Hair loss is particularly devastating to women. When men lose their hair people say they look distinguished—it’s even become a fashionable trend for men to shave their heads. But when women lose their hair they not only feel unattractive but can be ridiculed by strangers and avoided by men—no matter how wonderful their other qualities may be! A woman’s self image and confidence can be destroyed by hair loss but there is now hope thanks to medical and psychological research.
Female pattern baldness, more common than one would think, is called androgenetic alopecia. Androgen is another name for male hormones, which both sexes have. When females have an excess of androgen it can cause hair loss; doctors are reluctant to prescribe medications to treat that hair loss for fear it can interfere with a woman’s androgen levels. Most err on the side of caution and prescribe topical remedies applied directly to the scalp.
It’s important to notice and treat hair loss as soon as possible. If your hair follicles are merely dormant and not destroyed, you can regrow your hair. If you notice your hair thinning or more in your brush than usual it may be time to see a dermatologist and stop hair loss before it gets a good start.
It’s also important not to fall for every “miracle” remedy and you’ll see many of them in magazines, on television and in stores. The FDA has approved Rogaine (Minoxidil) for use in both male and female hair loss and it has been proven safe. It is effective for many men and women, too. Minoxidil was originally developed to treat high blood pressure; hair growth was a side effect that eventually proved useful, more for women than for men. You can get it over the counter (OTC) in a 2% solution but unless you have a dermatologist’s supervision it may not work as well as you expect.
There are other treatments that inhibit androgen production and thus stop hair loss. Aldactone is a form of diuretic that reduces the amount of androgens that your ovaries and adrenal glands produce. It blocks their function by preventing DHT from binding to the androgen receptors. Tagamet, commonly used as a treatment for stomach ulcers, blocks DHT just as Aldactone does. You need high doses of Tagamet for positive results and it has an added bonus of preventing excess facial hair. You can find Tagamet (Cimetidine) OTC but you should never take it to treat hair loss without the supervision of a dermatologist.
For women going through menopause or those lacking effective levels of estrogen and progesterone, hair loss can be treating with HRT (hormone replacement therapy). This is often done by prescribing low-androgen birth control pills but women older than 35 and smokers should be cautious about this treatment.
Nizoral shampoo containing 2% katoconazole is also used to treat hair loss and scalp condition in women. You can get 1% solution OTC but it may not be as effective as prescription strength.
Stress and certain drugs like those used to treat thyroid conditions can cause hair to thin or fall out. Hormone imbalance, childbirth and other conditions can also be responsible. This is why it is so important to consult a physician before you try any treatment, even those available without a prescription.