How to nip women’s hair loss in the bud.
Women’s hair loss is more common than you might think. “About 40 to 50% of women at some point in their lives will experience hair loss,” says Dr. Daniel Lee of Anderson Center for Hair in Sandy Springs. It begins most often in the early 50s but can happen at any age.
Your body might be shedding strands for several reasons, and some can be serious if left untreated. So if you’re losing more hair than usual for two months or more, see your dermatologist or doctor specializing in hair loss to determine the cause.
Your health care provider may first order blood tests to rule out anemia, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies and hormonal imbalances, all of which can be remedied with medication or supplements. If the lab work doesn’t turn up anything of note, a scalp biopsy is often the next step in finding the underlying cause.
A very common cause of hair loss is experiencing a stressful event, such as pregnancy, divorce, a move or a job change. “The good news is that this is not permanent. Your hair will grow back on its own,” Lee notes.
Female pattern hair loss, which is genetic, is the top cause. While you cannot stop it from happening, you can significantly decrease its progression with preventative measures, which is why “the earlier you seek help, the better,” Lee says. Here, he speaks to several options:
Over-the-Counter Topical Product
The generic form of minoxidil, which comes in 2% or 5% formulations, is the same topical foam as its more expensive branded counterpart, Rogaine. Apply it to the scalp one or two times per day. “Any woman starting to lose hair should be on it,” Lee says. He notes not to be alarmed if the product increases hair loss initially as it pushes the hair to grow in a different cycle; this shedding is not permanent.
Another effective defensive treatment is using a laser cap daily for six minutes. Essentially a cap lined with embedded low-level lasers, it stimulates the hair follicles’ cells to produce healthy follicles and hair. This kind of product purchased through your doctor or online is pricey (several hundred to thousands of dollars), so it may be tempting to buy the cheaper laser combs on the market. However, Lee advises against it. “Laser combs don’t work because the hair follicle has to be exposed to the laser energy for a continuous amount of time, not for a second or two.”
Alternatively, your doctor may suggest an oral medication such as spironolactone, a diuretic that prevents hair loss, or finasteride, a medication that works by decreasing a hormone (DHT) and should only be used for older women as it can cause birth defects.
PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, injections is another method used to help prevent hair loss. This therapy utilizes a concentration of a patient’s own blood platelets containing growth compounds that are injected into the scalp. The suggested regimen depends on the patient.
Hair Restoration Surgery
After ruling out treatable causes or, if despite preventative methods, hair loss continues, hair transplantation is an option. “It’s not as bad as what people think,” says Lee of the daylong outpatient procedure that requires sedation and local anesthesia. After the scalp is numbed, a strip of skin is removed from the back of the scalp. Technicians then isolate each follicle, and a surgeon implants them one by one in bald patches. If you’re losing hair, don’t despair. There are possibilities for help.
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.