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Why Am I Losing My Hair?

I used to joke about pulling my hair out but I no longer find that so funny. I have a balding part on the upper back of my head and keep finding more and more hair in my shower drain and on my comb. I dread the day when, like my mother who’s in her 90s, you’ll be able to see my scalp through my hair.

My hairdresser tells me that experts don’t believe female hair loss is increasing but it is better recognized and women are more open to talking about it – and getting help.

I’m one of the post-menopausal women who have experienced both major types of hair loss (other than that from chemotherapy): female pattern hair loss/balding which is related to hormones and genes and massive shedding which is a form of alopecia called telogen effluvium.

If it’s any consolation, the American Academy of Dermatologists states that female pattern hair loss affects about 50% of women over 65. When there’s a genetic predisposition, hair follicles become sensitive to normal levels of the male hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone) and eventually hair follicles stop producing hair altogether. Unlike men, women rarely become totally bald.

Contributors to hair loss

Aside from aging and hormones, these are the most frequent culprits of your hair loss.

  • Medicines – aside from chemotherapy, other drugs such as those used to treat psoriasis, inflammatory skin conditions and severe acne can accelerate hair loss. If your hair loss coincides with the taking of new medications, talk to your doctor.
  • Weight – both underweight and overweight can harm your hair.
  • Hyperthyroid and hypothyroid disorders (too much or too little) thyroid can contribute to thinning hair.
  • Poor diet – the best foods for healthy hair are walnuts, spinach, salmon, poultry, lean beef, eggs and lentils. A diet that is inadequate in B vitamins, iron or protein can trigger shedding.
  • Stress – what doesn’t stress effect? Anything from a severe infection or surgery to bereavement or major weight loss may cause your hair to fall out in handfuls. Worse, the shedding may not occur until up to three months after the stressful event. The good news is hair loss as a result of stress usually stops within two or three months and it should growth back again.

What to do

Try supplements – The trendy treatment for female hair loss isbiotin (vitamin B7). The recommended daily intake (RDI) for biotin is 300 mcg but a hair stylist might suggest 5,000 mcg a day. Other popular supplements include kelp (or seaweed) and silica extracted from horsetail or bamboo. There’s little concrete evidence that any of these work but biotin has many supporters.

Get a prescription – Your doctor might prescribe anti-androgen therapy or medication taken by women to counteract the effect of male sex hormones such as DHT.

These medications could include Avodart, the brand name for dutasteride or Aldactone , the brand name for spironolactone. These drugs have been shown to arrest hair loss but typically don’t create re-growth and may have side effects.

A more common prescription is Propecia is the brand name for finasteride. It’s a daily pill that may be used concurrently with Rogaine. This one is rarely used on pre-menopausal women as it can cause birth defects.

There’s also monthly injections of cortisone- an anti-inflammatory- directly onto the scalp if your doctor believes your hair loss is due to an autoimmune disorder. 

Visit a drug store – The most popular topical treatment for hair loss is minoxidil. It works to stimulate hair follicles to produce thicker hair at a faster rate. You’ve probably seen Rogaine for Women Hair Regrowth Treatment  at your pharmacy or places like Sam’s Club and Costco. When applied topically, the amount of minoxidil absorbed through the sking into the bloodstream is usually too small to cause internal side effects.

Rogaine is available in 2 % strength for women and seems to work best for women with thinning hair in the crown area and those with early hair loss. You have to use it daily for life to maintain growth although it can plateau and stop working or not work at all for some women. It is the only over-the-counter topical drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration )FDA)  for hair loss and regrowth. Although there are plenty of generic brands available, only the name brand Rogaine has received the FDA approval. Buyer beware.

Buy some falsies – For special occasions, there’s always extensions. A clever hair stylist can add real hair extensions so they neither damage your fragile hair nor make you look like the world’s oldest rock chick.

If hair loss is severe, buy a wig or invest in surgical (and expensive) solutions via hair transplants. Both The Hair Club http://www.hairclub.com/hairloss-treatments-for-women.php and Bosley  http://www.bosley.com/about_hair_loss/hair-loss-treatment-for-men-and-women.php have programs for women.

How to get started

You’ll have to decide at what point your hair thinning or loss is abnormal. If you’re over 60 and starting to notice more falling hairs, ask your stylist for help. S/he can artfully hide thinning patches and suggest products that have worked for other clients.

L’Oreal has a newer line of shampoo and thickeners that are supposed to boost hair growth Loreal Elvive Triple Resist X3 Reinforcing Shampoo for Fragile Hair with Tendency to Fall and I’ve had other friends who swear by Phytoworx Organic Hair Loss Shampoo | With Plant Stem Cells for Hair Recovery and Regrowth.  Considering that never will be any cheaper than a bottle of shampoo, it’s worth a shot.

If your hair loss of thinning is enough to truly bother you, the first step should be to visit a dermatologist or family doctor and ensure there’s no underlying medical reason.

 If it seems to be genes and age, you may find that Rogaine helps (but you’ll need to use it forever) or you may elect surgical solutions.

No one solution is going to work for everyone. Good luck.