Women pattern baldness (named also androgenetic alopecia, alopecia androgenetica, androgenic alopecia) is loosing hair because of a phenomenon named miniaturization: under the influence of one’s own hormones the hair follicles become progressively smaller and eventually disappear. The culprit is DHT, or Dihydrotestosterone, which is a sex steroid and androgen hormone. DHT miniaturizes hair follicles by shortening the anagen (growth) phase and/or lengthening the telogen (resting) phase – see more about hair growing cycles. It is the most common cause of hair loss and will affect up to 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in their lifetime.
Since everyone has DHT that is produced by their bodies and only some people suffer from hair loss there has to be another factor involved. This other factor is having follicles that have a greater number of androgen receptors for the DHT to attach to. This is the component that is inherited through the genes.
It is the most common cause of hair loss and will affect up to 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in their lifetime. Unless men’s balding, which is really following a “pattern”, a defined step-by-step beginning with hairline recession at the temples and continue with vertex balding, women pattern baldness typically progress by diffusely thin over the top of their scalps. The hair loss rarely progresses to total or near total baldness, as it may in men.
Some other factors playing a role in this type of alopecia are genetics, environmental, health and even some life-style factors, like birth control pills. Women who have a genetic predisposition to suffer from Androgenic Alopecia can have it occur at a much younger age by taking birth control pills. The hormonal changes that occur trigger the onset of the Androgenic Alopecia. If a woman has a history of female pattern loss in her family she should advise her doctor before going on the pill. After the discontinuation of the pill the woman may notice that her hair begins shedding two or three months later. This may continue for six months when it usually stops. In some cases the process cannot be reversed and the woman may not regrow some of the hair that was lost.
The Ludwig scale has been developed to grade androgenic alopecia in women.
To date the most effective preventative treatments are anti androgens, drugs that prevent the creation of DHT. In the future gene therapy will one day be able to alter the genes to prevent the follicles from being affected by DHT.