If you’ve been alarmed by clumps of hair clogging your shower drain, you’re not alone. About 50 percent of women experience hair loss or thinning before they turn 60. Candace Spann believes the problem shouldn’t be kept a secret under wigs. “For years, it was taboo to even talk about women’s hair loss. I think the stigma is going away,” says the Las Vegas dermatologist and founder of hair rejuvenation brand ReTress who has struggled with losing locks. “We didn’t do anything wrong to end up having this kind of hair loss. If we continue to educate and pay attention, hopefully, we will see this problem being addressed and taken care of.”
Female hair loss isn’t a young or old issue. Teenagers, octogenarians and women the ages in between have complained to Spann about tress trouble. In teenagers and Twentysomethings, minimized manes can be due to poor nutrition, stress, birth control modifications or thyroid conditions. “Especially at young ages, people experiment with crash dieting,” she notes. “They may completely eliminate meat or severely calorie restrict. They end up depriving their bodies what they need to make hair.” Tackling hair loss comes down to isolating the cause and treating it. The remedy might be as simple as a better diet or it could be more complicated such as thyroid hormone replacement therapy if autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s is to blame.
Throughout women’s lives, hormonal fluctuations can affect hair. Telogen Effluvium or temporary hair loss results from various stressors, including childbirth. “It typically starts about four months after childbirth and can go on as much as two years,” details Spann. Another hormonal issue is excess Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the male hormone behind male baldness that can instigate similar baldness in women. Menopausal women are particularly impacted. New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman points out hormone blockers, notably spironolactone, can combat undue male hormones. She also suggests women try hair growth serums like Grow Gorgeous’ Hair Growth Serum. “I can’t tell you that it is actually growing hair. It can make your hair seem thicker, which is a good thing because people feel their hair looks better,” says Jaliman.
Hormones rage whether women like it or not, but blow dryers, on the other hand, are in their control. Hair styling can be the enemy of a full head of hair. Jaliman outlines perms, chemical straightening, extremely hot blow-drying or ironing, bleaching and more can induce hair loss. She works with hair loss patients to arrive at acceptable beauty options. “If a patient is going five shades lighter than their natural hair color, we might tell them to go three shades lighter. We know people are still going to do these things, and they aren’t going to listen to us if we say not to do them,” she says. In African-American women especially, though, the hair loss stemming from repetitive hair styling can be significant. They are prone to CCCA or Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia that Spann explains is “scarring that you can see most prominent at the crown.” Early on, steroid injects can stymie CCCA, although nothing can be done if follicles are permanently destroyed.
Genetics play a huge role in hair composition. An estimated one-fourth of women will suffer from hereditary hair loss. In her practice, Spann has noticed women with genetic predispositions to hair loss begin detecting their hair is different primarily in their 20s and in their 40s. “They start seeing hair everywhere. I have a lot of women who are afraid to wash their hair because they are tired of losing so much hair,” she says. “I always ask them to quantify for me the change in their hair. If they were to look at pictures of themselves five or 10 years ago versus now, what would they see? It can be perceptible to the women, but imperceptible to the people around them. By the time it is perceptible to others, they may have lost 50 percent of their hair. Really, it is important get involved early.”
The good news for women with hair loss is that there is a number of solutions on the market and the number is increasing. Spann and Jaliman recommend biotin supplements. “Studies on biotin show biotin can increase the diameter of each hair. If you can increase the thickness of each hair, that is an easy way for hair to look better,” says Jaliman. Among topical treatments, Rogaine with Minoxidil, a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to battle baldness, is the most well known. Overall, Jaliman asserts her patients have been quite happy with Rogaine. One drawback, however, is scalp irritation that topical steroids can help. Part of the reason Spann developed ReTress was because her scalp became incredibly inflamed from Rogaine. ReTress’ shampoo, conditioner and serum rely on a natural biotin tripeptide complex instead of Minoxidil. “My hair is thicker at 41 than it was in my mid 20s through early 30s. It has made a huge difference for me,” she says. “I would lose upwards of 200 hairs per wash and this morning I lost three.”
A breakthrough in hair growth on the horizon could be Latisse, Botox maker Allergan’s eyelash enhancer, for the dome. Allergan is conducting trials on a scalp version of Latisse. “I have used it on eyebrows, and it grew hair back. I think it would work on the scalp, but they have to get the price down,” says Jaliman. If Latisse doesn’t fulfill its promise to counter hair loss, hair cloning could be the next great hair hope. In the hair cloning process, healthy hair follicle cells multiplied outside the head are implanted into the scalp to sprout new hair follicles. Hair cloning or no, Spann assures, “In the next few years, the landscape will be totally changing for women’s hair loss.”