If you're a post-menopausal woman, you might have noticed that your forehead has grown higher all of a sudden. Or maybe the part in your hair has gotten wider, and you can see your scalp when the light hits it just right. But don't worry; you're not alone. Up to 10% of pre-menopausal women experience some androgenetic alopecia (decreased hair diameter with a normal growth pattern), and the rate jumps considerably to 50-75% of women 65 and older.
The cause of this type of hair loss isn't fully understood, but some studies point to factors such as hormonal imbalances, iron deficiency, rapid weight loss, medication side-effects and some disease states. For any woman who is experiencing hair loss, the first step is to consult with a healthcare professional who can rule out any physical conditions that may be contributing to the hair loss, followed by a proper treatment plan.
There are several treatments that have shown some promise in reversing or slowing androgenetic hair loss. Some treatments affect the hormones that play a role in hair growth, while others treat conditions that can cause hair loss. Rogaine is the only FDA-approved topical treatment for female hair loss. Some studies have suggested that it may be effective for some women by prolonging the hair's growth phase; however, it can take up to a year to see any results. There are also prescription oral medications available, such as Propecia, but there are significant risks and side-effects with these drugs, and they only treat specific hair loss conditions.
Laser combs are advertised to increase hair growth, and the FDA has approved the HairMax Laser Comb for this use. However, it costs $495 and requires 15 minutes of use three times a week, with minimal evidence of how well it actually works. A hair transplant is another costly, but effective, method for treating extensive hair loss. With this treatment, hair follicles are removed from dense areas of growth and implanted to the thinning areas. The problem with this type of treatment is that most women experience thinning throughout the scalp, so they aren't usually good candidates for hair transplant.
Before exploring the more costly medical treatments it's a good idea to take a look at common reasons for increased hair loss. Your diet can play a strong role in hair health, and some women who skimp on protein may see a decrease in hair thickness. Increasing your dietary intake of B vitamins (or adding a supplement) can help with hair health. Low iron levels may also contribute to hair loss, but consult with your healthcare provider first to determine if you are in need of an iron supplement.
Stress is another major cause of hair loss that's easily treatable. Exercise, meditation, breathing techniques and improved sleeping habits can all play a big role in reducing the stress hormones that can increase hair loss.
Additionally, certain hairstyles can contribute to hair loss, such as wearing tight braids, extensions or using hair bands that can cause breakage. Look for bands that are soft elastic with a fabric cover, and avoid styles that pull or put excessive tension on your hair. Adding some bangs and layers can also create the look of fuller hair and help hide thinning at the front of your scalp.
Coloring your hair can add thickness, and covering the gray will make thinning areas less noticeable. There are even products available that can be applied to the part and crown to help create the look of more hair. You can achieve similar results with an eyebrow powder that is close to your hair color.
Finally, there are a wide variety of hair sprays, shampoos, and other hair products on the market that can be very effective in making your hair look thicker. I ask for samples at stores so I can try before I buy, or save the receipt if the store allows returns on products. This way, I don't end of spending lots of money on products that don't work for my hair. It can take some experimenting with different products to find the ones that are compatible with your hair, so don't give up if the first thing you try doesn't give you results.
Do you have any solutions of your own for combating female hair loss? Share them!