What Can Be Done About Thinning Hair?

Last week’s question asked not only about frizzy hair, but also about thinning hair. Today’s blog deals with the latter.

Female pattern baldness (alopecia) can have any number of causes in women as they age (our question came from someone over 40), not the least of which is declining estrogen levels (and other hormone imbalances). Here are several:

  • Deficiencies in vitamins or minerals
  • Eating disorders
  • Anemia
  • Severe stress
  • Hair products, processing or styling instruments
  • Allergies
  • Glandular disorders
  • Disorders involving thyroid, liver, adrenals or ovaries
  • Drug toxicity
  • Severe infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Medications
  • Protein deficiency
  • Severe infections

That being said, 95% of the 20 million women who suffer from alopecia have what is called androgenetic alopecia (hereditary) which is caused by changes in hormones (androgens) that are present in all of us. Testosterone, in particular, is the culprit when it transforms into dihydrotestosterone, causing hair and follicles to shrink.

The typical “life cycle” of your hair is that it grows anywhere from two to seven years, after which it does nothing but look (hopefully) great for about three months. After that time off, hairs fall out and then, normally, the new hair comes in. If androgenetic alopecia is in your makeup, your hair follicles become sensitive to testosterone and start to shrink, losing strength and length, sometimes ceasing to grow at all.

The three most routine treatments for hair loss are medical, surgical, and cosmetic methods.

Medically, the topical drug minoxidil is used to stop hair follicles from shrinking in about 60 percent of women. Minoxidil is quite expensive and can take six months to get results. When Minoxidil treatment is stopped, it’s possible that hair loss could recur. There is a prescription drug called Finasteride, which affects testosterone levels, but only seems to work for men and which is unsafe for women.

Surgically, we can do hair restoration, but primarily that is done on the top of the head. Follicular unit transplantation is the latest and greatest technique, replacing hair that has fallen out with “units” of hair (one to three tiny hairs) which have been harvested from elsewhere on the head.

Obviously, cosmetic methods refer to using hair products, such as thickeners and concealers, as well as styling techniques that give the illusion of thicker hair. Concealers, also known as “scalp shaders”, can be used by women and men. When applied to the thinning area, the concealer covers up the scalp by blending it in with the hair that is there.

Hopefully, this helps shed some light on the problem of alopecia and thinning hair. If you have other questions regarding this topic or other skin and hair issues, please let me know!

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