Expert Q and A: Fighting Hair Loss in Women
An interview with Mary Gail Mercurio, MD.
How is female hair loss treated? continued...
I put some on my forearm and got a big thick patch of hair. When I stopped, it went away.
Doctors may also test for levels of ferritin (a protein that indicates the amount of total body iron stores). New research suggests levels may be low in women with hair loss. Iron supplements may help.
Also new is the HairMax Laser Comb. It's a red light therapy hairbrush-like device that increases circulation and the biological march that makes hair. It's only approved in men (though some women are using it) and in my experience, is not as good as minoxidil. But in one study, 45% of users reported improvement after eight weeks, and 90% saw improvement after 16 weeks.
In some cases, a hormonal abnormality, such as excess male hormones known as androgens, may be responsible for hair loss in women. One clue that hormones are involved is if the hair loss pattern resembles that of a man’s hair loss. This can be treated with prescription medications such as spironolactone or oral contraceptives.
In men, finasteride (originally marketed as Proscar) is approved for hair loss associated with androgens. In one study, 62% of women also taking oral contraceptives containing the synthetic progestin drospirenone reported improvement. So it may be effective for female hair loss in the setting of increased androgen. But studies are limited and it is harmful to the male fetus so should not be used by women thinking about becoming pregnant or who are pregnant.
Another treatment option is hair transplantation, in which tiny hair follicles taken from one area of the scalp are transplanted into the affected areas. It can be very effective and produce permanent results that are natural looking.
Should I change my hair care regimen?
No. Since there is no structural problem with the hair with female-pattern hair loss, women should continue their regular hair styling regimen. Sometimes women think they should stop washing, coloring, or perming their hair, but these things won’t impact the course of hair loss or speed up the process.
Wash with an anti-dandruff shampoo that contains ketoconazole (an antifungal) or zinc pyrthione (an antifungal and antibacterial).