Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hair Loss Health Center

Font Size

Expert Q and A: Fighting Hair Loss in Women

An interview with Mary Gail Mercurio, MD.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Many women with hair loss suffer in silence, altering their hairstyle to hide thinning or patches. But the sooner you seek care, the better the chances of successfully treating it, says Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

It's not as uncommon as you may think: As many as 5% of women under 30 and 60% of those older than 70 are affected, she says. At the recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Miami Beach, Fla., Mercurio discussed common forms of hair loss in women and treatment options.

Recommended Related to Hair Loss - Women

Diet and Healthy Hair

A healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and lustrous. Your diet can also prevent hair loss. In fact, very specific nutritional deficiencies can affect your hair. Essential fatty acids -- especially omega-3 fatty acids -- play a key role in skin, hair, and nails. You should eat some of these foods, which are rich in omega-3, every day: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish Flaxseed oil Walnuts and almonds Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are also important...

Read the Diet and Healthy Hair article > >

What's the most common form of female hair loss?

Female-pattern hair loss, which usually has a strong genetic component that can be inherited from either the mother or father. Also referred to as androgenetic alopecia, this type of hair loss can start as early as the late teens -- and the earlier it starts, the more severe the hair loss tends to be.

Most women with pattern hair loss don't get a receding hairline or bald spot on top of the scalp as is common in men. Instead, there is visible thinning over the crown. In men and women, hairs are miniaturized because of a shortened growth cycle where the hair stays on the head for a shorter period of time. These wispy hairs, which resemble forearm hairs, do not achieve their usual length.

The first sign of hair loss that most women notice is often widening of their part or that their ponytail is smaller.

How is female hair loss treated?

Minoxidil (Rogaine) 5% is the only topical medication approved by the FDA for female-pattern hair loss. The once daily use foam treatment regrows hair in 81% of the women who try it. 

Liquid options of 2% and 5% solutions are available over the counter. Minoxidil works by prolonging the growth phase of hair -- providing more time for hair to grow out to its full density.

You have to be patient, as noticeable results usually take three to four months and the product must be used once a day. It tends to work better if started early.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

hair in hairbrush
Ways to go about it naturally.
Young woman with thick curly hair
Causes and solutions.
man with thinning hair
How to keep the hair you have.
Closeup of Hairbrush with Hair Loss
Understand the basics.
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Balding man in mirror
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Young woman with thick curly hair
hair problems