Many women are ashamed of their hair loss and choose to not seek treatment because of their embarrassment. However, according to Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester in New York, the sooner you treat your hair loss, the better chances you have for your hair to return.
Up to 5% of women under 30 and 60% of women over 70 experience some sort of hair loss, Dr. Mercurio says.
What is the most commonly occurring form of female hair loss?
Female pattern hair loss tends to rely strongly on genetic factors that can be passed down from either the father or the mother. Female pattern hair loss is also referred to as androgenetic alopecia and can be seen in females as early as the late teenage years. The sooner this form of hair loss starts, the more likely it is to be severe.
Unlike men, most women with pattern hair loss do not experience a receding hairline or a bald spot. Instead, hair tends to thin throughout the crown. In both sexes, hairs are much smaller due to a shorter growth cycle. This results in “baby hairs” that do not grow to the length of normal head hair.
How is female hair loss treated?
Minoxidil (Rogaine) 5% is currently the only topical hair loss treatment that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The success rate of the once daily foam treatment is promising: 81% of women saw hair regrowth with use.
Patience is necessary with hair regrowth treatments. Because the treatments work by lengthening the growth phase of hair, time is needed for results to be seen. Normally it can take three to four weeks for a change in hair density to be noticed. It is also recommended for treatment to start as early as possible.
In some cases, hormone imbalances, such as an excess of male hormones, can be the cause of hair loss in women. If doctors notice hair loss patterns on a woman that resemble patterns normally seen in a man, this can be indicative of hormonal issues. This can be easily treated with prescription medications like spironolactone or even oral contraceptives.
Another option for women who have lost hair is hair transplantation. During the transplantation process, minuscule hair follicles are removed from one area of the scalp and placed into the affected areas. Hair transplantation can be extremely effective and can also produce permanent, natural looking results.
Can hair loss be a sign of a bigger problem?
Yes, hair loss can point to more serious health issues, such as hyperandrogenism. Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition that occurs when the body produces an excess of male hormones, or androgens. Hyperandrogenism is typically caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome. Alongside hair loss, other signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome are obesity, acne and irregular menstruation. If you believe your hair loss is caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, you should seek medical care.