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Are there more balding women these days?

Dear Cecil:

There seem to be more balding women on the street these days. Are more women going bald or are more of them just going public?

P., Baltimore

Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

The American Medical Association reports that hair-loss complaints among women have “increased markedly” over the last couple of decades. The reason is not well understood–sometimes I am hard put to think of anything the medical establishment does understand well–but a combination of factors is probably responsible, not the least of them being the increased attention we pay to hair and other cosmetic considerations these days. Women have always been susceptible to a hair-loss syndrome similar to the one that commonly afflicts men, though of course the female version occurs far less frequently and is usually less drastic, resulting in general thinning of the hair rather than vast, gleaming expanses of skin. There’s also temporary hair loss, which can be caused by unusual stresses such as those that accompany high fever, childbirth, and surgery. To these age-old maladies, our modern lifestyle seems to have added a few more. Anti-cancer drugs are notorious for causing baldness, and the hormonal ups and downs produced by birth control pills are suspected of aggravating it, at least. Another known culprit is the mechanical abuse to hair and scalp inflicted by tight rolling, brushing with sharp bristles, and so on.

Cecil Adams

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