Did you know that August in National Hair Loss Awareness Month? This is a very important time to get the facts out about hair loss and female hair loss especially.  Female hair loss tends to be very misunderstood, which only makes it more difficult for those women experiencing it.  The American Hair Loss Association estimates that women make up 40% of the US population that is experiencing hair loss.  Most people are often surprised to hear that it is so common, but it truly is and 50% of women will experience hair loss in their lifetime.  We hope by creating more awareness that more women will seek treatment when they start to see signs of hair loss.

What is Alopecia?

Many patients will come to our office and say their primary care physician or dermatologist told them that they have alopecia, but there is a lot of confusion about what that means.  Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss.  In reality, there are many types of alopecia, and before starting any treatment it is important to know which type of alopecia you have.  Below are the most common types of alopecia in women.

Androgenic Alopecia
The most common type of alopecia is Androgenic Alopecia, also known as Female Pattern Hair loss.  It certainly is more common as women age, particularly after menopause, but it can start as early as the teenage years.  Hormones play a role in this type of hair loss, especially the “androgenic” hormones such as testosterone.
Telogen Effluvium
Telogen Effluvium is a common and temporary cause of hair loss. It usually presents as a diffuse hair loss, meaning coming from all parts of the scalp. Most commonly a woman will see increased shedding of hair.  Telogen Effluvium is due to a stressor on the body, which could be physical or emotional stress, a new medication, weight loss, or even deficiencies in key nutrients or vitamins.  In order to reverse the hair loss we first must determine what stress on the body is causing it.
Traction Alopecia
This type of hair loss occurs from pulling the hair too tightly over prolonged periods of time. This commonly occurs with use of dread locks, or tight ponytails. The constant pulling puts pressure on the hair follicle and can lead to permanent loss.
Scarring Alopecia
This is a rare type of hair loss, which is due to inflammation around the hair follicle.  Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in the incidence of Scarring Alopecia. There often are areas with white scales surrounding an area of inflammation, which then leads to scarring in that area. The hair follicles are actually destroyed and disappear.
Alopecia Areata
This form of hair loss is an “autoimmune” disease, meaning the body causes inflammation around the hair follicle preventing it from growing. Most often it presents as a coin shaped lesion or discrete patches of hair loss with sharp borders. Less commonly it can be more diffuse. Women with Alopecia Areata can have hair loss in other areas beside the scalp, including eyelashes and eyebrows.

Will My Hair Grow Back?

The main concern for patients is whether their hair will grow back and whether they will go bald. It is important to know that it is extremely rare for women to go bald the way men do.  However, many types of hair loss are progressive, which means without treatment they will get worse, so it is important to start treatment to stop further loss.  For many patients regrowth is certainly possible.  For instance, we would expect patients with Telogen Effluvium to have almost complete regrowth once the stress on the body is identified and treated.  Patients with Androgenic Alopecia can have regrowth, but it depends on how long the hair loss has occurred.  If the follicle is completely gone it will no longer produce a hair.  However, Androgenic Alopecia causes miniaturization of the hairs, which can be reversed causing their hairs to thicken and their hair look fuller.  With Androgenic Alopecia it is also possible to reactivate recently dormant follicles to regrow hairs.

What are the Treatments for Female Hair Loss?

The good news is that over the past 5 to 10 years we have seen new and effective treatments for female hair loss.  It is important to understand that the best treatment or treatments will depend on what type of hair loss you have and what stage of hair loss you are in.

Hair Transplants
Hair transplants have been around for decades, but over the past twenty years they have become extremely natural looking and with an experienced surgeon you would never know a transplant occurred.  Not all women are great candidates for hair transplants as you need a strong donor area in the back of the head.  Hair transplants are considered the only permanent solution for hair loss as you are not expected to lose the transplanted hairs, but you can continue to lose the native hairs without continued treatment.
Optimal Platelet Concentration™ Therapy & Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
Innovations like Optimal Platelet Concentration™ Therapy & Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy have changed how we treat female hair loss.  These are great non-surgical options for patients with Androgenic Alopecia and Traction Alopecia.  We have also begun to see positive results with the treatment of some Alopecia Areata and Scarring Alopecia patients.
Low Level Laser Therapy
Low Level Laser Therapy has been around for over 10 years and has proven extremely effective in the treatment of female hair loss.  FDA Cleared at home devices like the LaserCap® Flex300 and LCPro224 are great for patients with Androgenic Alopecia, Traction Alopecia, and Telogen Effluvium.
Minoxidil
Minoxidil is the only FDA Approved treatment for female hair loss, specifically those with Androgenic Alopecia, and can be a great supportive treatment.  While patients sometimes complain about the over the counter options, as they can be greasy or irritating to some, we have found that compounded options, like Formula 82M can work even better without being greasy or irritating.
Vitamins & Supplements
Vitamins and supplements should be a part of any hair loss treatment plan.  Deficiencies in our diets may not cause hair loss, but they can certainly affect hair health.  Options like Nutrafol® and Viviscal® have been clinically proven to improve hair health.

I Think I Have Hair Loss, What Should I Do?

If you think you are experiencing hair loss, it is extremely important to see a medical professional that specializes in female hair loss.  Common signs of hair loss are:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Smaller ponytail
  • Widening part
  • Receding hairline
  • Temporal loss
  • More visible scalp

The first step in treatment is getting a diagnosis to find our what type of hair loss you have, as that will determine which treatments will be effective.  A medical professional should complete the following to diagnose your hair loss:

  • Medical history
  • Physical evaluation of hair and scalp
  • Trichoscopy – High magnified photos of scalp and hair
  • In some cases bloodwork and/or a biopsy may be required

If you think you are experiencing hair loss, do not wait and do not suffer in silence.  Know that you are not alone and that there are great treatment options available.

Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team