“Thinning hair in women is something we see on a regular basis in my office. Hair loss is very distressing to our female patients and its often hard to figure out the cause. Luckily, advancements have been made in the treatment of hair loss for women that we has see make a noticeable improvement for our patients.”-Dr. Hayley DeGraaff, M.D.
Let’s face it, our hair changes as we age. It turns gray, it gets thinner and less robust, and it is not as shiny and healthy as it was when we were younger. As the hair follicle ages, it just doesn’t produce as thick and strong hair shaft and this can lead to easier breakage and slower growth. In the past, thinning hair was mainly considered to be a male problem, but we know estimate that 40% or more of patients seeking treatment for balding are now women! Before the hair thinning problem can be treated, we must first figure out WHY its thinning. So what are the top reasons women lose their hair?
1. Pregnancy– Well actually, it’s AFTER pregnancy that women notice their hair falling out. While you are pregnant, the changes in your hormones actually keep your hair from shedding like normal. You don’t actually grow more follicles while you are pregnant, it’s just there are more hairs IN the follicle at any one time because they don’t shed. After the pregnancy hormones decline, all those “extra” hairs that would have normally been shedding all fall out within the same time period. This is really just your hair returning to “normal” and not true hair thinning and really requires no treatment. Some women find that if they STAY on their prenatal vitamins, that the hair loss can be lessened to some degree.
2. Stress- Stress can cause hair loss, but we are not talking about the normal everyday life stress. We are talking about an extremely stressful traumatic event like a major health issue, death of a family member etc. Typically, this type of hair loss will correct itself once the event has passed and the hair follicles start to function again. Vitamins such as Biotin and Vitamin E may help slow or halt the hair loss as well.
3. Health issues– There are MANY different kinds of health conditions that lead to hair loss such as thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, auto-immune disorders, malnutrition, rapid weight loss and others. This type of hair loss SHOULD be evaluated by a doctor and there are treatments available. Lab tests can be especially helpful to determine the cause of the hair loss. Obviously, if the health condition can be diagnosed and treated, such as hypothyroidism, then the hair loss should improve. Biotin or other skin/hair/nail multivitamins are also helpful.
A big topic to discuss here are how hormones affect hair loss. Most women will see some hair thinning around the time of menopause. Most of the time, hormone balancing or replacement therapy can dramatically reduce age-related hair loss. However, is some women, testosterone replacement can actually increase hair loss and may have to be stopped. Minoxidil or Rogaine may help testosterone related hair loss but must be used everyday for at least 6 weeks to see the results.
4. Medications- There are MANY types of medications that can lead to thinning hair. The obvious ones are the chemotherapy drugs but other drugs such as those used to treat acne, depression, and other can cause hair loss. Unfortunately, if you need these medications then you can’t just stop them due to the hair loss but alternatives to the medication or lower doses may help. The vitamins already discussed may help as well.
5. Genetics- Unfortunately, many women experience “patterned-baldness” due to an inherited trait, just like men. This type of thinning can be treated with the newer hair loss treatments much more effectively than in the past.
One of the most exciting NEW treatments for age related, hormone related or genetic hair loss is using a treatment called PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma therapy. Dr. DeGraaff was the first in North Alabama to start using this procedure 3 years ago and has seen great success. PRP is derived from your blood’s plasma and contains GROWTH factors that can help stimulate the unhealthy follicle. The procedure takes about 1-1.5 hours and is done in a regular office setting. A topical numbing is applied to the scalp which makes the procedure practically painless. A treatment called micro-needling is preformed first followed by the actual PRP injections directly into the scalp. PRP works best on sickly follicles and not follicles that have been “dead” for many years so it’s best to consult with Dr. DeGraaff soon after the first signs of thinning appear. Cost for the procedure ranges from $900-1500 depending on how much area is treated. Below is an actual female patient treated by Dr. DeGraaff last year. The after photos were take about 4 months after the initial procedure.