Female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a type of hair loss that occurs primarily due to genetics. It typically causes general hair thinning, or for the parting to get wider.

In males, androgenetic alopecia causes a receding hairline. In females, the hair loss tends to be more diffuse. The condition is common in females, particularly after menopause.

In this article, we look at the causes and risk factors for female pattern baldness, as well as treatment and prevention.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Female pattern baldness is a type of hair loss. The medical name for it is androgenetic alopecia. The condition affects all sexes, but it appears differently in females than in males.

Males who have androgenetic alopecia tend to develop a receding hairline and bald spots. Females with the condition usually experience general hair thinning instead. The scalp may be visible, but the hairline usually does not recede.

Shedding about 50 to 100 hairs a day is typical, but new growth will usually replace these hairs. However, if someone has female pattern baldness, the hair does not grow back.

What are the stages of female pattern hair loss?

The first sign of female pattern hair loss may be a widening part, or thinning on the crown of the head. A person may also notice less hair around the temples, but generally, the hairline will remain the same.

As female pattern hair loss progresses, thinning on the crown of the head may become more apparent. Without treatment, a person may lose a significant amount of hair in this area. However, not everyone experiences this.

Female pattern baldness is primarily a genetic condition. People can inherit the genes that cause it from either parent. These genes cause hair follicles to respond more strongly to androgens, or male sex hormones.

Everyone has male sex hormones, including females. They play a role in regulating hair growth, which occurs in a cycle of four phases:

  • anagen phase: hair grows
  • catagen phase: hair growth slows
  • telogen phase: hair rests
  • exogen phase: hair falls out

Androgen hormones stop hair growth, so an increased response to these hormones results in a shorter anagen phase. Over time, this leads to the hair becoming shorter and thinner.

Other factors that may play a role in female pattern hair loss include:


Female pattern baldness tends to be more common after menopause. This may be because, during perimenopause, estrogen levels decline. This suggests that estrogen may stimulate hair growth or protect against hair loss.

Currently, this is only a theory. Scientists are still learning about the role estrogen plays in the hair growth cycle.


Another point in life when a person is more likely to develop female pattern hair loss is after giving birth. Again, this may be because estrogen levels are lower during this time.

Hormone imbalances

In some people, medical conditions that cause hormonal imbalances can also contribute to female pattern hair loss.

An example of this is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition that causes higher levels of androgens in females. Although hair growth is one of the symptoms of PCOS, it may also lead to hair loss.

A 2020 study involving 472 women with female pattern hair loss showed that 38 already had a PCOS diagnosis. Researchers then discovered PCOS in an additional 12 women. In total, this accounted for 10.5% of the study participants.

While androgenetic alopecia is a common cause of hair loss in females, there are other factors and medical conditions that can cause it. These include:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Several nutritional deficiencies can result in hair loss, including iron, zinc, protein, and biotin deficiencies. Iron deficiency, in particular, affects more women than men, particularly during pregnancy or as a result of heavy periods.
  • Stress: Periods of intense or long-term stress can contribute to hair loss. When stress is the main cause, reducing it can allow the hair to grow back to its usual thickness in 6 to 9 months, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).
  • Traction alopecia: Traction alopecia is hair loss that occurs when a person frequently wears hairstyles that pull the hair too tightly. Similarly, harsh chemical treatments can also lead to hair loss.
  • Scalp infections or skin conditions: Infections of the scalp or hair follicles, as well as conditions such as psoriasis, can inflame the area and lead to hair loss.
  • Thyroid disease: Problems with the thyroid, or thyroid disease, can cause hair thinning. Without treatment, it may become noticeable hair loss.
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI): Some STIs, such as syphilis, can lead to hair loss if left untreated.
  • Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out.
  • Medical treatments: Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause hair loss as a side effect. However, hair usually regrows once a person has stopped taking the medication.

Treatment for female pattern baldness can help prevent future hair loss and may result in some hair regrowth. The options include:


Minoxidil is a topical treatment that people need to apply to the scalp every day. It may stimulate hair growth, as well as prevent further hair thinning. However, it can take 4 to 6 months of regular use to produce visible results.

Side effects can include an initial period of hair shedding, skin irritation, or dryness. Hair loss may return after a person stops using the product.


Finasteride is an oral medication people can take alone or while using minoxidil on the skin at the same time.

However, the effectiveness of finasteride in females is uncertain, and it is not suitable for people who may become pregnant, as it affects fetal development.


One of the common oral medications for female pattern hair loss is spironolactone, which is an antiandrogen drug.

Spironolactone can cause side effects, such as:

  • irregular periods
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • rash
  • the growth of fine, silky, light-colored hair on the face
  • high potassium levels

However, these side effects can improve on their own.

Light or laser therapy

Laser or red light therapy is another treatment that may help with female pattern hair loss. People can buy these devices over the counter to use at home or get professional treatments.

A 2020 review of previous research showed low-level light therapy (LLLT) treatment led to a significant increase in hair density and diameter. The research review involved a mixed population with three studies involving women only.

Some people reported minor side effects, such as scalp irritation, itchiness, or a warm sensation, but these went away when the treatment was over.

However, while there is evidence LLLT is effective, some previous studies have had relationships with companies in the industry, so the research may be biased.

Hair transplant

Hair transplants involve taking healthy hair from another part of the body and transplanting it to the scalp. It is an effective treatment, but it requires people to have enough donor hair for the procedure to work.

It takes some time for a person to see results after a hair transplant. This often occurs in around 6 to 9 months, according to the AAD, but it may take up to a year.

Learn more about hair transplants.

As female pattern hair loss is largely genetic, it is not always preventable. However, taking certain steps can help people keep their hair as healthy as possible, including:

  • washing the hair gently with a mild shampoo and conditioner
  • using detangling spray or leave-in conditioner before brushing
  • using the lowest setting on hair dryers to dry the hair
  • reducing exposure to heat from straighteners, curling irons, and other devices
  • limiting chemical hair treatments such as perms or relaxers
  • eating a balanced diet containing enough calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals
  • stopping smoking if relevant

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about female pattern baldness.

Can you reverse female pattern baldness?

Some treatments for female pattern baldness can stimulate new hair growth, which may reverse some of the effects. However, the results vary from person to person. Starting treatment as early as possible may prevent hair loss from progressing.

How common is female pattern baldness?

Female pattern baldness is very common. Androgenetic alopecia may affect up to 50% of males and females.

At what age does female pattern baldness start?

Female pattern baldness can start at any age, but it typically begins around midlife during a person’s 40s, 50s, or 60s.

What is the best thing for female pattern baldness?

There is no single treatment that works best for all people with female pattern hair loss. There are several effective options, but what is suitable for each individual will depend on their circumstances.

For example, some people may respond well to medications, while others may have side effects and prefer laser therapy. People can talk with a dermatologist to help determine the best choice for them.

Female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a common form of hair loss. In females, the hair loss usually involves general thinning, particularly around the crown. The hair parting may grow wider, but the hairline typically remains the same.

Female pattern hair loss is mainly genetic, but there are things people can do to help slow or prevent the hair loss. Several treatments, including medications and laser therapy, can provide results, but they take time to work.

For some, hair loss is distressing and may affect their self-confidence. People who have concerns about hair loss can talk with a doctor or another healthcare professional, who can help determine the cause and best treatment options.