Women who suffer from hair loss seem to be often overlooked in the media due to the common misconception that baldness is associated only with men. However, a significant proportion of the female population also suffer from a variety of hair loss conditions, from thinning hair to bald spots on their scalp.
These conditions are often treatable and today we’re going to examine the most effective treatments for hair loss in women.
Minoxidil 2% Topical Treatment
When it was first used as an antihypertensive treatment, Minoxidil showed excessive hair growth as a side effect. Further research showed that applying minoxidil topically on the scalp stimulated hair growth without too many or too severe side effects. A 48 week study of 381 women suffering from female pattern hair loss who were treated with 5% topical minoxidil showed significant differences between the placebo group and the group treated with minoxidil and it was also well tolerated by the women who participated in the trial.
Minoxidil works by affecting hair cycling and causing the premature termination of telogen. However, research comparing 2% Minoxidil treatments with 5% Minoxidil treatments showed that there is little to no difference between them so the only FDA approved topical Minoxidil treatment for women is Minoxidil 2%. (Lucky et al., 2004);(Olsen et al.,2002);(Messenger and Rundegren,2004)
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Spironolactone, also known as Aldactone is a drug that is used to reduce the amount of fluid in the body without reducing potassium levels; the drug is given to patients with hypertension and edema as well as to treat potassium deficiency. Often, the drug is prescribed to women suffering from hair loss due to its anti-androgen effects; it blocks the action of androgens by inhibiting DHT and slowing the production of androgens in the adrenal glands and ovaries. (Dinh and Sinclair, 2007)
In a study on 80 women with ages between 12 and 79, 44% of women had hair regrowth
Another androgen inhibitor, cyproterone acetate is prescribed for severe hirsuitism in women as well as to treat severe sex drive in men. The treatment is not available in the US and it may have severe long term side effects. However, it is used in other countries as a treatment for hair loss. In a study on 80 women with ages between 12 and 79, 44% of women had hair regrowth, 35% had no change and 12% continued experiencing hair loss. (Sinclair et al., 2005)
Finasteride/Proscar/propecia for women
Finasteride is a treatment for prostate enlargement and it’s a drug that inhibits 5-alpha reductase and, thus, the production of DHT. The medication is not prescribed to women who are pregnant or who are trying to get pregnant due to the birth defects that can occur in a male fetus. In a study on 40 patients, finasteride showed both objective and subjective improvement, especially in patients over 60 years.
The treatment may be a viable option for women suffering from hair loss but who are unresponsive to Minoxidil treatment. Also, women who use finasteride as treatment don’t experience as many side effects as men do. (Soares et al., 2013)
high androgen index oral contraceptives may actually make hair loss more severe
Birth control pills are also a viable treatment for androgenetic alopecia due to their inhibiting effect on ovarian androgens. However, not all oral contraceptives are a viable treatment for hair loss, as high androgen index oral contraceptives may actually make hair loss more severe. Also, depending on a woman’s lifestyle and medical history, oral contraceptives might not be the best treatment for hair loss so patients should see a specialist physician before trying any hormonal treatment. A popular oral contraceptive that is usually prescribed to women suffering from androgenetic alopecia is Diane 35 and Diane 50, a birth control pill that contains cyproterone and estradiol. (Dinh and Sinclair, 2007)
Hormone Replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment that is usually prescribed when women reach menopause or for women who have a deficit of estrogen or progesterone due to other illnesses. Both oral estrogen and progesterone pills as well as topical creams can be prescribed to women suffering from androgenetic alopecia. (Dinh and Sinclair, 2007)
A study on 10 white women with moderate to severe hair loss showed that cimetidine can help regrow hair in 70% of the volunteers without experiencing major side effects
Cimetidine, also known as Tegamet is a histamine blocker that is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers in order to inhibit excess acid. Cimentidine also has an anti-androgenic effect so it is prescribed as a DHT blocker to women suffering from androgenetic alopecia as well as to treat hirsuitism. This treatment is not prescribed to men due to its high anti-androgenic effect and its potential severe side effects.
A study on 10 white women with moderate to severe hair loss showed that cimetidine can help regrow hair in 70% of the volunteers without experiencing major side effects. However, this is not the standard treatment for androgenetic alopecia and it is only prescribed to certain patients. (Aram, 1987)
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The active ingredient in Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo, ketoconazole is an anti-fungal substance that is also prescribed to those suffering from androgenetic alopecia. The treatment works by reducing the production of testosterone in both women and men. The product is often used with other hair loss treatments such as Minoxidil or finasteride for even better results against hair loss. (Dinh and Sinclair, 2007)
Plasma Rich Platelet (PRP) Therapy
It is hypothesized that this treatment acts on the stem cells in the follicles and stimulates the development of new ones
Platelet-rich plasma or PRP is a platelets concentrated plasma with the ability to promote wound healing. The treatment’s popularity is increasing due to the fact that it doesn’t require any surgery or drugs. In the first phase of the treatment blood is extracted from the patient which is then separated in a machine to draw the platelets and then the concentration of growth factors is increased through centrifugation. The PRP is then injected into the scalp to stimulate hair growth and also improve the quality of hair.
PRP has been used for chronic tendon injuries or other types of wounds and has been successful, so researchers decided to use it to help those experiencing hair loss and not responding to standard treatment. The treatment is in trial but preliminary studies have shown significant changes in patients treated with PRP. It is hypothesized that this treatment acts on the stem cells in the follicles and stimulates the development of new ones, as well as increasing the neovascularization in the scalp. (Khatu et al., 2014)
Some women experiencing hair loss might have an iron deficit, particularly if they are vegetarian or have a history of anaemia. Sometimes this is all it takes for hair to start growing again and stop falling out. However, hair loss is not always related to iron levels so this might not work for anyone experiencing hair loss. (Fatani et al., 2015)
To learn more read Iron for hair growth: a complete guide.
Hair transplant surgery
Hair transplants have been used as a hair loss treatment for 60 years and while at first it was used by removing a strip of scalp and repositioning it in the bald areas midern treatments use the FUE, or Follicular Unit Extract technique and can result in little or no scarring.
The hair grows in the areas that have been grafted and new growth starts at three months; after six to nine months people usually have a 60% new hair growth and with the help of other hair loss treatments such as topical Minoxidil or finasteride. The side effects usually include folliculitis or shock loss, which means a sudden hair fall in the hair that grows in the transplant area. (Dinh and Sinclair, 2007)
The most advanced natural hair loss treatment for women
The key to reversing hair loss is making sure you consume the perfect balance of foods for feeding your hair and balancing your hormones and that the nutrients contained in those foods are able to reach your hair via your blood stream.
Statistics show that approximately 5% of women under 30 years old and 60% of those older than 70 are affected by alopecia in various degrees.
Androgenetic alopecia is inherited, starts around late adolescence and, unfortunately, gets worse as time passes. Due to new medical discoveries and a continued interest in the treatment of hair loss there are several types of treatment available for women with hair loss and the sooner they seek medical help, the better their chances are to recover or at least stop their hair thinning further.
- Statistics: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/features/fighting-hair-loss-in-women#1
- Messenger AG, Rundegren J. Minoxidil: mechanisms of action on hair growth. Br J Dermatol.2004;150:186–94. [PubMed]
- Olsen EA, Dunlap FE, Funicella T, et al. A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002;47:377–85. [PubMed]
Dinh, Q. Q., & Sinclair, R. (2007).
- Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2(2), 189–199.
- Oliveira-Soares, R., e Silva, J. M., Correia, M. P., & André, M. C. (2013). Finasteride 5 mg/day Treatment of Patterned Hair Loss in Normo-androgenetic Postmenopausal Women. International Journal of Trichology, 5(1), 22–25. http://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.114709
- Aram, H. (1987), Treatment of Female Androgenetic Alopecia With Cimetidine. International Journal of Dermatology, 26: 128–130. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4362.1987.tb00546.x
- Khatu, S. S., More, Y. E., Gokhale, N. R., Chavhan, D. C., & Bendsure, N. (2014). Platelet-Rich Plasma in Androgenic Alopecia: Myth or an Effective Tool.Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 7(2), 107–110. http://doi.org/10.4103/0974-2077.138352
- M.I. Fatani, A.M. Bin mahfoz, A.H. Mahdi, K.A. Alafif, W.A. Hussain, A.S. Khan, A.A. Banjar, Prevalence and factors associated with telogen effluvium in adult females at Makkah region, Saudi Arabia: A retrospective study, Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, Volume 19, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 27-30, ISSN 2352-2410, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jdds.2014.04.002.