Men aren’t the only ones who experience pattern baldness. Female pattern baldness is a very real and difficult to deal with part of many women’s lives. In addition to this, there are other atypical reasons for thinning hair in women. And the treatment options that women have as remedies for these problems are somewhat different than those available for men.
Hair loss is related to the hair growth cycle. Hair grows in cycles from 2 to 6 years, rests for a few months, and falls out. After it’s shed from the follicle, it’s replaced by new hair that starts growing shortly after the old hair falls. Under normal circumstances, about 85% of the hair on a head is growing while 15% is resting. When new hair does not replace the hair that falls out after the rest cycle, hair loss occurs.
While the cause of female pattern baldness is not certain, it is known to be related to hormones, genetics and aging. Androgens, a male sex hormone is the one that’s responsible. After women who are predisposed to hair loss have gone through menopause, the hair on their heads can thin, while hair on the face can increase and coarsen. Female pattern baldness does not manifest itself in women the same as it does in men. Unlike men, women don’t develop a receding hairline, bald crown or the often seen horseshoe shape. Instead, there is a thinning of hair over the entire head. We’ve all seen middle aged or older women whose scalp is visible through their hair.
Minoxidil, one of the drugs used in the treatment of male pattern baldness can also be used for women; though it has not been shown to be quite as effective in women as it is in men. While it will slow the progress of hair loss in most women, it will only grow new hair in about a quarter of those who use it. It must be applied twice a day, and is expensive to use as well. And there is an incidence of allergic reaction to the use of minoxidil in some women. Hair loss symptoms will resume if minoxidil treatment is halted.
Finasteride, the other medicinal hair loss treatment for men, has not proven to effectively stop hair loss in women. Even more of a concern though is that it is known to cause birth defects. It has not been approved as a treatment for hair loss in women, and should never be taken or handled by them because of the danger of fetal damage.
Another treatment option is hair replacement surgery. Hair that’s taken from donor areas of the scalp where hair is still growing is transplanted into scalp areas that are thinning. In the past, hair was transplanted in plugs, which made it easy to spot those who had gone through the surgery. The days of the obvious transplant patient are over though; new techniques make transplants virtually undetectable. Newer methods transplant hair similar to the way it grows, using follicular units. These complete hair-growing units consist of the follicles, nerves, blood vessels and other supporting tissues. The use of these follicular units help to ensure that natural looking end results are achieved.
In addition to these medical treatments, there are non-medical, non-invasive approaches to female hair loss. Wigs and hairpieces, and hair weaves can cover up thinning hair; and some hairstyles can help to disguise it. These methods are the easiest, cheapest and safest courses of action to take in an effort to remedy hair loss.
Of course, the safest and cheapest of all is to simply accept it and not be overly concerned about it. For some women, this is a perfectly viable solution. But for those who would prefer to have at least the illusion of a full head of hair, the aforementioned options are available.