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 the hair 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 medications.
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 hair loss.
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.