Hereditary hair loss is often thought of as a man's condition. Many believe receding hairlines and balding is something that was supposed to happen to our husbands, brothers and uncles. On the contrary, millions of women are dealing with this too.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some 30 million women suffer from hereditary hair loss. A local dermatologist says she's sees it more than people may think. The good news is there is treatment available. They key is catching it early.
"It's a very difficult issue for women. Hair loss can cause severe distress for a woman," said Megan Cherry, a dermatologist at Village Dermatology.
It's been called a woman's crowning glory. So for many women, when they start to lose it, it has detrimental affect on their self esteem. Doctor Cherry says hair loss looks different in women.
"Women have a different pattern of hair loss when they loose in a pattern. This is typically the central scalp that spares the front of the hair line. It can be harder to recognize because it doesn't have the typical picture that a male would present with," said Cherry.
The technical term for female or male pattern balding is Androgenetic Alopecia. The word "androgenetic" indicates there are two components associated with this kind of hair loss. The problem is both hormonal and hereditary.
"Androgenetic actually means and androgen, which is the male type of hormone, that's also present in women. And then the second half which is genetic. So it is hereditary that involves hormones," said Cherry.
As for the heredity portion, there many misconceptions. Cherry says women should not be fooled by mom's or dad's full head of hair. Hair loss can skip generations.
"So both of your parents could have perfectly stable hair growth. However, grandparents may have had some loss. So there is not a clear pattern to look for to know that's going to be you," said Cherry.
At Hair Option wig shop in Hoover, owner Loraine McDonald has been in the wig business for twelve years. She says, over time, more women have come to her shop out of necessity rather than vanity.
"It seems like there are more and more women who are dealing with these problems and they don't know what to do. Because first of all you're kind of funny about it because you just want to cover it up. But after a while you can't cover it up," said McDonald.
She's seen severe cases.
"I've got this one girls who comes in she's got beautiful long hair. But at the top, nothing," said McDonald.
McDonald provides hundreds of styles. She even cuts wigs to a women's faces. But for women who choose not to go that route, doctor cherry says there are treatment options.
"Five thousand micrograms of biotin does a great job of strengthening hair and nail growth. And that's almost always the first step that we take. In addition to that, adding in a Minoxidil or Rogaine can be great for both men and women," said Cherry.
There is such a things as normal hair loss. Cherry says it's typical to shed between 100 and 150 strands of hair each day. If you consistently see more than that, it's time to take action and seek help. Cherry says that's what women often delay doing.
"Women don't always seek help for their hair loss the same way that men do. But it is very common, and almost all women do have some degree of hair loss in their lifetime," she said.
Cherry says typical pattern hair loss just has thinning. But inflammation, redness, bumps and tenderness on the scalp can be even more serious. That's known as cicatricial alopecia which can cause scarring which can lead to permanent hair loss.