Candace recalls the causes associated with female hair loss and shares the available treatment options.
There are several types of hair loss that women can experience. The most common type of hair loss that is not genetic is called telogen effluvium. It’s usually a temporary hair loss. It comes from something such as, you just had a baby, you just underwent surgery; something is going to trigger the telogen or the shedding phase of your hair cycle to go into rapid response. So you are going to, three to six months after the offending event, you will notice hair coming out in your hands – it’s very scary because you feel like you are going to lose all your hair.
The good news about telogen effluvium is you are probably not going to lose all your hair. It’s just that your shedding cycle has gone into overdrive and it’s going to require patience until your growth cycle starts again because there’s three phases of hair growth – your growth cycle, your resting phase, and then your shedding phase.
That being said, telogen effluvium can be very scary. There are certain things you can do along with patience. Some people have found that using a little bit of topical minoxidil sold commercially as Rogaine can at least help slow that shedding and help the growth cycle start a little bit quicker. For the most part though you will have to wait out probably another three to six months until you start seeing the hair growth.
So as simple as treatment for telogen effluvium is if your hair is long, maybe get it bobbed, maybe restyle so that as the new growth is coming in and you are getting these new little spiky hairs it’s not quite as obvious. People just think, “Oh, she got a new hair style.”
A lot of women, after they have had their babies, really freak out because during the nine months of pregnancy your shedding phase almost stops completely so you have more hair than you ever had. I would have stayed pregnant forever just for the hair because when I had my daughter my hair was so thick because my shedding phase, it stopped, so even though I have genetic hair loss I had just this fantastic head of hair and then it all started to fall out. So as we go into genetic hair loss or androgenic alopecia, which now experts are calling female pattern hair loss, which is what I deal with.
A telogen phase can trigger and exacerbate the hair loss road you are already on, so it will be more noticeable. While after my daughter was born my hair did revive, I got some more back, it’s still not going to come back to the thickness it was when I was pregnant.
For female pattern hair loss there’s not a lot you can do, but there are some things and I go into a lot of information on this in my book. Topical minoxidil will be the go to treatment. It’s not a cure-all. It’s not going to give you the hair you had when you were 14. What it will do is help prevent the miniaturization of the hair follicles; it will slow down a little bit the normal progression of your hair loss. It will kind of keep what you have looking better.
For a certain percentage of women it will help re-grow some hairs and I had pretty good success with it. I stopped using it because I got really tired of it, but I am thinking of going back to it. There is certain shampoos that may or may not work. Ketoconazole was shown in a very small clinical study to help slow down hair loss and it works very similar to Rogaine.
So, that is one option of getting a shampoo and ketoconazole is found in Nizoral® shampoo. Other than that for genetic hair loss there’s not a whole lot. There is transplant options. For women to have a transplant or for anyone to have a transplant you need a good donor site. Transplants work great in men because men usually lose their hair here and have almost all their normal hair left around the hair loss site. So when you have a transplant you take the hair from in the back and you transplant it to the top.
For women, we usually while we may have a pattern like I have more hair loss up here than I have around here, we also have a diffused thinning. So it would be like trying to recede your lawn where you have a huge patch of thinness on the lawn and you only have one piece of sod. So yes, you can transplant from the one piece of sod into the lawn, but you only have x amount to deal with and it’s not going to spread like grass does unfortunately.
So for women, the transplant option can be a very disappointing option because we just don’t have enough to go around. Research is looking at some other ways of growing hair where they are looking at taking some of a person’s own hair and trying to grow it in a petri dish, if you will, and have that expand and then if you can do that, then you can take that and you’ve got your transplant. So it’s an option, not for everybody. but there is stuff on the horizon that we are all kind of holding on to.
For other types of hair loss there’s a very devastating kind of hair loss called alopecia areata. This type of hair loss, you lose hair in patches. It affects children, women, and men. It can come on suddenly. It can go into remission suddenly. They think it’s an autoimmune disorder.
There are several, whether you go to a dermatologist and if you have alopecia areata they recognize it, there are some treatment options for it. They can be very harsh chemicals on the scalp, cortisone injections into the scalp. They are kind of still shooting in the dark as to what works and what doesn’t work and because it will go into remission, you don’t know if it’s the treatment you just had or if you’ve just hit remission.
When I interviewed people for my book, I had several teenagers who wrote to me that said that their hair loss was so devastating from alopecia areata and the disenfranchisement that they felt from their peers that they seriously considered suicide or were doing drugs or were drinking. What’s unfortunate about that is, while there is no cure for that, there are options in varying hair prosthesis and that really look just like your own hair. Unfortunately they are costly.
So there are resources that you can find and I have listed some of them in the book, but the Alopecia Areata Foundation has a lot of resources on its website for women, children, and men who are going through alopecia areata.