Over 20 million women in the United States alone, are suffering from some type of hair loss. This does not take into account the rest of the world, and a little less than half are under 40 years of age. The emotional effects of hair loss range from anxiety and depression, to frustration and poor self-esteem. Fortunately there are more options available now, to help slow down and even reverse hair loss in women.
The most important step in the search for answers is to educate yourself. Being proactive both in your research of treatments, and in communication with your doctor, are extremely important.
Unlike male hair loss, female hair loss many times doesn’t have a straight-forward cause. As a result, treating it can be a more complex process. If you are reading this guide, you are experiencing the various forms of thinning hair or hairline recession seen in some women.
If you are experiencing patchy hair loss or total hair loss, you should instead focus on our Guide to Women’s Alopecia.
Many physicians subscribe to the theory that women with thinning hair should immediately begin a regimen of growth stimulants. This thinking is reasonable as the cause of the hair loss has not yet been determined, and growth stimulants can begin stimulating new hair growth despite whatever is causing the loss.
Like men’s hair loss however, there are underlying causes. The good news is that a large percent of women’s hair loss is completely reversible. This ray of sunlight is not available to the guys, so allow yourself some hope with it. Once a thinning hair treatment regimen has been started, the focus turns towards working with your physician to run the necessary tests, and rule out, or rule-in the possible causes. At that point, assuming its a cause that can be addressed, you can begin to actually stop the hair loss at the source.
As with men, the most common causes of hair loss in women are hormonally related. Whether it is an overactive thyroid, after effects of menopause or pregnancy, or a genetic hormonal response to an autoimmune condition – – there usually is a specific reason why women lose their hair. The key is to find out what the reason is, and to then evaluate your options in dealing with it.
Causes of Thinning Hair in Women
Androgenetic Alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in women. This type of hereditary hair loss can begin anytime after puberty and usually occurs, if at all, before the age of forty.
Women who have Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) usually have increased thinning or diffuse hair loss all over. It is most noticeable at the part line and top area just behind the bangs, while often maintaining the front hairline. Female pattern baldness is measured with the Ludwig Scale, as seen below, ranging from 1, 2 and 3, with varying degrees in-between.
How Androgenetic Alopecia in Women Works
Androgenetic Alopecia causes the follicles become sensitive to hormones, or androgens that already exist within your body. Within those follicles are androgen receptors. The androgens (hormones) tell the androgen receptors to produce less hair. Consequently, growing cycles are shortened while hair becomes thinner and finer. While there is no loss of the actual follicle, eventually hair production can stop altogether.
How does this happen? An enzyme known as 5 alpha-reductase exists in the follicle. When the hormone (typically testosterone) binds to the androgen receptor, it triggers 5-alpha reductase to convert that testosterone into something called DHT. Its the DHT which plays the most active role in damaging hair production.
This is why “inhibiting DHT” is such a big catch-phrase in hair loss circles. That, and “anti-androgens”. Things which inhibit DHT, or work against this androgen process, are considered legitimate hair loss treatments.
Causes of Androgenetic Alopecia in Women
What causes this? Well, if its andro-genetic then the cause is a genetic predisposition. However there are myriads of other causes of thinning hair in women. This is why doctors typically recommend Growth Stimulants before suggesting DHT Inhibitors or Antiandrogens. However, when you don’t know the cause of your hair loss, a multi-faceted approach is best. Combining both growth stimulants and antiandrogens into a preliminary treatment regimen is a very wise, and effective method for tackling this problem today. You have plenty of time to work with your doctor to identify the root cause.
Causes for hair loss in women can be numerous. That is why numerous blood tests are usually the first step in narrowing things down. Many conditions such as menstrual irregularities, hirsuitism, acne, and naturally higher testosterone levels can all be factors associated with hair loss. Birth control pills are common, pregnancy is one of the MOST common, and pre and post menopause are all hormonally related factors that can trigger hair thinning on a small to large scale. Stress can exascerbate the progression but unless you’ve experienced several months of stress that has damaged your physical state, it is typically not the most prominent cause.
Treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia in Women
Luckily many women who have androgenetic alopecia respond well to various treatments. Before we look at treatments, let’s take a look at how you can help your doctor diagnose your condition.
Diagnosing Alopecia with the Proper Bloodwork and Tests
It is extremely important to find a qualified physician to determine if there is an underlying cause for your hair loss. This will enable you to address the problem while your treatment regimen is working to stimulate new growth. The American Academy of Dermatology has a searchable database of Dermatologists you can use, if your insurance is PPO and you have the ability to select your own doctor.
Preparing for your Doctor Visit
Understand that most dermatologists say “Rogaine” as the answer to every question you ask. Approach your doctor assertively, and tell them you’d like a series of tests done to rule out underlying conditions. It is very possible all your tests will come back normal, but often times an imbalance is identified. Fixing that imbalance can restore your hair.
Blood Tests and Bloodwork: Diagnosing Women’s Hair Loss
Blood work can cost a pretty penny. Discuss with your doctor which tests are covered by insurance, and if you’ve got the means, don’t take no for an answer. The following tests will provide information various things which could be causing hair problems:
- DHEA, DHEA Sulfate, Prolactin, Follicle Stimulating (FSH) and Leutinizing Hormone (LH)
- Free and Total Testosterone
- Thyroid Tests: T-3, T-4, and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Iron and Serum Ferritin and Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)
- Hemoglobin/Hematocrit or CBC (Complete Blood Count)
Expect your doctor to have varying degrees of understanding. Once you’ve got your results, we encourage you to post them in our Discussion Forum so that you can get input and support from our other members who have had the same tests done.
Treatments for Thinning Hair in Women
The most important thing you can do today, is begin on a treatment regimen. There is no reason to wait for your doctor appointment or the blood results. There are clinically proven treatments for women with thinning hair, and we have collected the ones backed by science. Lets get started on putting your regimen together…
Treatments for Women with Androgenetic Alopecia
There are three main types of treatments for women with thinning hair. Growth stimulants, Antiandrogens, and Anti-inflammatories.
Growth stimulants kickstart new hair growth despite whatever is truly causing your hair loss. Whether you are losing hair because of a thyroid imbalance, recent pregnancy, or any other reason, growth stimulants can work around those causes and stimulate new growth. Some examples of growth stimulants we recommend:
Tricomin Therapy Spray: This is one of the most popular treatments for women with thinning hair, and has been around for over a decade. Highly recommended.
» Pick a Growth Stimulant
Antiandrogens and Androgen Blockers
Remember that thinning hair is called Andro-genetic alopecia for a reason. The primary root cause of thinning hair is a sensitivity to the hormone levels in your body. Therefore Anti-androgens work to block or inhibit hormone (androgen) activity in your scalp. Your blood tests will reveal whether something else is the cause, but most women will benefit immensely from Antiandrogen treatments.
» Pick an Antiandrogen
While Antiandrogens block the hormonal activity in your scalp, Anti-inflammatories play an incredibly important role in calming the *environment* of your scalp. This is imperative for the two treatments (above) to work effectively. Inflammation is an extremely common biproduct of thinning hair, and can literally double the speed at which you lose hair. Calming that inflammation is probably the most important aspect of hair loss treatment.
Combining all Three
Combining a growth stimulant, antiandrogen, and anti-inflammatory shampoo will double your chances of success. You not only kick start new growth, but you also block the cause, and create a non-inflamed environment for the products to work. The three classes of treatments work synergistically, and complement eachother perfectly. So while you are coordinating an appointment with your physician, and obtaining your necessary bloodwork, we encourage you to begin on a treatment regimen immediately.
HerAlopecia is the only site run by consumers for consumers who care about what actually works. As a result, we only present the treatments which have scientific backing to help. This is a commitment we make to you as a web site dedicated to legitimacy and a genuine desire to help.
Get started on your treatment regimen today: