Men aren’t the only ones who have to worry about hair loss. Forty percent of women will suffer from some kind of hair thinning or loss by the age of 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Instead of simply changing your hairstyle to accomodate a widening part or thinning patches, Ryan Welter, MD, urges women to seek assistance as soon as possible to determine the cause of the hair loss and subsequently determine proper treatment. Dr. Welter is founder and Chief Surgeon for the New England Center for Hair Restoration.
“Women often have lost up to 50 percent of their hair by the time they land in my office. It’s important to treat the cause as soon as possible because it takes time for the hair to grow back,” he says.
Causes of Hair Loss in Women
Women may begin to notice thinning hair as they age, but it can happen at any time -- and for a variety of different reasons. Common causes of women’s hair loss include:
- Androgenic alopecia (female pattern hair loss from hormones and heredity)
- Telogen effluvium (1-3 months after extreme stress, childbirth, surgery)
- Hormonal imbalance (following pregancy, with certain oral contraceptives, during menopause)
- Other hormonal problems (thyroid problems, polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Alopecia areata (autoimmune attack on hair follicles)
- Ringworm and other skin infections
- Crash diets, poor nutrition, iron deficiency anemia
- Medications (e.g., excessive vitamin A, Accutane, Clonazepam, etc.);
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Possible Hair Loss Treatments for Women
Potential solutions for hair loss in women include:
Minoxidil: Women suffering from Alopecia may be prescribed 2 percent Minoxidil, a topical medication that prolongs the growth phase of hair and is also an active ingredient in Rogaine, an FDA-approved topical treatment clinically proven to help regrow hair. While noticeable results usually take three to four months, this medication has proven successful for hair regrowth, as well as a way to slow hair thinning.
Laser treatments: Using a lower-energy laser light can stimulate blood flow, which then leads to hair growth.
Replacement surgery: When other solutions fail, hair replacement surgery can offer a permanent solution. In the procedure, surgeons move existing scalp hair to balding or thinning parts of the head. For women who have lost parts of their hair from cancer treatments, burns or other scarring injuries to the scalp, this procedure can be extremely effective, as well as emotionally restorative.
Time: In some cases, such as following childbirth and stress, the cycle of hair growth will normalize over time.
Welter notes that some women may respond well to nonsurgical solutions, including biotin (i.e., a coenzyme and a B vitamin); improved diet and exercise regimens; and keratin-based products. However, he cautions that it is essential to address the cause of the hair loss, rather than find a cosmetic and potentially temporary solution.
If you are personally experiencing an excess of hair in your brush or find the diameter of your ponytail is shrinking, it may be time to make an appointment with a dermatologist or hair loss specialist to determine the particular cause.
Most doctors will begin with complete medical workup, which may include a blood panel; a scalp biopsy; a hair pull to determine if there is excessive loss; or a densitometry test to check the miniaturization of the hair shaft.
Once the cause has been determined, you and your doctor can consider treatment options. For example, hormonal hair loss may be treated with oral contraceptives to regulate hormones, while supplements may be used to treat hair loss caused by nutritional deficiencies. Interestingly, oral contraceptives can be a cause and a treatment for hair loss in women.