by Peggy Knight, Owner, Thriving with Hair Loss
My personal story is simple. I lost my hair as a child due to the condition Alopecia Areata, and as a result, wore wigs most of my life. As an adult, I founded a business to help others who suffered from hair loss. Women usually contact me after spending lots of money on hair growth shampoos and treatments that don’t solve the problem. They are at a loss and don’t know where to go to get help.
Aging Hair Loss
People aged 50Plus sometimes ask me if “aging hair loss” is really a thing. The answer is yes. It’s known as androgenetic alopecia but is more commonly called male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness.
While often thought of as a male issue, hair loss in women is more common than many people think. Studies suggest that up to 50% of women will experience some degree of hair loss in their lifetime. The causes of hair loss in women can vary and may include genetics, hormonal changes, stress, illness, and certain medications. It can also be a side effect of treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
While many women experience mild or temporary hair loss, others experience more severe or permanent loss that can significantly affect their quality of life. It’s not unusual for women to feel self-conscious or embarrassed about their hair loss and they may struggle with their identity and self-esteem as a result.
Which Women are Most Likely to Experience Aging Hair Loss?
Women of any age can experience aging hair loss, but it becomes more common with age, especially after menopause. For example, hormonal changes during and after menopause, when estrogen levels decrease, can contribute to hair thinning in many women. Stress, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also play a role in exacerbating hair loss. Additionally, women with an increased level of, or higher sensitivity to, androgens (male hormones) are sometimes more prone to female pattern baldness.
Women who are more likely to suffer from aging hair loss include those with a family history of hair loss, hormonal imbalances, and certain medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It may also be more common among those with a history of hairstyles that pull on the hair, like tight ponytails or braids, or of using harsh chemicals on their hair.
What are the Myths About Hair Loss?
Myths about hair loss are widespread. Nothing in the following list is true:
Wearing Hats Causes Hair Loss
Wearing hats doesn’t directly cause hair loss. However, excessively tight hats could potentially lead to hair breakage if they constantly rub against the hair and scalp.
Frequent Shampooing Causes Hair Loss
Regular shampooing doesn’t cause hair loss. In fact, keeping your scalp clean and healthy can promote hair growth. Hair shedding during shampooing is typically the result of the natural hair growth cycle.
Hair Loss Is Only Genetic
While genetic factors play a significant role in hair loss, other factors such as hormonal imbalances, medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle choices can also contribute.
Stress Is the Main Cause of Hair Loss
While extreme stress can lead to temporary hair shedding (telogen effluvium), most cases of hair loss have a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors at play.
Hair Loss Only Affects Older People
Hair loss can affect people of all ages, including teenagers and young adults. Male and female pattern baldness can begin as early as the late teens or early twenties.
Hair Loss Is Linked to Poor Circulation
While good blood circulation is important for overall health, there’s no direct link between poor circulation and hair loss.
Hair Loss Products Are Always Effective
Many over-the-counter hair loss products claim to be effective, but their results can vary greatly. FDA-approved treatments like minoxidil and finasteride have shown effectiveness, but not all products live up to their claims.
Shaving Your Head Makes Hair Grow Thicker
Shaving your head won’t change the thickness or density of your hair. The appearance of thicker hair after shaving is due to the hair’s blunt cut, not actual growth changes.
Natural Remedies Fully Reverse Hair Loss
While some natural remedies and herbal supplements may have a positive impact on hair health, they are unlikely to fully reverse significant hair loss caused by genetic or hormonal factors.
It’s important to approach hair loss with accurate information and seek advice from medical professionals or dermatologists to understand your specific situation and the best course of action.
What are Signs of Hair Loss?
- Finding hair daily either on your brush, on the floor, in showers, on your pillows, or in the sink.
- Noticing patches of thinner or missing hair, including a part on the top of your head that gets wider.
- Seeing scalp skin through your hair.
- Finding your ponytails are smaller.
- Seeing your hair break off.
When to See the Doctor
Should I Try Hair Extensions Before Investing in a Wig?
I caution against the use hair extensions for women with thinning hair. Although they do add density to thinning hair, they also pull on your remaining hair which can cause further damage. This type of loss is referred to as Traction Alopecia which is hair loss caused by repeated pulling. Instead, the use of a full wigs or Enhancement Hair (Topper) adds fullness to thin hair or complete baldness without causing further damage.
Which is the Better Choice for Me, a Topper or a Wig?
Choosing between a hair topper and a wig requires a thoughtful assessment of factors like the extent of your hair loss, your goals for added volume or coverage, your daily activities and styling preferences, comfort levels, maintenance commitments, budget, and desired duration of use. In general, hair toppers are typically designed for individuals with localized hair thinning or partial hair loss, while wigs are a better option for those with more extensive hair loss or complete baldness. Ultimately, the best choice depends on what aligns with your unique needs, lifestyle, and personal comfort, aiming to boost your confidence and achieve the desired appearance.
Steps to Ordering the Perfect Customized Wig or Topper
There are four steps to ordering the wig or topper that best meets your personal needs. Consider color, length, size and type of hair from which the wig or topper is made.
Matching your natural hair color is key in selecting your new hair. Unfortunately, that is not always as easy as you might think as your own hair color changes through oxidation. In fact, your hair color can change from week to week. At the same time, the hair replacement piece also oxidizes, but at a different pace. Especially with a topper, you want to make sure your hairpiece blends seamlessly with your natural hair. It is important to have an experienced stylist at the ready to handle any color issues.
Your wig or topper length is dependent on your desired end style. If a woman comes in with very short aging hair, I generally advise she go no longer than two inches beyond her own hair to avoid an unnatural look and drawing unwanted attention. Doing so provides a more natural finished look. Additionally, change is hard for most people, and this is especially true when it comes to hair styles. You can go a few inches longer or shorter without notice.
Enhancement hair comes in different sizes and shapes. It’s important to size your topper or wig appropriately for comfort and fit. The end style and proper placement on the head are important considerations. I generally recommend wigs or toppers with adjustable features like straps, hooks, or elastic bands. These allow you to achieve a secure and customized fit, which is especially important if you engage in physical activity. We recommend you work with a trained professional who can measure your head, or area for a topper, correctly. Choosing the correct size ensures your wig or topper sits securely and looks natural.
Type of Hair
Choosing between a human hair wig and a synthetic wig depends on your preferences, budget, and specific needs. Each type has its own advantages and considerations. Here’s a comparison to help you make an informed decision:
Human Hair Wigs:
- Closely resemble natural hair in terms of texture, movement, and overall appearance. They can be styled just like your own hair, including using heat styling tools.
- Allow for a wide range of styling options, including curling, straightening, and coloring.
- Generally last longer than synthetic wigs with proper care and maintenance.
- Often have features that mimic a natural scalp.
- Usually are more expensive than synthetic wigs due to the higher cost of materials.
- Require more maintenance, including regular washing, conditioning, and styling. They can lose their style over time and may need restyling after washing.
- May experience color fading over time due to sun exposure and washing.
- Frequently are more budget-friendly than human hair wigs.
- Hold their style well and require minimal maintenance. They don’t lose their shape after washing.
- Maintain their color vibrancy over time, as the color is baked into the fibers during manufacturing.
- Often come pre-styled, so you don’t need to spend time styling them after washing.
- May not have the same level of realism as human hair wigs.
- Cannot be heat-styled, so your styling options are more limited compared to human hair wigs.
- Typically have a shorter lifespan compared to high-quality human hair wigs.
I recommend you choose a human hair wig if your priority is a natural look and feel, you want versatility in styling and are willing to invest in higher cost and maintenance and seek a longer-lasting option. Alternatively, a synthetic wig may be the way to go if you are looking for affordability, low maintenance, pre-styled options, and don’t require extensive heat styling or customization.
Ultimately, your choice between human hair and synthetic wigs depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Consider the advantages and considerations of each type to determine which one aligns best with your needs and priorities.
Be Kind to Yourself When Experiencing Aging Hair Loss
Aging hair loss can affect your self-esteem. I get it. Society places great emphasis on hair as a symbol of youth, beauty, and vitality. So, it’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious with hair loss. Try to keep in mind that self-esteem is a holistic concept that encompasses various aspects of self-worth and confidence. While hair loss can impact how you feel about your appearance, it certainly doesn’t define you as a person. Prioritizing self-care, self-acceptance and seeking support when needed can help you navigate the emotional challenges associated with aging hair loss.
Fortunately, we live in a world where wonderful toppers and wigs are available if you decide to wear one. And hair professionals are well-trained to help you choose the best solution for you.
Why do older women experience hair loss?
Hair loss in older women is primarily attributed to hormonal changes, genetic predisposition, and the natural aging process. Factors such as menopause, declining estrogen levels, and genetics can all contribute to thinning hair.
What are the advantages of wearing wigs for older women with hair loss?
Wigs offer a range of benefits, including increased confidence, a natural appearance, versatility in styling, and a quick solution for addressing hair loss without invasive procedures.
What types of wigs are suitable for older women?
Older women can choose from a variety of wigs, including synthetic wigs, human hair wigs, lace front wigs, and monofilament wigs. The choice depends on personal preferences, budget, and desired level of realism.
How do I choose the right wig color and style for me?
When selecting a wig, consider your natural hair color and style preferences. Choosing a color that closely matches your original hair can provide a more natural look. As for style, consider options that complement your face shape and personal style.
Are wigs uncomfortable to wear, especially for older women?
Modern wigs are designed with comfort in mind. Look for wigs with adjustable straps, soft caps, and breathable materials to ensure a comfortable fit, even for extended periods.
How do I care for and maintain my wig?
Proper wig care involves regular washing, conditioning, and styling. Use specialized wig care products and follow manufacturer guidelines. For synthetic wigs, avoid heat styling, while human hair wigs can be treated similarly to natural hair.
Can I still lead an active lifestyle while wearing a wig?
Yes, wigs are designed to be secure during everyday activities. However, if you’re engaging in vigorous activities, you might consider using wig adhesive or pins to ensure your wig stays in place.
Will wearing a wig damage any remaining hair?
Wearing a wig correctly and using proper care techniques should not damage your remaining hair. However, it’s essential to handle your natural hair gently and avoid any unnecessary stress on the scalp.
About the Author: Peggy Knight
“I get to help women look younger, feel more confident and be more secure in their new hair”.
Peggy Knight is the owner of Peggy Knight Wigs. For over 40 years, she has helped thousands of women with medical hair loss due to Covid 19, Chemotherapy, Alopecia Areata and aging hair loss. She is the author of Thriving with Hair Loss which details her personal story and struggles with hair loss. As someone who understands the wants, needs and fears of her clients, Peggy is able to provide invaluable advice and education about wigs and toppers.
Peggy and her concepts were featured on Oprah, 2020, and in CNN and various publications. She presents internationally on the topic of aging hair loss. In addition, she is the founder of Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides wigs made from donated hair to children at no charge. Learn more about Peggy on her website, PeggyKnight.com. You can contact her directly via email at Peggy@peggyknight.com, by phone at 1-800-997-7753 or request a virtual consultation in the comfort of your own home.
Peggy’s New Book, “Thriving with Hair Loss”!
Photos of wigs published with permission from Jenn Winski.