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Female Pattern Hair Loss
Many people think of hair loss as a men’s disease, but that is simply not the case. In fact, hair loss in women may be much more common than you realize, affecting as many as 50% of women by the time they reach middle age.
Men and women can develop the same types of hair loss, though the hair loss itself may manifest in different ways between the sexes. Because hair loss is so variable for men and women, it is important to understand the differences in treatment as well.
Hair Loss in Women
This article is just one in a series of articles that cover hair loss and hair restoration. Click these links to check out the other articles:
- Hair Restoration: Understanding Hair Loss and Treatment Options – Part 1
- Hair Restoration: Understanding Hair Loss and Treatment Options – Part 2
- Surgical Hair Restoration Options for Women
- Surgical Hair Restoration Options for Men
- Understanding Hair Loss and Causes of Hair Loss in Women
- Hair Loss: Thinning Hair in Men and Its Causes
- Understanding Men’s Hair Restoration Options
When it comes to female hair restoration, certain treatments tend to work better than others. In this article, you’ll receive an overview of the top hair loss treatment options that work best for women.
Before we go through the Hair Restoration Solutions, let’s quickly watch the inspirational story of a woman who’s born with Alopecia.
Hair Restoration Solutions for Women
As many as 40% of the people who suffer from hair loss in the United States are women. Even so, it is considered somewhat normal – expected, even – for men to develop hair loss as they age. This is not the case for women. For a woman, hair loss can be emotionally devastating and there is a stigma against women seeking some of the same hair loss restoration methods that are perfectly acceptable to men. Even professionals in the medical community have a tendency to downplay women’s hair loss as if it were not a true condition.
If you are a woman suffering from hair loss, you deserve to know the options. It is important to realize that some of the treatments recommended for men may not be ideal for women, but that doesn’t mean you have no other option than to suffer in silence – here are some of the hair restoration options available to women:
- Laser hair restoration
- Prescription medication
- Topical applications
- Lifestyle changes
Aside from these four treatment options, there is one more that you might consider – surgical hair loss restoration. This is a common treatment for permanent hair loss in men, but less so for women. Keep reading to learn about the challenges of hair implantation for women and to see whether you might be a candidate.
Surgical Hair Restoration for Women
Before you even consider surgical hair transplant as an option, you need to learn as much as you can about it. Hair transplantation is a viable option for nearly 90% of the men who suffer from male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia). As such, many women who suffer from female pattern baldness assume that it will be right for them as well. What you may not realize, however, is that androgenetic alopecia and other forms of hair loss affect women in different ways than they affect men.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss. In men, it typically results in a receding hairline in the shape of an M across the forehead. In women, however, it causes diffuse hair loss – widespread thinning of the hair across the scalp. The problem with this is that the hair plug procedure requires the surgeon to take the hair plugs from the sides and back of the scalp – if your hair is thinning in those areas as well, the hair plugs won’t do you any good. You’ll just be moving the problem area around without actually solving the problem.
Though hair plugs are the wrong choice for most women, the American Hair Loss Association suggests that about 2% to 5% of women could benefit from the surgery. Here are the factors that might make a female hair loss sufferer a good candidate:
- Your hair loss is due to mechanical or traction alopecia (non-hormonal hair loss)
- You have previously had cosmetic surgery and you’re worried about hair along the incisions
- You have a distinct pattern of baldness such as hairline recession or vertex thinning
- The donor area on your head is not affected by androgenetic alopecia
- Your hair loss is due to trauma such as chemical burns or scarring from an accident
If you meet one or more of the criteria listed above, you may be a good candidate for a surgical hair restoration procedure. Talk to your doctor to see if you fit the bill. Before you make any plans to undergo surgery, however, keep in mind that the procedure can be painful and expensive. You’ll need to undergo multiple treatments and the average cost of hair transplant is anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. Can you afford it?
Now that you understand the challenges associated with hair plugs for women, you may be curious to know which treatments are a more viable option. Keep reading to learn more about laser hair restoration, prescription medications, topical applications, and lifestyle changes for hair loss treatment.
What About Laser Hair Restoration?
Because surgical options are extreme and may not work for women, you might be looking for an alternative, less invasive hair loss restoration option. One thing to consider is low-level laser therapy. This therapy is completely non-invasive and approved by the FDA. It is also scientifically proven to be both safe and effective. So, what is it?
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is also known as low level light therapy, cold laser therapy, or phototherapy. It involves targeting areas of hair loss or thinning hair with an infrared laser beam. The laser is completely painless and FDA-approved, plus each treatment only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The laser will decrease inflammation in the scalp and increase local blood flow – both of these things will then help to restore natural hair growth.
This form of therapy works best for androgenetic alopecia. Why? Because this form of hair loss is caused by increased sensitivity in the hair follicles to the androgenic (male) hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). When DHT accumulates in the roots of your hair follicles, it causes the follicles to miniaturize – they actually shrink in size until they can no longer sustain growth. LLLT works by stimulating dormant hair follicles to shift into the anagen (growth) phase by producing a specific wavelength of light (about 630 to 370 nanometers). As the damaged follicles regenerate, the increased blood flow to the area delivers the nutrients and oxygen needed to restore healthy hair growth.
Though LLLT is an amazing therapy, it doesn’t work for everyone or for all types of female hair restoration. This therapy works to stop hair loss caused by DHT build-up from worsening. It also works to revitalize weakened and thinning hair follicles. What it can’t do is revive hair follicles that are already dead – it only works on active follicles. For this reason, it is best to start LLLT therapy as soon as you notice your hair is starting to thin. The treatments take no more than 15 minutes and can be done two to three times a week – you’ll see results within 2 to 3 months. Sessions generally cost around $50 each, so factor that in along with the number of treatments you’ll need.
Medical Hair Loss Treatment Options
If your hair loss is minor, or if you don’t want to hassle with an expensive and painful hair loss procedure, medical hair loss treatment might be the best route. Though there are plenty of over-the-counter remedies, they don’t have the same track record as some of the prescription-only options. The two best medical treatments for hair loss in women are finasteride and minoxidil.
Minoxidil is more commonly known as Rogaine and it is an over-the-counter topical application and the only FDA-approved treatment for female pattern baldness. This treatment is available in different concentrations, so be careful which one you buy. The 2% concentration is best for women while men should use the 5% concentration. In most women, this treatment helps to slow down or stop hair loss. It can also be combined with other treatments to encourage hair growth. It does, however, come with the risk for side effects and you’ll only sustain hair growth for as long as you’re using it. This remedy costs about $30 per box, though you can find a generic version for half the price.
If you want to maximize your hair regrowth, or if you prefer to take a pill rather than use a topical application, consider finasteride. Also known by the brand name Propecia, finasteride is available by prescription only and it works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. For years, it was thought that finasteride simply didn’t work for women, but new research suggests that it might work in a 5mg/day dosage compared to the 1mg/day dosage that was previously studied. Though some side effects were reported, 58% of test subjects reported significant improvements and 33% reported moderate improvements. For a month’s supply of 5mg finasteride, you’ll pay between $10 and $80, depending on whether you go brand name or generic.
Before choosing a hair restoration treatment, consider all of your options very carefully. Talk to your doctor to determine which type of hair loss you have and what treatment might work best – remember that the best treatments for women aren’t always the same for men.