When it comes to drug treatments for androgenetic alopecia, women are in a difficult position. While many
drugs may work to some degree
for certain women, doctors hesitate to prescribe them. What's more, drug
companies aren't falling over themselves to test drugs specifically for their
ability to prevent and treat female pattern baldness.
Physicians are reluctant to prescribe systemic treatments (pills or other
form of treatment that affects your entire system) because they can tamper with
your body's own androgen levels (see Causes
for an explanation of androgens). The doctor will first want to confirm that
loss is due to an excess of androgen (another name for male hormones) in
the system or a sensitized "over-response" to normal amounts of androgen.
Therefore, physicians often choose topical treatments, which are applied
directly to the scalp.
Beginning treatment as soon as possible after the hair loss begins gives the
best results, because prolonged androgenetic alopecia may destroy many of the
hair follicles. The use of anti-androgens after prolonged hair loss will help
prevent further damage and encourage some hair regrowth from follicles that
have been dormant but are still viable. Stopping treatment will result in the
hair loss resuming if the androgens aren't kept in check in some other way.
Maintaining your vitamin and mineral levels helps while you're on anti-androgen
Below you will find a list of treatments used to treat hair loss in women.
Currently there is only one FDA-approved treatment for female pattern hair
loss. Others have not been approved by the FDA for this particular application,
but have been approved for other applications and are used "off-label" to treat
The effectiveness of these agents and methods varies from person to person,
but many women have found that using these treatments have made a positive
difference in their hair and their self-esteem. As always, treatments have the
best chance of being effective if they are geared to the cause of the hair loss
as well as to triggering hair growth.
Minoxidil was first used in tablet form as a medicine to treat high blood
pressure (an antihypertensive). It was noticed that patients being treated with
minoxidil developed excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis) as a side effect.
Further research showed that applying a solution of minoxidil directly to the
scalp could also stimulate hair growth.
When applied topically, the amount of minoxidil absorbed through the skin
into the bloodstream is usually too small to cause internal side effects.
Widely available in generic versions and under the brand name Rogaine,
minoxidil seems to be more effective for women suffering from diffuse
androgenetic alopecia than it is for men. Product labeling recommends that
women only use the 2% concentration of minoxidil, not 5%, because the FDA has
not approved use of the higher concentration in women.