What is androgenetic alopecia in women? Learn more about the signs, treatments, and causes of androgenetic alopecia in women.
Androgenetic alopecia is the technical term for what most people refer to as “male pattern hair loss” or “female pattern hair loss”. As it turns out, even though these two have different names depending on your gender, underneath that they are both still androgenetic alopecia.
So, just what is androgenetic alopecia in women, what are the signs that you may be experiencing androgenetic alopecia as a woman, what are the causes for androgenetic alopecia in women, and how would this normally be treated?
Yes, women can experience androgenetic alopecia. In fact, androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in both women and men.
In all people with androgenetic alopecia, the same thing happens to the hair follicles.
Hair follicles have androgen receptors that androgens, like DHT, can bind to. And, when these receptors interact with DHT they can cause the miniaturization of the hair follicles. This miniaturization can cause previously long, and thick hairs to start being produced finer, and shorter. Some of these follicles may also eventually stop producing a hair altogether.
The hair cycle can also be disrupted by exposure to DHT, leading to shorter growth (anagen) cycles, and longer resting periods before growing another hair.
This is where androgenetic alopecia kind of takes on a different look between men and women. Even though at a granular level, the same things are happening to the hair follicles, the pattern ends up looking different on men vs women.
In women, the look of androgenetic alopecia can be easy to spot. Usually, the first sign of androgenetic alopecia in women is a progressively widening part. This part widening is often followed by a diffuse thinning of hair all over the head, this may progress so much that the scalp is easily visible through the hair. However, in women, it is unlikely that the hairline recedes or that the hair loss progresses to full baldness or bald spots.
This is different than what we see in androgenetic alopecia in men. For men, the hair loss may start as a receding hairline, an “M” shaped hairline, or a thinning of the crown, making a distinct “bald spot” on the back of the head. Eventually in men, this thinning can progress to baldness and bald spots and may leave them with only a “ring” of hair around the sides and back of the head.
These differences develop between the genders because of the differing levels of various androgenic and estrogenic hormones.
The cause of androgenetic alopecia in women is the same as in men -- androgens shrinking and damaging the hair follicles. Androgenetic alopecia is a consequence of hormones and also your genetics. A good way to gauge how your hair may look over time is to take a look at your relatives.
Women still produce androgens every day, although the amount produced is much less than men. This is part of the reason why androgenetic alopecia doesn’t progress as far in women as men, and also why fewer women experience hair loss than men.
However, certain situations may lead to hormonal fluctuations and changes in women that can increase or “uncover” the androgens in the body, potentially stimulating androgenetic alopecia. The most common time in a woman’s life for the development of androgenetic alopecia is after menopause. But other situations like taking hormone replacements with androgens, birth control medications with androgens, pregnancy, ovarian cysts, androgen-secreting tumors, or PCOS may also lead to androgenetic alopecia in some women.
It is important to note that even though this is an androgen-driven situation, just because a woman is dealing with androgenetic alopecia does not necessarily mean that she has higher androgen levels than usual. Women with androgenetic alopecia may have higher levels of the enzyme which converts some testosterone into DHT, lower levels of the enzyme which converts some testosterone into estrogen, or just more receptors for androgens on the hair follicles -- yet still have hormones in the normal range.
The only current FDA-approved treatment for androgenetic alopecia in women is Minoxidil, which is also the active ingredient in Rogaine. This is a once or twice daily topical medication that normally comes in 2% or 5% strengths. Minoxidil may help improve blood flow to the hair follicles to promote growth, thicker hair, and a longer growth phase. With Minoxidil, the medication will need to be continued to keep any hair benefits.
Some doctors may also prescribe Spironolactone off-label to help women with hair loss. Spironolactone is a medication that can block some of the androgens from attaching to the androgen receptor and may also reduce some testosterone production. This may be used commonly in women with PCOS that are experiencing hirsutism.
On occasion, other therapies like topical tretinoin or estrogen therapy may be used to try and increase the growth and thickness of the hair.
If the hair thinning is extensive, some women opt for hair replacement surgeries. However, in less extreme situations, changing your hairstyle, color, using colored powders in your part, or wigs may be able to help hide the extent of the hair thinning.
Here at Strut Health, we carry prescription medications for hair loss in men and women -- specifically targeting androgenetic alopecia.
Women are not able to use all of the same medications as men. Some of the first-line hair loss therapies in men, like Finasteride, are not for use in women due to reproductive risks. Handling the medications may even have some risks for women.
For this reason, we developed our topical medication for hair loss with women in mind. We combined the tried and tested Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) along with Spironolactone and Tretinoin to help deliver a well-rounding multi-ingredient approach to hair loss improvements in women.
If you are interested in seeing if our prescription women’s hair loss formula may be a good fit for your hair goals, you can have a free online questionnaire and image-based consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors today. If you are a good fit for treatment, your medication will be shipped to your door monthly with our free shipping.
If you have any questions during treatment, our staff and doctors are available for free unlimited follow-ups.