Everything you need to know about treating hair loss in women

BI used to call hair loss a natural symptom of aging, just like getting fine lines and gray hair. Lately, however, I’ve been hearing murmurs from many friends and scrolling through recent research to find that more and more women are losing their hair – and it’s not as simple as excessive hair loss or losing locks due to age or stress.

That said, even though you read about this a lot, it’s not necessarily a new ones phenomenon. Society deals with stigma in so many different ways, and we’re just starting to lift the veil on women losing their hair. “For more than 45 years in the field, women have been talking about hair loss,” explains Wilma Bergfeld, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “In reality, it has always been there and there has always been a large population of women who go to the doctor with this problem.”

Dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD of Wexler Dermatology, shares this: “I believe that hair loss in women is not so much rampant as it is out in the open,” she says. “Thanks to journalists writing about it, individuals talk about it more easily.”

So as we become more open to talking about hair loss, a door opens for us to explore solutions ranging from over-the-counter supplements and devices for the home to treatments in the office. Since hair loss is such a complex problem and many factors can be involved, let’s take a look at the causes and the ways to deal with it. Keep scrolling for more information.

What causes hair loss in women?

Like with So many skin and hair problems, genetics plays an important factor in hair loss. But that is by no means the only cause. Here’s the breakdown of all the contributing factors.

Genetics: “There can be an exposure of early pattern hair loss, which is hereditary in both men and women,” says Dr. Bergfeld. It can also stem from an actual disease or condition such as androgenetic alopecia, anemia, iron deficiency or thyroid disease, she says.

hormones: A whole host of hormonal disorders can lead to hair loss. “At puberty, we start to see that the hormones play a big role in hair loss,” says Dr. Bergfeld, as with hair loss associated with things like polycystic ovarian syndrome. “Hair loss is greatly stimulated by elevations in the adrenal glands and androgens.” In your mid-20s to 30s, she notices that your hormones are changing and you’re thinning diffusely, especially along the parting line of your hair. “That’s usually when the shedding kicks in,” she says. Pregnancy also becomes a life event, with many women finding themselves shedding and dealing with hair loss, much like perimenopause and menopause itself “which is when your hormones sync up and the estrogen gets lower than the testosterone.”

Tension: If you’ve ever had stress-induced breakouts, you know how it can affect your body. And it can do the same to your hair. “Stress makes any disease worse, including hair loss due to the chemical changes in the body,” says Dr. Bergfeld. “Stress can trigger an adrenal surge of hormones, which can then lead to hair loss.” That said, if it’s a one-time incident, such as a death in the family or financial stress, she says most people regrow their hair once the cause is resolved.

Nutrition: In general, Dr. Fusco notes that a lack of protein can lead to hair loss in women. And in regards to your menstrual cycle, prolonged bleeding can be an indication of a lack of iron, which Dr. Bergfeld may also cause hair loss.

So how can you treat it?

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent shedding. Here, the experts outline all the options on the market (and in the offices of dermatologists).

Shampoos and Scalp Serums: Depending on the reason for your hair loss, a hair-stimulating shampoo or scalp serum can help. “Since there are multiple causes of hair loss, the serum or shampoo would benefit if it contains the corrective ingredient,” says Dr. fusco. “For example, minoxidil for androgenetic alopecia, or zinc pyrithione shampoo for hair loss due to extensive dandruff.” In the first scenario, you can look for scalp treatments like Nioxin Hair Rerowth Treatment ($28). When dealing with a scalp disease like seborrheic dermatitis or a fungal scalp infection, it’s all about keeping the scalp clean (because your follicles are healthy when your skin is). “In that case, we use anti-dandruff shampoos, such as Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Anti Dandruff Shampoo ($9), at least twice a week,” says Dr. Bergfeld, who uses the active ingredient zinc pyrithone to remove flocs. “Many of these products also contain antioxidants, which are helpful.”

Treatments at home: Nowadays you can find things like red light devices and special caps to use at home to treat hair loss as well. “Home lasers and low-level laser therapy units complement existing treatments, or can be used alone to activate hair follicles,” says Dr. fusco. More studies are emerging noting that these devices, like the Theradome EVO LH40 ($595), can increase the number of hair fibers on the scalp over time. The only problem? “But they range from $100 to $200, all the way up to $4,000,” says Dr. Bergfeld. “I tell my patients it’s a good idea if you can afford it, because it’s anti-inflammatory and appears to strengthen the mitochondria in the hair follicles and promote growth.”

Treatments at the office: If you go to your dermatologist, you can opt for treatments such as platelet-rich plasma or PRP. “PRP is the newest, best in-office procedure to address many forms of hair loss,” says Dr. Fusco, adding that injectable options have also shown promise; however, these need to be maintained over time. “Injectibles and PRP are everywhere and extremely expensive,” she says. “PRP can be about $750 per treatment, and you have to do it once a month to twice a year. After some time, the hair will start to fall out again.” The good news, she says, is that more and more research is being done into stopping hair loss by cosmetic brands and pharmaceutical companies.

Supplements: There are so many vitamins and supplements that claim to help with your hair, from biotin to collagen – and they’re quite helpful in reducing hair loss, but they won’t help with large-scale hair loss. “I usually give patients biotin forte with zinc, a super B vitamin with 30 milligrams of zinc and 200 vitamin C,” says Dr. Bergfeld. Then there are the more advanced, targeted OTC options like Isdin Lambdapil Hair Density Capsules ($55), which Dr. Fusco sometimes recommends to patients with positive feedback.

That said, with all of the treatment options to choose from, both experts strongly recommend consulting your dermatologist before embarking on any kind of regimen. “It is well worth going to a dermatologist, who knows about her, because there are loads of diseases of the scalp and hair,” says Dr. Bergfeld. “We often need to engage medical professionals to determine where individuals fit in the treatment spectrum and what is causing their hair loss.”

In the meantime, here are hairstyles for thinning hair that will spice things up. And that’s how you protect your hair from the sun, because that doesn’t do your locks any good.

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