From the beginning of time, hair has been regarded as one's crowning glory. So, what happens
when that hair begins to abandon ship faster than the mice from the Titanic? Generally a midlife
crisis, a new sports car, or sometimes a new significant other, for some this includes some sort of
hair restoration. You may think that I am talking about the male gender, but a surprising number of females have this same problem.
Female pattern baldness or female androgenic alopecia involves a typical pattern of loss of hair
in women. Hair generally grows ½ inch per month and will grow for 2-6 years and then enter a
period of rest before it falls out. Shortly after the loss a new hair will grow in the empty spot.
On a "normal" head of hair 85% of hair is growing while 15% is in a state of rest. Baldness occurs
when a new hair doesn't grow in when the original hair falls out.
There are several causes for this loss, but one of the leading ones is change in hormones.
The hormones responsible are the same ones responsible for hair loss in men. The male sex
hormones, androgens, are also present in females to lesser extent but will still wreak havoc on hair
follicles. This usually occurs at the onset of menopause when all hormones are in a state of flux.
At this time, hair on the head tends to thin while hair on the face gets coarser. There is no new hair
growth but the follicles stay alive leaving the possibility for new growth. Other causes include genetic predisposition and aging.
Female pattern baldness is different than male pattern baldness in that thinning occurs all over
the head but the front hairline is maintained. Rarely does the baldness result in total chrome
dominess as it often does in men. There are also other reasons for baldness in women other than
female pattern baldness including: temporary shedding of the hair (telogen effluvium), breaking of
the hair (from such things as styling treatments and twisting or pulling of hair), patchy areas of total
hairloss (alopecia areata-an immune disorder causing temporary hair loss), medication, and certain skin disorders.
The symptoms of female pattern baldness are thinning of hair over the entire head with mild or
moderate hair loss at the crown or hairline. Diagnosis is based on appearance though a skin biopsy
may be done to determine the presence of a skin disorder. Remaining follicles may also be tested
for signs of arsenic or lead poisoning which could be treated with medication along with certain skin disorders.
Hair loss associated with female pattern baldness is permanent. A 2% concentration of Minoxidil
has been recommended by the FDA for help in regrowing hair. Minoxidil is the only drug that has
been approved thus far by the FDA. Hair growth is increased in 20-25% of the female population. In
the majority though, it may slow or stop the hair loss. This treatment is expensive and hair loss
will resume once the topical Minoxidil is stopped. Hair transplants are another form of treatment
which consist of the removal of tiny plugs of hair from areas where the hair continues to grow.
Those plugs of 1-2 hairs are then placed in areas that are balding. This treatment may cause minor
scarring in the donor areas and carries a modest risk of skin infections. To achieve satisfactory
results the patient will be required to return for several sessions which can start to add up,
however, the results are excellent and permanent.
The suturing of hair pieces to the scalp, which is done in some parts of the world, is not
recommended. This practice can lead to scars, infections and abscesses of the scalp. Artificial and
removable hair pieces are highly recommended though. Hair weaving, hairpieces or changes in
hairstyles are the safest and least expensive methods of treatment.
As you can tell, there is no great way to regrow hair, so treatment is based on treating the
psychological stress and loss of self esteem.
There is no known way to prevent female pattern baldness or male pattern baldness. But, there
are ways to feel good about yourself that don't involve major life changes. Get a good hairpiece if
the loss of hair is really bothering you. Join a gym, learn a new hobby, but most importantly feel
good in your own skin. Even if more and more of it is showing on your head.