Australian personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur Kayla Itsines recently opened up to her Instagram followers about struggling with female pattern baldness, a condition that about one-third of women will experience in their lives. At 26 years old, Kayla puts an otherwise taboo subject in the limelight for so many of us who may struggle with the same symptoms but don’t know what to call it or are embarrassed for dealing with the condition that is often associated with age and menopause.
The Kayla Effect
Kayla took the fitness community by storm when she created the "Bikini Body Guides" (BBGs) -- a series of fitness ebooks, and a meal-planning and workout app, Sweat with Kayla. Before and after snapshots exhibiting her followers’ incredible results from the BBG program were emblazoned all over Instagram and had everyone and their mother sweating to the 28-minute sessions.
But it wasn’t just the results of the program that inspired so many of Kayla’s devoted followers (7.2 million, to be exact); instead, it was and is Kayla’s attitude toward body image, fitness, and community. She radiates positivity, is deeply connected to and engaged with her followers, and promotes being the best version of oneself (working with the body, not fighting it).
While Kayla is known for her fitness regimen, she is also known for her iconic dark hair and long, thick ponytail. After being asked many times about her hair, Kayla took to Instagram to get real with her followers. She wrote, “My natural hair is actually super short. I have genetically really thin hair (my grandma and mum both have really thin hair as does a lot of my family). I often just wear a clip in ponytail when I want long hair. It is something I have come to terms with over the years. I have a family history of female pattern baldness.”
Kayla's coming clean about her struggle with female pattern baldness made her ever the more relatable and thus ever the more real. Less than half of women make it to 65 years of age with a full head of hair, so it's time we talk about it.
What is Female Pattern Baldness?
Just like men lose their hair, women do too, only in a different pattern. Men tend to lose hair above the temples, where a receding hairline forms. Hair at the top of the head also thins and then progresses to baldness. Women, on the other hand, start to experience thinning at the part line, followed by progressive diffuse hair loss from the top of the head. The hairline doesn’t usually recede and women rarely become completely bald.
A whopping 90% of hair loss is genetic. Hair loss in women is quite normal and usually accelerated by age – two-thirds of women experience hair loss after menopause – but the thinning can start much earlier. Some 40% of women have visible hair loss by the time they are 40 years old, and some even earlier, between the ages of 25 and 35.
Treating Female Pattern Baldness
Female pattern baldness is hereditary, but can be reversed with medications and laser therapy. Improved diet and stress levels can also help, especially for non-hereditary conditions.
Some 70% of women will lose hair from a stress response called Telogen Effluvium, which forces hair follicles into a resting state and they stop producing hair fibers. Stress shedding tends to be temporary, while hereditary hair loss will not witness hair growing back on its own without active intervention.
Other non-heredity factors leading to hair loss include having an iron deficiency, which inhibits the production of hemoglobin essential for hair growth, as well as other stressors, including going on or off birth control pills, sunburn on the scalp, crash dieting, childbirth, surgery, trauma, anti-depressants, or going vegan or vegetarian (improperly planned).
To reverse hair loss, the best approach is embracing a consciously healthy diet and reducing stress. Combating hereditary female pattern baldness requires a more active approach, perhaps with the help of medication.
But above it all, it’s about having a positive attitude. Take it from Kayla, who says we all have our own little insecurities.
"Yes, of course I'm super conscious about it and I’ve tried everything to fix it, trust me,: she writes, "But, at the same time, I am at peace with it and I will not let it rule my life. So instead I focus on being healthy and happy. This is definitely a really difficult thing to do and I know from first hand experience, but it is definitely worth it and you have NOTHING to be shy about, be PROUD. I am sure all of you girls know what I am saying, so lets talk about it.”