Hair Loss in Women Causes Over 60

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Noticing loose hairs during shower? Age would be a critical issue when it comes to causes of hair loss in women. The underlying causes at younger age are likely to be different in older age. Sometimes this could be trickier to find out the answer in women over 60.

Aging

Hair loss associated with aging when you’re over 60 is just as real as your skin aging. Your hair shaft, now white or grey (with less pigment) would become fewer and thinner.

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As with most signs of aging, aging hair is a consequence of poor body’s ability in regenerating and renewing cells as optimal as when you were young. This usually affects all over the scalp.

Unlike in your younger age, it may take longer to grow back ones that fall out since your hair growth rate is slowing down. As a result, hair would become less dense, and you’re likely to have more visible scalp!

Several environmental factors may speed up this aging process. Let’s say UV rays, white or grey hair is more vulnerable to get sun damage effect.

In addition, menopause is also a common culprit in causing hair thinning in elderly women. Hormonal changes are often to blame, though the exact underlying cause is not always clear. There are ways and lifestyle measures to soothe this menopausal thinning hair, see here!

Female pattern hair loss

This is a genetic problem, usually linked to family history. It is the most common type of hair loss affecting women. 

When does it start to occur? The answer varies, but generally between the ages of 12 to 40, according to AAFP [1]. It may also occur lately, including over 60.

Also called androgenetic alopecia, the condition can affect both genders. While men usually notice it with specific bald spots and receding hairline, women with genetic pattern hair loss are likely to have overall thinning. See this picture to figure out the difference!

Normally, each hair has its own hair life cycle in which eventually replaced by new hair (equal in size). The story is different with female pattern hair loss. With the condition, the new hair growth tends to be thinner and finer.  Over time, hair follicles shrink and even they may quit growing altogether.

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The diagnosis is probably just by listening and looking. Your dermatologist usually asks what your mother, aunts, or anyone else in your family look like! If some have similar pattern of androgenetic alopecia, you’re likely to have a genetic trait.

Certain health conditions

If your hair loss occurs suddenly or hair follicles are alike in size, something other than your genetic (hereditary) is likely to blame.

A wide range of conditions would factor into hair loss. Some common ones affecting women are anemia, thyroid disorders, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), skin disorders (e.g. seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis), celiac disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, intense illness, dramatic weight loss, Hashimoto disease, etc.

Some of these health conditions may have a direct effect in causing hair loss or in other ways.

Celiac disease for example, it causes malfunction of the body immune system, causing the body to attack itself including hair follicles [2]. Thyroid disorders cause hormonal imbalance, and seborrheic dermatitis can cause hair loss by affecting the skin of your scalp.

Medications or certain procedures

In general, the older you are the more likely you are taking more variety of medications. And some of these medications may contribute to hair shedding. The most common ones in elderly women are probably those used to help treat depression, arthritis, and high blood pressure.

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antidepressants, retinoids, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers are potential to lead to a condition called telogen effluvium. Talk your doctor in case if you’re in doubt whether your medication is causing your thinning hair.

Telogen effluvium occurs when something drives your hair follicles to go into telogen (resting) phase. It usually has to do with anything that disrupts hair lifecycle or shocks your body.

Therefore it’s also common after surgical procedure. Someone can be just fine before surgery, but then their hairs would start falling out a few weeks later.

This big clump is a scary thing, but it’s usually temporary. Most cases of telogen effluvium are reversible.

Intense, stressful events

It’s normal in this modern living to experience stress. But if it’s out of control, you would have consequences, and one of them could be hair loss.

This is particularly true for something intense stressful events. You may lose a temporary halt in hair growth as your body puts all things to respond these intense life-altering events (e.g. a death in your family, a divorce, or losing dramatic financial security /losing a job).

Intense stress of a life-altering event is something that takes a significant toll on your body system. It drives the system to activate ‘survival’ mode. Anything that’s last on the list of your body’s priorities is likely ignored. And hair is not on the list of your body’s most vital functions.

We can say that hair follicles tend to go into resting phase as the body responds your intense stress. The effect of shedding is usually noticeable about 2-3 months after your stressful event. This may last for three or six months.

Luckily, hair loss associated with stressful event is not going to be baldness. Mostly, this is temporary and reversible. Once your stress relieves, you will see normal hair growth several months afterwards.

How to deal with?

Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out the underlying cause. So seeing a dermatologist is good idea, especially if you experience hair loss with other unusual symptoms.

And no matter what the reason, it’s always worth a try to practice the following lifestyle measures and hair care tips to promote healthy hair growth when you’re over 60:

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