Understanding The Important Differences Between Men's And Women's Hair Loss

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

No matter what gender you are, losing your hair sucks. Have you have ever woken up in the morning and had the first thought that comes to mind be about your hair loss? If so then we are on the same boat. It takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, it just plain sucks.

Despite the stigma, both men and women alike suffer from hair loss of all kinds. Hair loss can be the result of any number of factors including: hormones, stress, thyroid issues, nutritional deficiencies, and more, but regardless of the cause, one fact still remains: that men and women are very biologically different. Not only are we very different biologically, but so are the causes of our hair loss as well as the ways we need to go about treating it.

What is one commonality that we all share? That androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women. “Androgenic” refers to male hormones (which females have as well), specifically testosterone in this case, and “alopecia” refers to hair loss, hence most of us are suffering from hormonal hair loss.

The purpose of this article is to dive deeper into the differences between male and female androgenic alopecia, so let’s get started.

How many people experience androgenic alopecia?

Studies have put the number at that about 95% of all hair loss is due to androgenic alopecia.

Unfortunately for the lads, significantly more men have androgenic alopecia due to the higher amount of testosterone present in the body. Not only do more men have it, but studies have shown that on average they experience it earlier in life than women do.

According to the American Hair Loss Association, statistics say that around 50 million men in the U.S. have androgenic alopecia and that by age 50, 85% of men experience it to some degree.

For women those numbers are much lower with 30 million women in the U.S. experiencing androgenic alopecia and 50% of women experiencing it by age 50.

What causes hair loss in men vs. women?

For both men and women being genetically predisposed to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) plays the biggest role in hair loss. Though genetics play a big part, environmental factors such as pollution, sunlight, poor lifestyle, and more can most definitely contribute, usually speeding up hair loss that was already going to happen anyway.

DHT is still the main culprit of androgenic alopecia though. DHT is a hormone that is produced as a byproduct of testosterone. It is produced through the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is the main target for some hair loss treatments, more on that later. DHT is responsible for causing hair to undergo the miniaturization process, which is essentially when healthy hair cycles start to shorten and hair starts to die.

For men, the explanation is relatively simple. Androgenic alopecia is the result of being sensitive to DHT. As men age, their hairs tolerance towards DHT lowers, which is why you see a higher prevalence in older men.

For women, it is a bit more complicated. Sensitivity towards DHT is still the main factor, but genetically men have more testosterone and less estrogen, while women have more estrogen and less testosterone. Since DHT is derived from testosterone, it is pretty easy to see why men tend to experience it earlier in life.

Generally, in women hair loss tends to occur when they are older, this is due to reduced defense against DHT, but can also be highly attributed to menopause. Menopause is most likely to occur between the ages 50 and 60, but is entirely dependent on the individual and could occur sooner. During menopause, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are lowered, with this hormonal imbalance triggers the production of more androgens. With a higher level of DHT present in the body hair loss is more likely to occur.

Tip: Though it isn’t androgenic alopecia, during pregnancy and child birth hormone levels fluctuate and in 40-50% of women causes a condition called telogen effluvium, which is where hair rapidly moves into the resting phase causing shedding. It is very common and is usually reversible.

Differences in symptoms and telltale signs

Although there are differences in the physical symptoms of hair loss in men and women, we experience similar emotional symptoms. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and less enjoyable social interactions are just some of the debilitating emotional symptoms that can come from hair loss. Unfortunately, it has been shown that hair loss might be more emotionally damaging to women compared to men. Sociologists and scientists alike speculate that it is likely due to the social stigmas, namely the fact that it is more socially acceptable for men to be bald, not to mention the pressures of the beauty standards than society puts on women.

In men, hair loss tends to follow a predictable pattern. Generally, the hair on the temples will begin to thin first eventually leading to thinning in the crown and throughout the top of the head. The look is well recognized because it is a very distinct pattern, this also makes it easier to detect and start treatments earlier.

Besides noticing the classic pattern of hair loss starting to occur, there are some other telltale signs that guys can look for. If you notice that your hair looks thin in pictures or when it’s wet, are seeing lots of hair on your pillow or in the shower, or your hair isn’t styling the way it used to, you may be starting to lose your hair and should talk to your doctor right away so that you can get started with treatment.

For women hair loss is harder to detect. This is because the common pattern that women’s hair loss follows is thinning throughout the entire scalp. When a woman is losing hair, it can be hard to detect because not only do women generally wear their hair long which conceals it, but there is not one or two specific areas to look at like there is with men.

That doesn’t mean that there is not signs that you should be looking for though. One specific area to pay attention to is your part. If you suspect you may be losing your hair pay closer attention to how wide your part is, if you noticing it getting wider you could be losing your hair. Also, look for increased amounts of hair in the shower, on your pillow, or in your comb, and if you notice that more of your scalp is visible when you put your hair in a ponytail it might be time to talk to your doctor about treatments. Speaking of treatments…

What specific treatments should men and women be using?

As a precursor, one of the absolute best things you can do for treating your hair loss is to act on it as soon as you notice it. The sooner you act, the more hair you will be able to save. If you have even the slightest suspicion that you might be suffering from androgenic alopecia, schedule an appointment with your doctor so that they can confirm it and get you started on treatment right away.

Now, since that message is out of the way we can focus on what treatments you can and should be using. If you are trying to stop hair loss, there are three areas that you need to cover, they are:

Blocking DHT:

Also called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors because technically they stop the conversion process of testosterone into DHT.

For men, the most common 5-AR inhibitor is finasteride (though there are more effective ones). It is a very well researched drug that is FDA approved for the treatments of hair loss. It has been shown to block up to 70% of DHT in the scalp and is a must for any hair loss regimen. Though it must be prescribed by your doctor and there are some (extremely rare) side effects to be aware of.

Unfortunately, women cannot get prescribed finasteride due to its teratogenic properties that can cause birth defects in children. Instead women can get prescribed spironolactone. Spironolactone is an antiandrogen, meaning it slows down the production of androgens i.e. testosterone, meaning that there is less DHT being produced in the body. It has been shown to be quite effective at slowing hair loss, with one study of 166 women showing 75% of the test subjects having stabilized or improved condition. Spironolactone also has some side effects to be aware of and needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

If you cannot get a prescription or are skeptical of the side effects of the prescription options, there are natural DHT blockers available. Saw palmetto and nettle leaf are likely the two most effective natural DHT blockers, although the science is not conclusive. If you are to go the natural route do not expect as good of results as you might see from the prescription options.

Optimize scalp health:

Now that you have got the DHT taken care of, it’s time to get your scalp and hair ready to regrow. By taking natural ingredients that boost circulation, protects your scalp, prevent dandruff, and more, you are getting the inner and outer parts of your hair in optimal condition for growth with the treatments we are about to talk about. When your hair and scalp are in healthy condition, other treatments will be more effective.

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Actively regrow hair

You’re actively blocking DHT, you have a healthy scalp that is ready to grow, logically the next step is to actively grow the hair. That is where these treatments come in.

Minoxidil: Minoxidil is FDA approved for both men and women to use, though it comes in two forms: a 2% and a 5% solution for men and women respectively. It is a hair loss remedy that has been used since August of 1988 because it works. There is endless scientific research proving minoxidils effectiveness.

Contrary to some peoples misunderstandings, minoxidil is a vasodilator. This means that it facilitates blood flow to the areas that it is applied (no it does not block DHT). With increased blood flow to areas where minoxidil is applied, more nutrients and oxygen are delivered which hair then uses to grow.

Tip: Derma rolling with minoxidil is a must, it has been shown to significantly increase the amount of minoxidil that is absorbed thereby increasing its effectiveness.

Laser Helmet: Low-Level Laser Therapy is another treatment that is FDA approved for men and women alike. It is quite effective due to the unique mechanism by which it promotes hair growth. By shining light at specific wavelengths, energy-containing photons are passed into the cells in the scalp which help hair grow faster, longer, and thicker. The only downside is that laser helmets are not cheap, some costing $500+.

It is important to note that no matter if you use all of the treatments, or an given combination, that beating hair loss takes time. Ideally you should wait 3-6 months to determine whether or not the treatments are giving you the results that you want.

In conclusion

Men and women share a lot of similarities as well as a lot of differences when it comes to hair loss. From the causes to the way we treat it, no matter who you are if you are losing your hair it is never easy. With the right knowledge and the right treatments it is definitely possible to overcome it, you just have to be determined and willing to do whatever it takes.

Just like a house needs a strong foundation, so does your hair.