Hair Loss: Causes and Cures
What causes hair loss?
Hair loss is a natural part of the body's process of renewal. As
some hair falls out, new growth replaces it. However, this process
may be accelerated by a number of conditions. Hormonal changes
may contribute to rapid hair loss, such as during pregnancy or
childbirth, or even when coming off the Pill. As these fluctuations in
hormone levels drop off, the hair loss should clear up, so the
condition is only temporary. In a recent study, hormone levels were
studied in both male and female patients experiencing severe hair
loss. The research points towards a complex interaction between
sex and thyroid hormones that may lead to the condition.
Stress is another factor linked to hair loss. While it has not been
proved definitively, emotional trauma has been loosely associated
with hair loss, but milder strains and worries probably do the same
thing. Stresses placed on the body may also cause a woman's hair
to jump ship. For example, crash dieting, in which a woman loses
a large amount of weight rapidly, may also cause her to lose her
tresses, too. Since stress is often transient, if its cause clears up,
the resultant hair loss should disappear as well.
Female-Pattern Hair Loss
As women age, their hair tends to thin out, although the results are
not as dramatic as they are for many men - think of your
grandmother's hair compared to your grandfather's (if he has any).
Women's pattern of hair loss is analogous to men's, but has
several important differences. The ages we begin having hair loss
are the same. A few of both sexes will begin having hair loss very
early--in their twenties, but most do not note changes until the
mid-thirties to forties. Women's hair loss tends to be an even
overall thinning; as opposed to men's hair loss in which the hairline
recedes and/or there is balding at the crown of the head. Women
tend to lose hair on the crown and at the hairline, which is referred
to as female-pattern hair loss.
When to Worry
Of course, although hair loss may often be temporary, a condition
called alopecia areata (al-o-pee-see-uh are-ee-ah-tuh) is more
serious. This disease is characterized by patchy loss of hair, and if
a woman is experiencing this, she should consult her
dermatologist. Corticosteroids are often prescribed to slow or
even halt hair loss.
Hair loss is often hereditary and effects about 50% of women. So
long as it is not abrupt, severe, or patchy, nor caused by emotional
or physical stresses, it can be considered a normal part of
However natural or normal this may be, many women want to
reverse or halt this trend. If a woman wishes to take action
medically, she will get better results if she acts sooner rather than
later. Rogaine (minoxidil) is one of the most popular remedies.
Still, only about 20% of people have normal hair re-growth, another
40% have a lighter, shorter re-growth that is like "peach fuzz." The
growth only lasts for as long as the woman uses it. It costs about
$30 a month and must be applied twice a day.
A new drug, Propecia, is now being tested by Merck on
post-menopausal women. Propecia works by blocking the
conversions of testosterone into a related hormone,
dihydrotestosterone that shrinks hair follicles. It has about the
same success rate as Rogaine in the men and likewise the hair
re-growth stops once the drug is discontinued. It is not know
whether it will work as well with women's hormone profile. In
addition, this drug cannot be taken while pregnant because it can
cause birth defects in the urinary and genital organs of male
fetuses. There are concerns about taking a drug that affects
hormones long-term in men (sound familiar, ladies?).
The earlier hair transplant techniques took large chunks of scalp
and hair from dense areas and moved them to bald spots,
something that did not address the typical situation for women. The
newer, micrograft hair transplant techniques make this a viable
option for a woman's overall thinning pattern.
Many women can forego the medical route for this problem. Hair
loss can be managed through a variety of hair products, from
mousses and gels to coloring to wigs and extensions. These often
give better cosmetic results at lower costs and with less trouble.