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Losing Your Hair?

Hat Head?

Hair-Transplant Surgery continued...

Not every woman is a good candidate for surgery, however. "The problem is that women need to have an area to get the donor hair from," says Greene, who performs hair transplants on women. But because female pattern baldness tends to be diffuse, in many cases the back of the head is often no better than the top or the sides, he says.

"Transplants really are a last resort," says Sawaya. "I recommend that women try more conservative treatments first." Doctors who push a patient toward transplants may have a financial motivation. "Hair transplants are a money maker," Sawaya says.

Both Greene and Sawaya agree that skill and training level from doctor to doctor can vary greatly. For that reason Sawaya recommends that women ask about training, the number of surgeries the doctor has performed on female patients, and rates of success. Even better, talk to a few former patients and see the results in person before agreeing to surgery.

Women should be wary of products that claim to stimulate the scalp, unblock pores, or produce overnight results, says Greene. These products may even provide elaborate pseudo-scientific research to prove they work. But if the FDA hasn't proven them effective, they probably can't stand up to real medical scrutiny, says Sawaya. Save your money.

Cosmetic Options

If you're not game for prescription medications, or surgery, or if you just want to add to the hair you've got, you also can experiment with cosmetic accessories and styles. Tracy, now 43, has used minoxidil for 16 years. She tried a hair weave, where artificial hair is added to existing hair, as part of a makeover. And while she was happy with her hair before the weave, she notices a real difference in the way people respond to her with a full head of thick, auburn hair.

While Tracy doesn't plan to keep the weave -- which requires maintenance every four weeks and can damage the natural hair -- it inspired her to look into other hair augmentation products like wefts (small hairpieces that cover the crown of the head) and falls (hair attached to combs or clips). "Hollywood stars have secretly been using these products for years," she says. "I don't see why we shouldn't be!"

Tracy's final message to women is this: Get treatment if the hair loss bothers you. "Whether you lose 5% of your hair or 55%, it can be devastating. But you don't have to just let it happen -- especially not now."

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