CULTURAL STANDARDS OF BEAUTY BEING WHAT THEY ARE, HAIR LOSS IN WOMEN IS PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT. BUT THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS IN WHICH WOMEN CAN STOP LOSING HAIR AND SOMETIMES GAIN SOME BACK.
It is a sobering fact that approximately 40 percent of women experience some type of hair loss in their lifetimes. Some of it is just a phase and reversible — for example, after giving birth, after surgery, during chemotherapy treatments or when physically shocked by undernourishment, as happens with severe anorexia or crash dieting. But women’s equivalent to male pattern baldness — technically known as androgenic (or androgenetic) alopecia — can be just as irreversible as with men. Some hair loss that is reversible in most women ends up as a permanent loss in others.
There are, however, answers in certain therapies that can slow, stop and sometimes reverse hair loss. The educated woman has many tools at her disposal; the key point is to use the right methods and to use them as soon as possible.
Hair regrowth therapy: Topical treatments can stop female hair loss
While largely marketed as a way for men to reduce hair loss, Rogaine (generic name minoxidil) for women is in fact found to be effective. A 2 percent solution is recommended for women, but physicians are able to prescribe a 5 percent solution to them even though product indicators state it is for men (testing on women is limited because of the risks in testing anything on premenopausal women, and the 5 percent Rogaine solution is often too harsh for sensitive skin). Nineteen percent of women using the 2 percent solution experience a moderate regrowth of hair, while 40 percent of women exhibit minimal regrowth.
Systemic (internal, taken orally) solutions such as finasteride (Propecia) are resolutely not recommended, despite a high rate of success in men. This is due to the fact that the product can cause serious birth defects when ingested by women who are pregnant (merely touching a broken tablet can have the same effect). Also, tests on postmenopausal women found that it was largely ineffective anyway.
Hair regrowth therapy: Laser hair therapy can stimulate female hair follicle vitality
In almost every midsize to major city in the United States (and much of the developed world as well), there exists at least one hair regrowth facility that employs laser therapy as a core treatment method. Laser therapy uses photobiostimulation, which increases blood flow to the scalp, bringing nutrients that improve the overall health of the hair follicle. With this, existing hair is less likely to decline. In some cases, existing follicles that were in dormancy are brought back to normal growth.
One such hair regrowth facility that employs laser stimulation is Transitions of Indiana, an Indianapolis-based center where the majority of clients are women. “Most are between the ages of 40 and 70 years old,” explains Melissa Green, a hair loss consultant who works daily in laser therapy. “Most women and men suffer from androgenetic alopecia. We do treat men and women with different types of alopecia such as alopecia areata [baldness in patches]. Laser hair therapy is also a very effective and safe treatment protocol for individuals who have been through chemotherapy or radiation.”
How well does it work? “The expectations of the clients are to slow down the rate of their hair loss and to partially restore their hair,” says Green. “Typically, laser hair therapy is most effective when done in a series of treatments. For that alone, we don’t recommend a client to just have a couple of treatments, because it would not produce any results.” Costs for their program are in the ballpark of $2,000; however, costs vary by market and according to ancillary services, such as scalp massages and cleansing, which can double and triple what customers pay.
Hair regrowth therapy: Combination hair loss prevention therapies for women are effective
Another clinic, Hans Wiemann Hair Replacement, located near St. Louis, Missouri, offers a program that includes twice-a-week appointments of 20 minutes each, plus a once-every-two-weeks scalp cleansing and therapeutic massage. Both the Missouri and Indiana facilities apply or sell shampoos and scalp treatments containing nutrients and vitamins that promote circulation of blood to the scalp and hair follicles. “We offer a full range of scalp treatments to act in the global wellness approach to the overall health of the internal hair follicle,” says Green.
Green says their program will yield results in 60 to 90 days but greater results can be achieved after that. “The longer a person does laser, the more stimulation is occurring and the higher the success rate.” She says the overall success rate is 85 percent but that “laser isn’t designed to regrow hair if the follicle is no longer producing hair. If that were the case, there would never be a need for other modalities such as hair transplantation or non-surgical grafting.”