There are many reasons why your hair might be falling out. Whether this is temporary, reversible, or permanent there are options you can consider that may help. The most important step is to visit a doctor so that they can diagnose the cause of your hair loss.
We’ll go over common, conventional, and complementary treatments available to treat hair loss for women.
Hair loss caused by hormonal changes, like pregnancy or menopause, or stress may not require any treatment. Instead, the loss will likely stop on its own after the body adjusts.
Nutrient deficiencies can usually be addressed through changes in diet, the use of supplements, and the guidance of a doctor or registered dietitian. The guidance of a doctor is necessary if the deficiency is caused by an underlying medical condition.
Any medical conditions that lead to hair loss should be treated directly to address the full condition, not just its symptoms.
That said, there are a number of possible medications and treatments for hair loss caused by female-pattern baldness and other alopecias. You may need to use one or a combination of treatments for months or years to see the full results.
Also known as Rogaine, this over-the-counter (OTC) medication can be used for men or women with alopecia areata or androgenic alopecia. This drug comes in foam or liquid form and is spread on the scalp each day. It may cause more hair loss at first, and new growth may be shorter and thinner than before. You may also need to use it six months or more to prevent further loss and promote regrowth.
Side effects include scalp irritation, hair growth on other parts of the face or hands that come in contact with the medication, and tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
Otherwise known as Aldactone, the drug spironolactone works to treat hair loss by addressing hormones. Specifically, it binds to androgen receptors and decreases the body’s processing of testosterone.
Not all researchers agree that it works effectively, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not labeled it as a treatment for androgenic alopecia.
Talk to a doctor or pharmacist about possible benefits and risks of spironolactone.
Retin-A, or topical tretinoin, is sometimes used as a combination therapy with minoxidil for androgenic alopecia. It’s important to use this type of medication under the guidance of your doctor. In some circumstances, tretinoin can actually cause hair loss. Some people who have used it at home report that topical retinol creams, serums, and lotions may make hair loss worse.
Women with hair loss due to alopecia areata may consider treatment with corticosteroids injected at multiple sites in the affected area. Hair growth may be noticeable in as soon as four weeks, and treatment can be repeated every four to six weeks. Side effects with injections include skin atrophy or a thinning of the scalp skin.
Topical corticosteroids are also available, but they aren’t necessarily as effective, and oral corticosteroids may lead to unpleasant side effects.
In women with alopecia areata, anthralin is both safe and effective. It can be applied at home, once a day, starting with just five minutes and working up to periods as long as an hour. After application, the scalp should be rinsed with cool water and cleaned with soap. New hair growth may sprout up in two to three months.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy includes three steps: drawing a person’s blood, processing it, and then injecting it back into the scalp. This treatment is relatively new and, as a result, there isn’t much research to support its effectiveness. That said, some studies have shown as much as 30 to 40 percent regrowth.
PRP therapy involves several sessions within a four to six week period with maintenance every four to six months.
Possible risks include injury to blood vessels or nerves, infection, and scar tissue or calcification at injection points.
Women with androgenic alopecia may consider trying prescription ketoconazole at a strength of 2 percent. This drug comes in the form of a shampoo and also goes by the name Nizoral. It’s an antifungal agent and may help reduce the body’s production of testosterone and other androgens that lead to hair loss. You can also find 1 percent strength at your local pharmacy, but it may not be as effective.
No significant side effects are associated with this treatment.
Laser devices may stimulate hair growth for people with androgenic alopecia and pattern balding. Other names of laser treatment include red light therapy, cold laser, soft laser, photobiomodulation, and biostimulation.
Devices are available without a prescription in the form of brushes, combs, and other handheld items. They emit light and may also make existing hair thicker.
You can apply laser light treatment two to three times a week. It may take several weeks to a few months before seeing results.
It’s important to note that laser treatment is not as regulated as medications are with the FDA. Long-term safety and other considerations are unknown. Currently, there are no adverse effects associated with laser therapy.
There are other things you can do at home for the health of your hair and scalp. These approaches may be particularly helpful if your hair loss is caused by telogen effluvium, stress, trauma to the hair from hair styling, and dietary deficiencies.
1. Change your hair styling habits
Stay away from tightly bound styles, like braids, buns, or ponytails. Resist twisting or rubbing your hair. And gently wash or brush hair, switching to a wide-toothed comb if necessary to prevent too much pulling at the roots. Hot rollers, curling or straightening irons, hot oil treatments, bleaching, and other chemical processes are other things to avoid.
2. Dial in your nutrition
Pay attention to the foods you eat and how much you’re eating. For example, eating a variety of whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals will help fuel your body and the areas responsible for hair regrowth. If you suspect you may be deficient in certain vitamins, visit your doctor to get a blood test and address other dietary issues, such as eating disorders or health conditions that might block nutrient absorption.
3. Add iron and zinc
While you’re at it, consider asking your doctor about iron and zinc supplements. Researchers believe that deficiencies in these vitamins may lead to hair loss and that proper supplementation may help reverse the effects for a number of conditions, like alopecia areata.
Again, you’ll want to visit your doctor to get a blood test to check your levels in these vitamins. For example, women who have iron levels lower than 70 nanograms per milliliter are considered deficient. From there, work with your doctor to find an appropriate dose according to your deficiency level. Excessive or unnecessary supplementation can be dangerous.
4. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. Its applications are many, and some researchers believe that it may help with hair loss from alopecia areata. How? The needles inserted into the scalp may help stimulate hair follicles and promote regrowth. More research needs to be done in this area, but consider asking your doctor for a referral to a licensed acupuncturist if this treatment sounds appealing to you. (Learn more about acupuncture for hair loss.)
5. Manage stress
While trauma can come on suddenly and unexpectedly, you may be able to help manage ongoing stress in your life with exercise, like yoga, or mindfulness techniques, like meditation. Some researchers are even exploring these alternative healing modalities in relation to reversing hair loss. The idea is that yoga and meditation may help regulate blood sugar and enhance circulation, promoting regrowth.
Thinning hair in women is worth investigating for more than its impact on physical appearance. While many conditions that lead to temporary hair loss will go away without treatment or with simple lifestyle measures, others may be signs of potentially irreversible loss or health conditions. Others yet may respond well to treatments to promote regrowth, so starting sooner rather than later is key.