Hair Loss in Women (Alopecia) - Practical Steps to Cope

by KathleenDuffy

For women, hair loss can be a devastating blow. Here are some pro-active ways that may help to restore growth and/or confidence.

Thankfully, it is becoming more acceptable to see women in public with substantial hair loss, although it is still regarded as bizarre by many. Celebrity sufferers of hair loss, such as Gail Porter in the UK, Thea Chassin in the US, plus the myriad of stars who have voluntarily opted for the bald look, are helping to improve the confidence of women who have lost or are losing their hair. However, there is no denying that for most women hair loss is a devastating blow to self-esteem.

There is no cure - but things can and often do improve and the more we know about the condition the more confident we will become in dealing with it.

What Causes Hair Loss in Women?


According to Dr Christian Jessen (of TV’s Embarrassing Bodies ), writing in the Evening Standard, 2nd June, 2010, approximately one in ten women will suffer the effects of hair loss .  According to Jessen, alopecia (i.e. hair loss) is an auto-immune condition.  This means that the hair follicles are attacked by the body’s own immune surveillance cells.  This strange situation results in  anti-bodies forming against these cells which, in turn,  results in a lack of normal hair growth. 

 But what triggers this auto-immune condition?  Doctors appear to be at a loss to find a permanent solution to the problem.  Apart from reassuring patients that the hair may grow back eventually, doctors have little else to offer in the way of encouragement. 

Become Pro-Active About your Hair Loss


So, what can we do about it.  We have little choice but to take matters into our own hands. Knowing as much as possible about your alopecia, keeping abreast of new research and following up at your doctor’s on any new drugs that may become available will help you to feel more positive in your outlook and more hopeful of regrowth.  From here women can begin taking practical steps to try to restore hair growth by making life-style changes.

Taking a pro-active stance can help to restore a woman’s self-confidence. At the same time, changing one’s lifestyle for the better can have a beneficial effect on your body’s overall health which may trigger hair growth too.

There are Different Kinds of Alopecia

  It helps to understand what kind of alopecia you may have. Alopecia comes in three main groupings:

  •  Alopecia universalis ­ - results in total loss of all body and facial hair.
  •  Alopecia totalis - loss of all head hair
  •  Alopecia areata - loss of head hair in patches

 Understanding the triggers that motivate hair loss is the first step to breaking down the stigma that accompanies alopecia.  No matter which type of alopecia you may be suffering from, hair loss is often associated with  some of the following factors:

  •  Stress - i.e. redundancy, divorce, death etc.
  •  Hormonal Changes - especially in the menopause
  •  Genetic baldness - i.e. it’s in the family
  •  Poor nutrition
  •  Anaemia
  •  Under-active thyroid

Let's have a look at these triggers and try to find ways of rectifying each one.

Alopecia and Stress

Take One Step at a Time


Many sudden stressful events can lead to hair loss - divorce, grief, redundancy, childbirth, eviction, etc.

It goes without saying that serious depression which can be the result of stress must be dealt with by your own doctor initially.  But help can also be found by giving yourself time and space to learn relaxation techniques such as Qui Gong, Yoga, Meditation.

Everybody's life is different, and most women lead busy lives where finding half an hour to themselves is incredibly difficult.  But now is the time to put yourself first.   If you are able-bodied, even going out for a half hour walk in your area brings immediate benefits.

However sceptical you may be, just the act of finding time to be quiet, to be with your own thoughts and in your own space, even for half an hour a day, can be nothing but a positive experience.  

Hormonal Changes and Alopecia

The Menopause Can Trigger Alopecia


The menopause is the time in a woman’s life when hair loss is most likely to occur. Oestrogen levels drop and the hair may become thinner and weaker as a result.  Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can restore hair and is available from your doctor. 

However, many do not agree with HRT and it is not the only option. Steven O’Brien, a trichologist at The London Centre of Trichology recommends trying a completely natural plant extract that acts in the same way as oestrogen. 

One of these natural hormone creams such as Serenityis available on line and over the counter at health stores.  For some women they relieve symptoms of the menopause and may therefore prevent the associated hair loss.  I also mention Serenity cream in the section devoted to low thyroid as it is beneficial in this area too.

Alopecia and Nutrition

Consider Changing Eating Habits


 Here is an area where we can make immediate, positive changes!

One of the most important vitamins for boosting hair growth is Vitamin B6.  It supplies blood and oxygen to hair follicles, thus encouraging healthy hair.  Foods rich in B6 include chicken, fish, pork, liver, kidney and soya beans.  Red meat is a high source  of Vitamin B6 and iron.

 Vegetarians can include iron-rich foods in their diet such as dried apricots, cashew nuts, kidney beans and almonds. Vitamin B-rich foods include potatoes, lentils and bananas.

 It is always a good idea to check with your doctor if you suspect your iron-levels are low, resulting in possible anaemia.  He/she may prescribe an iron supplement.  

Some vitamin supplements are also specially formulated to try to encourage hair re-growth. 
Supplements like Florisene  include  not only iron but also L-lysine plus vitamin C and vitamin B12 to aid the absorption of the iron which is otherwise lost. Florisene is available from leading pharmacies and is suitable for vegetarians. 


Viviscal is a Finnish product made from 100% natural products and is widely available. It claims to have been through a number of scientific tests.   A popular vitamin supplement, it is endorsed by celebrities such as Sue Holderness who played Marlene in the UK hit series, Only Fools and Horses, Cheryl Baker of the pop group Buck’s Fizz and Jennie Bond, the BBC Royal Correspondent, all of whom claim positive results after using the product.  

Hair Loss in Women - Under-Active Thyroid

Get Your Thyroid Levels Checked


 An under-active thyroid can cause, amongst other symptoms, hair loss at front and back of the head and the loss of the outer third of the eyebrows and/or eyelashes, extreme tiredness, bloating, and depression.

 If you suspect your thyroid may be under-active a blood-test may confirm this, although these are not always reliable. You may be given drugs to bring your thyroid back to normal.

 Alternatively, in his book, Your thyroid and how to keep it healthy, Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield (Hammersmith Press, 2nd revised ed., 2006) gives details on how to manage your low thyroid.  One of his suggestions is the use of the natural oestrogen cream, Serenity, as mentioned above. Thus thyroid levels should increase and, at the same time, hair will become healthier with the potential for re-growth.  

Groups for Women with Alopecia - In the United States and the United Kingdom

Hair Loss in Women - Join a Group!

In the States Thea Chassin, founder of  Bald Girls Do Lunch  brings alopecia sufferers together in their own states for motivational support and up-to-date information on this debilitating condition. Check out the video below.

In the United Kingdom Alopecia UK Online offers advice and a supportive forum.  You can find their website here.

Watch This Inspiring Video - Bald Girls Do Lunch!

My Own Experience of Alopecia


 I suffered from alopecia for about five years from the age of fifty five. My mother had also had this problem so I assume for me it is a genetic, hereditary symptom, tied in with the menopause. 

My hair loss consisted of a large bald patch on the left hand side of my crown, just above the ear.  It was not as serious as some of the severe cases that are documented, but nevertheless it was very noticeable and caused me much embarrassment and worry. Additional factors might have been that at the time I was under a lot of stress, physically and emotionally, eating junk and generally paying little attention to my own needs.  

Once I became more settled I decided to try to tackle my hair loss problem by :

  • ensuring my diet consisted of fresh foods, organically produced if possible, although this was not always practical for me.
  • putting nothing on my hair that was chemically derived, and that included shampoos or colorants. And I allowed my hair to grow out to its natural grey colur which I really liked. 
  • having my thyroid checked at my doctor's. It was too low and I  was told I could have drug treatment to rectify the situation.   This was good news, but after reading Dr Durrant-Peatfield's book,  I decided to try to get my levels back up by using the natural  Serenity cream. I told my doctor what I was doing and he agreed to my attempt. Within a few weeks my thyroid was back to normal. I still use the cream today.   
  • taking vitamin and mineral supplements, including Florisene as mentioned above. 

It took two years for my bald patch to completely re-grow.  My hair is still very fine and I am always aware that my alopecia could return.  So I try to keep up the good habits I have learned over the years.


Hair Loss in Women - Hope for the Future?

Alopecia has a habit of rectifying itself in many instances, so  I could not say with certainty that any of the above played a part in my recovery, especially in the case of my thyroid as I didn't have my levels checked until after my hair had started growing back  - but by taking a pro-active, positive approach to my hair loss I felt encouraged. I was not a victim any more. 

If my efforts had all been in vain I was quite prepared to accept the inevitable,  with a positive attitude,  and save up to buy myself a really brilliant wig!

 Ladies - there is hope. 


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his/her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Updated: 07/13/2013, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 05/07/2013

You are so lucky!! :)

katiem2 on 05/02/2013

I have very thick hair I often complain about, I won't be doing that any more...

KathleenDuffy on 04/27/2013

Hi WordChazer - Yes, I too like my hair fairly short - but would never be brave enough to go out in public with no hair. I ain't got the guts... I do admire Joanna Rowsell - what a star! However, for those who are mere mortals, there are some beautiful wigs out there nowadays and in fact, they are so wonderful that even some women with perfectly good hair are opting for them now and again. Whatever floats your boat! Thanks for your lovely post!

Guest on 04/26/2013

My hair is one of the few parts of me I could live without and not feel self conscious (just perhaps a bit chilly at times!) If I had to lose some part of me totally to one disease or another, my hair would likely be top of the list, as I always try to keep it short and feel very self conscious when it is not hedghehog-meets-buzzcut. One of my favorite people is Joanna Rowsell, the UK cyclist, as she has not let her alopecia stand in the way of being a fit, happy, medal-winning female role model. That all said, I am aware that to many women, long hair is a badge of identity as much as my buzzcut is for me, and I know that many cancer sufferers feel less secure and more unwell for losing their locks. To me, straggles get in the way of head-turning earrings, glasses and headphones and are indicative of a lack of my self-control, at some level. When I was younger I was encouraged to be the girly girl, with a shoulder length bob of very fine hair, Since having it cut short in my teens, my hair has thickened considerably and in my early 40s, I'm now going a family-traditional iron grey in streaks (that photo is flattering and a couple of years old!) I am hoping to end up a grey-white with the same short cut I have now, but my hormones are beginning to cut in for the menopause so anything is possible!

KathleenDuffy on 04/26/2013

Brenda, you are so lucky to have thick hair!! The writeway: I wouldn't have the guts to go without a wig myself and admire those women who do.I know what you mean - in a perfect world these things wouldn't matter. I am intrigued that your dream encouraged you to speak in public. That's an excellent outcome for something that is so often regarded as negative. Dreams of hair loss are often said to be a warning sign that we should look after our health and become more proactive in our life choices. I don't know if this is true, but it's an interesting thought. Thanks both of you for your posts.

thegoodvillager on 04/26/2013

My grandmother suffered from this, and resorted to wigs while I knew her. She had very little left when she died. I kind of wish she hadn't covered up. I'd really like to see more women have the options that men do - there are some pretty beautiful scalps out there.

On a random note, a few years back, I had a dream that I woke up with no hair, and instead of it being a horrible thing, it got me into hard core public speaking...

I truly believe that so many of the things we think are weaknesses can be strengths.

BrendaReeves on 04/25/2013

Very interesting. I've always had extremely thick hair, but I have lost some with menopause.

KathleenDuffy on 04/25/2013

Bobski606 - I am so pleased that you found this article encouraging. And so glad your hair is growing back - it takes time and patience but it's such a great feeling. Good luck! :)

Bobski606 on 04/25/2013

What a great article! I suffer from alopecia too but thankfully I have managed to get it under control and my hair is finally starting to grow back. Mine was triggered by a change in medication and a really poor diet, I couldn't change the meds so I changed my diet and now I feel so much better. It's good to know that there are these support groups out there, especially if it ever comes back again.

KathleenDuffy on 04/25/2013

Thanks so much ologsinquito - so glad you liked it!

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