There has long been a battle between the sexes. Whether it’s for superiority or who should earn more, there’s no denying that there are lots of differences between men and women.
One such thing that separates men and women is hair loss. Statistically speaking, it affects 35 million men and 21 million women. The disparity in numbers shows that it runs its course differently in males and females, as seen in the categories below:
Hair Growth Rate
The speed at which hair grows is faster in women than in men. A study by Van Neste and Rushton has shown that women were blessed to have their hair grow faster. To make matters worse, men who suffer from alopecia (hair loss) suffer from even slower hair growth – which explains why males lose hair earlier than females.
Onset of Thinning
Hair thinning occurs when you lose more than 100 hair strands every day. It occurs earlier in men – some may even experience it at the ripe age of 15! On average, hair loss happens in the 30s or 40s, though it can happen later in women.
Hair thinning is more prevalent in men, where it occurs in 60% of those aged 50 years old and above. As for women, approximately 40% of those aged 40 years old and above are affected.
At age 80, 40 million men would already be devastated by hair loss – in comparison to just 27 million women at the same age.
For men, it starts with a receding hairline, which gradually turns to baldness.
As for women, the crown is largely affected, although hair loss can affect other parts as well. Evidence of hair thinning is more noticeable when the hair is pulled back. Although hair loss affects many areas, women rarely go bald – unless there’s an underlying disease or she’s taking certain medications (see below).
Stress-Related Hair Loss
Stress is one of the many factors that may lead to hair loss in both genders. The body responds to stress in such a way that the follicles stop growing.
Concerning stress-related hair loss, women are more prone to suffer from such a problem. This is because females tend to be more 'stressed.' (Source: American Psychological Association)
While alarming, this is only temporary. Hair re-growth can be expected after six months.
Androgen is a male hormone that can lead to hair loss. As such, conditions where androgen levels are altered usually lead to hair loss.
While androgen is more common in men, it occurs – and can increase in women. This usually happens in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, where there is an abundance of androgen. As a result, as much as 40-70% of women with PCOS report hair loss.
Another condition that alters androgen levels – which eventually leads to hair loss – is Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia or CAH. This genetic disorder affects the adrenal glands, which are small organs located on top of the kidneys. These glands are responsible for producing hormones, and due to the disease, they synthesize more androgen than needed.
According to the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine website, CAH affects boys and girls equally. With that being said, both genders are at equal footing when it comes to this type of hair loss.
Both men and women can also lose hair due to rising levels of Dihydrotestosterone or DHT, a type of androgen. The hormonal changes start earlier in men though, which explains why they lose hair faster. As for women, an increase in DHT usually occurs during menopause, which is why ladies suffer from thinner hair in the latter parts of their lives.
As has been mentioned, hormonal changes can lead to hair loss. Expectedly, hormonal therapy can bring about the same problem as well.
For example, testosterone is a medication prescribed to at least 2.3 million men. As for women, it is given for osteoporosis prevention, as well as the improvement of sexual function during menopause. It is difficult to compare which gender is prescribed more, though it is certain that the men and women who take this drug stand to lose hair as a side effect.
Certain vitamins and minerals affect hair growth – and hair loss. One such nutrient is Iron, which is found in beef, sardines, lamb, egg, duck, and canned salmon, to name a few. The ideal level is 35.9 to 44.9% in women, and 38.3 to 48.6% in men. When these levels get low, iron deficiency anemia occurs.
Also known as IDA, the low iron levels render the red blood cells unable to carry oxygen efficiently throughout the body. As a result, the person with IDA can experience fatigue, weakness, pallor, brittle nails, and unusual cravings to name a few. In most cases, it brings about hair loss as well.
According to the American Family Physician website, IDA is more common in women. Studies show that it affects non-Hispanic whites at 9-12%, and approximately 20% of African-American and Mexican-American women. Because of these rates, females are more prone to suffer from iron deficiency hair loss. This is in comparison to men where only 2% develop IDA.
Low Thyroid Function
Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, develops when the thyroid gland is unable to create the needed hormones for the body. It develops slowly and gradually throughout the years. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, weight gain, hoarseness, slowed heart rate, and of course thinning hair.
According to the National Institutes of Health, women are more prone to develop hypothyroidism. With that being said, females are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism-related hair loss.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
While women lose hair in the latter parts of their lives, they can experience it earlier as well due to pregnancy. During this stage, hormones flood the system to create a conducive environment for the baby. This surge of hormones and other pregnancy-related stresses can lead to telogen effluvium, where the hair follicles enter a 'resting state.' As a result, hair growth is stunted for several months.
Unfortunately, telogen effluvium may persist until childbirth – again, the result of hormonal changes. Although this can be alarming, pregnancy and childbirth-related hair loss usually resolve after 3-4 months.
Hair loss occurs differently in men and women because of hormones, nutritional intake, and certain conditions. No matter what the case might be, it is important to treat the underlying problem immediately to prevent a severe case of hair loss.