting the illness or disease that has plagued it.
- Health conditions
Skin infections and disorders, like ringworm, psoriasis, and dermatitis can make hair fall out or inhibit its growth. This is because they affect the scalp and may even go beyond the surface and also affect your hair follicles – putting a temporary stop to hair cell production. If scarring occurs, which is usually the case with certain forms of lupus and lichen planus, hair may not grow back in areas where the scars are, according to The Mayo Clinic.
Also, complications in thyroid functions can result in hormonal changes that can trigger hair loss. In addition, an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata can also cause bald spots because the immune system is attacking the hair follicles themselves.
- Hair management
Do you have long hair that you frequently pull back into a tight ponytail or weave into cornrows? You should probably think twice about styling your hair this way as such methods can lead to hair loss, especially on weak hair. However, brushing your hair everyday and using hats will not lead to baldness.
According to the American Hair Loss Council, balding is largely influenced by the presence of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is produced by the combination of the enzyme 5 alpha reductase – an enzyme dictated by genetics and aging – and testosterone that’s already present in the follicle. DHT, according to WebMD, “shrinks hair follicles” and prevent them from producing new hair cells. However, not all follicles succumb to the effects of DHT. The sensitivity of your hair follicles to this testosterone by-product depends on one’s genetic make-up.
What Causes Hair Loss for Women
One of the disadvantages for a woman having thinning hair or even bald spots is that some doctors don’t take the condition as seriously as they would with a male patient. This may be attributed to the existing stereotype that hair loss is an exclusively masculine issue.
The American Academy of Dermatology begs to differ. The institution has declared that 40 percent of women experience considerable hair loss by the time they turn 40. This then brings the issue of alopecia in women to the forefront, making it one phenomenon that should also have similar renown and range of solutions as those for men.
Let it be clarified, though, that the causes of hair loss in women are very similar to those that plague the male population. However, in addition to genetics, stress, medications, health conditions, and medications, the following are also known to cause many women to lose their hair in significant amounts:
This throws a woman’s body off its normal functions, triggering telogen effluvium in some expectant mothers. Some may lose hair due to medications taken or health complications experienced while pregnant.
This life event involves considerable hormonal changes that can also affect normal hair growth cycles, resulting in thinning in some and even bald patches in others.
- Gynecological diseases
ABC News has reported that polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause hair to fall out among the ladies, although it awkwardly makes the body produce excessive facial hair. In fact, 5 million women have already been diagnosed as having this condition, which occurs when the ovaries generate too much male hormones.
- Hair care methods
Certain hairstyling products and processes, such as perms and bleaching, can destroy follicles and cause them to stop producing new hair cells.
Dr. Matthew Harries, Salford Royal NHS Foundation consultant dermatologist, said that the right diagnosis is the key in resolving hair loss issues effectively. So, make sure that you identify the real cause – with your physician’s help – before deciding which intervention to take.