Dermatologists Dr. Francesca Fusco and Dr. Joshua Zeichner debunk the most common myths about female hair loss. Find the seven treatments or lifestyle changes you need to regrow thinning hair, originally published in Health.
It may start with seeing extra hair in the shower drain or in your brush. Then, when this becomes a daily occurrence, the panic will set in. But there’s no need to panic. Female hair loss is more common than you think. In fact, an estimated 40% of women see hair loss by the age of 40. And those numbers likely are low, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He’s found that too often women are too embarrassed to ask their doctor about hair loss, thinking that it’s exclusively a male problem.
One of the most common myths about female hair loss is that it looks the same and has the same causes as male pattern baldness. “[Female hair loss] does not have the same pattern as male pattern hair loss,” says Francesca J. Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “In women, it tends to be diffuse or frontal or temporal, and it can be inherited through female relatives.” While men’s hair loss has gotten more research than women’s, we know that women’s hair loss is in part genetic and it is related to androgen hormones, mainly dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In other words, women’s hair loss can be caused by other factors besides genes, including stress, diet, hormones and other lifestyle factors.
While we can’t control our genetic makeup, we can control our habits. Making a few simple changes in our daily routine may help your thinning hair to regrow.
“Significant psychosocial stresses can result in hair loss,” explains Dr. Zeichner. In a phenomenon called telogen effluvium, stress shocks more hair to move into the “resting” phase of the hair growth cycle, making more hair fall out. “This is the same type of condition that women typically experience post-pregnancy or after a major surgical procedure,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “These patients typically develop rapid thinning of the hair along the temples.” Try stress relief techniques such as meditation, journaling, yoga or exercise.
Take a Supplement
Taking a vitamin supplement that is formulated to promote hair growth can help, and even multivitamins can give your hair a boost, says Dr. Zeichner. He recommends hair supplements including Viviscal Extra Strength to nourish thinning follicles and reduce, or even stop, the shedding. Take two pills of Viviscal supplement per day and be patient, because it can take three to six months to see hair growth results. But the beauty of hair supplements is that they boost hair growth from within, in line with your natural hair growth cycle. So when you stop taking them, your hair growth will not immediately reverse.
It may take months for you to regrow your hair. In the meantime, you can reduce the appearance of hair loss by going to the hair salon. A good haircut and a few easy styling tricks can help you fake fullness. “Long or short layers can make a world of difference,” says Dr. Fusco. “Change your part frequently to give hair a lift, and use volumizers and dry shampoos for a boost.”
Choose layers that frame the face to help mask thinning hairlines. Get regular trims to remove excess weight and dead ends, giving hair more volume. Apply a dry shampoo like Batiste Dry Shampoo to roots to give hair a lift.
Cover thinning areas with a hair fibers product. Viviscal Conceal & Densify Volumizing Fibers are easy to apply for light or heavy coverage. The microscopic fibers cling to even the tiniest hairs, building natural-looking thickness and cover a widening part. They stay put all day but wash out easily with shampoo.
“Protein is critical to healthy hair,” Dr. Fusco says. “Lean meat, fish, poultry and beans are all great sources. Iron is also important; low iron can lead to anemia, which can lead to increased hair shedding. The great news is that with proper diet and supplementation, this type of hair loss is reversible.” Deficiencies in biotin and zinc are also clearly associated with hair loss, and magnesium is necessary for healthy hair growth.
Try a Topical Treatment
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved medicinal topical treatment that stimulates follicles to regrow hair. Dr. Zeichner recommends minoxidil to patients, explaining, “Minoxidil helps lengthen the active growing stage of hairs and promotes healthy delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicle.”
As a natural alternative to medications, essential oils can be very effective. In one small study, alopecia areata patients massaged rosemary, peppermint, thyme, and lavender in a mixture of jojoba or grapeseed oil into their scalps daily, while a control group used only the oils. Forty-four percent of the participants in the essential oils group showed improvement, compared to just 15% of the control group. It’s recommended that you talk to your dermatologist before you apply either minoxidil or essential oils on your scalp.
Give Your Hair Some TLC
Save your strands by always treating them gently. That means do not roughly comb hair, and do not brush hair when it’s wet and weak. Do not use styles that pull, such as tight ponytails and updos. Never vigorously towel-dry hair, which can cause breakage. Take a break from daily blowouts and over-styling, which dry out hair, causing breakage, and irritate the scalp.
Another surprising culprit is dandruff. “As flaking builds up or if the scalp itches and scratching ensues, inflammation can lead to excessive shedding,” Dr. Fusco says. “I see this a lot because women don’t use their dandruff shampoo regularly because the ones they have used are medicinal and not beautifying. Easily solved with a product like Dove DermaCare Scalp Pure Daily Care, which combines dandruff fighting Zinc Pyrithione in a nourishing, pleasantly scented formulation made for everyday use.”
Still losing strands even after you’ve made these lifestyle changes? If excessive shedding continues for more than a month, see your doctor to get to the root (no pun intended) of your hair loss.