Hair loss should not be thought of as an issue that affects only men. About 40 percent of those who suffer from hair loss are women, according to the American Hair Loss Association.
Women lose their hair for a number of reasons. In some cases, the hair loss is connected to an external factor, such as a disease or medication. In other cases, the hair loss is due to genetics or female pattern baldness.
While the majority of hair transplant patients remain men, the surgery can be used to treat female patients as well. Depending on the cause of the hair loss, other treatment options might be better suited for women who are losing their hair.
Treating the Source
One way to treat certain types of hair loss is to remove the object that is contributing to the hair loss. For example, women who are losing their hair as a result of traction alopecia, often caused by tight hairstyles, can try changing the way they style their hair. As long as the change occurs early enough, most women see the hair that was pulled out grow back.
Unbalanced hormones can also contribute to hair loss. If a woman’s hair loss is a result of the type of birth control she takes, one way to reverse or reduce the hair loss is to switch contraception methods. Hormonal birth control, particularly pills with a high androgen index, are can trigger hair loss. Other options include non-hormonal methods. Women who are concerned about the connection between their birth control method and hair loss should discuss their options with their doctor.
In some cases, a medical condition can be playing a role in a woman’s hair loss. An underactive thyroid can often cause thinning hair. Taking thyroid medication can help bring up the levels of thyroid hormone in the body. A few months after starting the medicine, most women notice their hair is growing back, and that it’s growing back more fully. Anemia or low iron levels can also be associated with hair loss, something not uncommon in premenopausal women.
Follicular Unit Grafting
Women with female pattern baldness or hair loss connected to an injury or scar can often benefit from follicular unit grafting, or follicular unit micrografting, or follicular unit extraction (FUE). The surgery involves transplanting hairs from one area of the scalp, usually the back or sides, to the areas impacted by hair loss.
Often, FUG for women is slightly different than it is for men, because the pattern of hair loss tends to be different. For example, it’s common for a surgeon to transplant grafts that contain three to five hairs, instead of just one or two. The larger grafts work on women, since the remaining hair on the head often successfully conceals any “plugginess.”
Some women benefit from another type of surgery, hairline advancement, on its own or combined with FUG. During hairline advancement, the surgeon shortens the length of the forehead, so that it is less prominent. Compared to a hair transplant, a hairline advancement surgery provides an immediate result. The procedure can be done along with a transplant, depending on the degree of hair loss.
Minoxidil, often better known by the brand name Rogaine, is another treatment option for hair loss in women. The medication has a few benefits as well as a few drawbacks when compared to hair restoration surgery. A benefit is that it doesn’t require surgery. A drawback is that any effects from the medication fade after a woman stops taking it.
Women who have thinning hair or diffuse areas of hair loss might benefit from laser therapy, such as low level laser light therapy, to help their hair grow more thickly. Laser treatments don’t actually help hair grow back, but they do encourage thicker growth of existing hair.
Devices such as the Revage 670 have been shown to stop the progression of hair loss in patients. Forty percent of patients who used the device reported that their hair grew thicker. While some treatments, such as the Lasercap and Capillus, can be used at home, others, such as the Revage 670, are designed to be used in a doctor’s office.
The treatments work by stimulating the flow of blood to the hair follicles. Since the temperature of the laser is low, patients don’t feel any heat or discomfort while using the device.
You don’t have to live with hair loss. Dr. Jeffrey Epstein is a pioneering surgeon when it comes to hair restoration for women. He has practices in New York City and Miami. To schedule an appointment to discuss your hair loss concerns, call (212) 759-3484 for the Foundation for Hair Restoration in New York City. For his practice in Miami, call (305) 666-1774 for a consultation.