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Hair shedding and regrowth happens to everyone. In fact, you probably lose between 50 and 100 single hairs each day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
But when you begin to lose more hair and experience less regrowth, you may notice more significant hair loss.
Hair loss can happen for many reasons, but regardless of the cause, it can feel pretty distressing — even if it’s temporary. But we’re here to help.
Read on for key causes and symptoms of hair loss. You’ll also find a variety of methods for addressing temporary, reversible, and permanent hair loss, so you can explore your options and find a treatment that works for you.
Hair loss in women is natural part of the aging process, with most women experiencing hair loss after menopause.
But with female pattern baldness, you’ll likely notice your hair growth slows and it takes longer for new hair to begin growing. Hair follicles will also shrink, so the hair that does grow may:
- appear thinner
- feel finer
- break easily
Female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is similar to male pattern baldness, except that women may lose hair in a different pattern than men.
If you’ve noticed signs of female pattern baldness, know you’re far from alone. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), this condition is common in women, especially after menopause.
If you notice increased hair loss, you’ll want to make an appointment with a dermatologist or other healthcare professional. They can help determine if you’re experiencing female pattern baldness or a different type of hair loss caused by other factors.
The main symptoms of female pattern baldness include:
- gradual thinning of hair on top of head
- sudden loosening of hair
- a widening part
- patchy bald spots on scalp
A few different factors that contribute to female pattern baldness can include:
- Genetics: This condition is hereditary, and you can inherit the gene for pattern baldness from either parent.
- Hormones: Female pattern baldness commonly begins after menopause, though it can also occur during pregnancy.
- Underlying health conditions: An underlying endocrine condition or hormone-secreting tumor can also cause female pattern baldness.
The four types of alopecia include:
- Androgenetic alopecia is female pattern baldness or hair loss caused by genetics. It’s the leading cause of hair loss in women and can begin gradually
anytime after puberty. While men tend to notice balding as a receding hairline and specific bald spots, hair loss in women appears more as overall thinning.
- Alopecia areata describes patchy hair loss that happens suddenly on the head or body. This type of alopecia typically begins with one or more round bald patches that may begin to overlap.
- Cicatricial alopecia is a group of conditions that causes irreversible hair loss through scarring. Hair falls out, and the follicle is replaced with scar tissue.
- Traumatic alopecia causes hair to fall out as a result of different types of hair styling. Using hot combs, blow dryers, straighteners, or certain chemicals to dye or straighten your hair may damage and break the hair shaft.
You have several different treatment options to address hair loss caused by female pattern baldness and other types of alopecia. A doctor or dermatologist can help you identify the best approach for your needs.
Possible treatments may include:
- topical medications, such as Rogaine
- laser therapy
- hormone therapy
- hair transplants
To notice the full results, you may need to continue with one or a combination of treatments for several months.
Hair loss caused by stress or hormonal changes, like pregnancy or menopause, may not always require treatment, since this type of hair loss will typically stop on its own as your body adjusts. Still, a dermatologist or other healthcare professional can offer more guidance on strategies to help minimize hair loss in the meantime.
You can often resolve nutrient deficiencies with dietary changes or supplements, though it never hurts to get guidance from a doctor or registered dietitian first. A trained healthcare professional can help identify and treat nutrient deficiencies caused by an underlying medical condition.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about hair loss, since they can help identify any medical conditions contributing to hair loss and recommend the right treatment.
Interested in learning more about your treatment options? Here are eight to consider.
We’ve listed prices for these treatments as follows:
- $: under $30
- $$: $31-$100
- $$$: over $100
1. Minoxidil topical solution
- Price: $
- Pros: easy to apply, available over the counter
- Cons: may cause redness and irritation, takes about 3-6 months for results
Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alopecia areata or androgenic alopecia.
This medication, which you can purchase over the counter (OTC), comes in foam or liquid form. You’ll spread it on the scalp each day. It may cause more hair loss at first, and new growth may appear shorter and thinner than before. You may also need to use it for 6 months or more to prevent further loss and promote regrowth.
Rogaine may not work for everyone. It only works for certain types of baldness, and only if you keep up with its application.
It may also involve some side effects, such as:
- scalp irritation
- hair growth on other parts of the face or hands that come in contact with the medication
- tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
You should not use Rogaine if:
- your hair loss comes on suddenly and hair falls out in patches.
- you’re under 18 years old.
- your scalp is discolored, itchy, or painful to touch, or you’ve developed a scalp infection.
- your hair loss is caused by hair products, chemicals, or hair styling methods like tight braids and ponytails.
- your hair loss is caused by a condition like thyroid disease or alopecia areata, nutritional deficiencies, scarring of the scalp, or medications like chemotherapy.
If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor before trying Rogaine.
You can also ask your doctor about oral minoxidil as a treatment for androgenetic alopecia.
2. Prescription spironolactone pills
- Price: $$
- Pros: oral pill is easy to take
- Cons: may cause low blood pressure, requires prescription
In some cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe the medication spironolactone (Aldactone) off-label to treat hair loss. This drug binds to androgen receptors and decreases the body’s processing of testosterone. It may take 6 months to a year to start working, however.
The FDA hasn’t labeled spironolactone as a treatment for androgenic alopecia. It’s typically used to reduce swelling from liver disease and nephrotic syndrome (a kidney problem). It can also treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and hyperaldosteronism (excessive secretion of the hormone aldosterone).
Possible side effects include:
- allergic reactions
- electrolyte or fluid problems
- high potassium levels
- breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
- itching and other skin reactions
- diarrhea and abdominal cramping
- nausea and vomiting
- leg cramps
- irregular menstrual cycles or bleeding after menopause
Spironolactone oral tablet may interact with other medications and supplements, including vitamins and herbs. If you’d like to try this medication for hair loss, a doctor or pharmacist can offer more guidance on whether it could work for you.
3. Ketoconazole shampoo
- Price: $
- Pros: easy to apply
- Cons: may cause either oiliness, dryness, discoloration
Prescription ketoconazole, 2% (Nizoral) offers another option to treat androgenic alopecia. This medication, which comes in the form of shampoo, is an antifungal agent that may help reduce your body’s production of testosterone and other androgens that lead to hair loss. You can also find 1% strength at your local pharmacy, but it may not be as effective.
Potential side effects include:
- some skin irritation, usually pimple-like bumps, at the application site
- oiliness or dryness of the hair or scalp
- abnormal hair texture and loss of curl in permed hair
- skin and hair discoloration
In rare cases, ketoconazole shampoo can result in hair loss, so talk with your doctor right away if you notice this side effect.
4. Laser therapy
- Price: $$$
- Pros: may help thicken existing hair, low risk of adverse side effects
- Cons: requires treatment at least twice weekly, may take several weeks to notice results
Laser treatment may stimulate hair growth for people with androgenic alopecia and pattern balding. Other names for laser treatment include:
- red light therapy
- cold laser
- soft laser
You can receive laser therapy treatments from a dermatologist, but you can also purchase portable laser devices without a prescription. Companies like HairMax sell wearable devices intended to stimulate weakened follicles and reverse hair thinning or loss.
Examples of these devices include:
Just keep in mind FDA regulations for laser therapy aren’t the same as for medications, and experts have yet to determine long-term safety of laser therapy. That said, LLLT for hair loss seems to pose no major adverse effects.
5. Corticosteroid injections
- Price: $$$
- Pros: new hair growth may appear within 4 weeks
- Cons: requires injections into the hair loss site, only for those diagnosed with alopecia
Corticosteroid injections may also have benefit in the treatment of certain types of hair loss, including:
- alopecia areata
- hair loss caused by discoid lupus
- hair loss caused by lichen planopilaris, a form of lichen planus that affects your scalp
Some types of hair loss happen when your immune system attacks your body’s natural processes. Corticosteroids mimic , the hormone naturally produced by your body’s adrenal glands, and they work to prevent these attacks from happening by modulating immune system activity and lowering inflammation.
You’ll receive injections at multiple sites in the affected area to encourage new hair growth, which you could notice as soon as 4 weeks after treatment. You can repeat this treatment every 4 to 6 weeks.
Side effects of injections may include:
- skin atrophy
- a thinning of the scalp skin
You also have the option of topical corticosteroids, but they aren’t necessarily as effective. Oral corticosteroids may cause a range of unwanted side effects.
You can only receive corticosteroid injections from a healthcare professional.
6. Topical tretinoin
- Price: $$
- Pros: may improve the absorption of other ingredients aimed at boosting hair growth
- Cons: may cause irritation or redness, may cause hair loss in some cases
Topical tretinoin (Retin-A) is sometimes used in combination with minoxidil to treat androgenic alopecia.
Research on whether tretinoin alone can promote hair regrowth remains limited, but an older
Some side effects of tretinoin may include:
- skin irritation or dryness
- pain or peeling at the application site
- darkening or lightening of the skin
The FDA has approved topical tretinoin cream and gel for skin care and supportive pro-aging purposes, but not for hair loss treatments. In some circumstances, tretinoin may cause hair loss, so it’s important to only try this medication with guidance from your doctor.
You’ll need a prescription for Retin-A.
7. Topical anthralin
- Price: $$
- Pros: safe and effective for alopecia treatment, can be applied at home
- Cons: may cause temporary skin discoloration
Anthralin topical cream (Dithralin), originally used as a treatment for , may also prove effective for the treatment of mild alopecia areata.
Known as a “scalp sensitizer,” anthralin creates an irritant reaction that stimulates the immune system and encourages hair growth. You’ll apply this cream once daily, directly to the scalp in areas where you want to encourage hair growth. New hair growth may sprout up in 2 to 3 months.
Side effects include:
- irritant dermatitis
- may cause a temporary, brownish discoloration of lighter skin tones and hair colors
You’ll need a prescription for anthralin.
8. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
- Price: $$$
- Pros: some research suggests it’s safe and effective
- Cons: requires having your blood drawn and injected back into your body
PRP therapy involves having your blood drawn and put into a centrifuge, which separates red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma, which contains growth factors, is then injected back into your body.
With PRP therapy for hair loss, this plasma is injected into your hair follicles. The procedure involves only minimal discomfort for most people and takes about 10 minutes.
This treatment is relatively new, so research supporting its effectiveness remains limited. That said,
PRP therapy involves
Possible risks include:
- injury to blood vessels or nerves
- scar tissue or calcification at injection points
You can only receive PRP therapy from a healthcare professional.
You can also take action on your own to promote hair and scalp health. These approaches may be particularly helpful if your hair loss is caused by:
- telogen effluvium (TE). This second most common form of hair loss diagnosed by dermatologists happens due to changes in the number of hair follicles growing hair.
- trauma to the hair from tight styles
- dietary deficiencies
1. Opt for gentler hair styles
It can help to avoid tightly bound styles, like braids, buns, or ponytails, and try resist twisting or rubbing your hair as much as possible.
Instead, gently wash or brush hair. Switching to a wide-toothed comb can also help prevent too much pulling at the roots.
Other hair tools and products to consider cutting back on or avoiding include:
- hot rollers
- curling or straightening irons
- hot oil treatments
- bleach, dye, and other chemical treatments
Check out our complete guide to washing your hair.
2. Add nutrient-rich foods to your diet
Amping up your diet with nutrients known to promote hair growth could make a difference.
Eating a variety of whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals can help fuel your body, including the areas responsible for hair regrowth.
Specific examples include:
- foods rich in vitamin A, like sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, and kale
- foods rich in vitamin B, including fortified cereal, pork and beef, eggs, and yogurt
- foods rich in vitamin C, including strawberries, peppers, guavas, and citrus fruits
If you suspect you could have a nutrient deficiency, ask your care team about testing to check your vitamin levels. Healthcare professionals can also help address other causes of nutrient deficiencies, such as eating disorders or health conditions that might block nutrient absorption.
You can also try at-home vitamin deficiency testing.
3. Ask a doctor about supplementing with iron and zinc
Deficiencies in iron and zinc may contribute to hair loss, but getting enough of these vitamins may help prevent future hair loss and promote new growth.
Consider asking your doctor about iron and zinc supplements.
Your doctor can order blood tests to check your iron and zinc levels and recommend the right dose of supplement for your deficiency level.
Taking too high of a dose can lead to side effects, so it’s always best to check with a healthcare professional before adding any new supplements to your diet.
4. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture, a form of Chinese medicine, has been practiced for thousands of years.
It may help with hair loss from alopecia areata because the needles inserted into your scalp may help stimulate hair follicles and promote regrowth.
Some evidence suggests it may have promise as a treatment:
In one 2011 study, researchers divided 78 people into two groups. Those who received acupuncture for alopecia areata reported more improvement over 4 months than those who took the amino acid cystine and vitamin B6 and applied minoxidil (Rogaine) for the same length of time.
A 2020 study compared two treatment groups. One group included 43 people who took cystine and vitamin B6. The other group included 44 people who received plum blossom needle acupuncture — where acupuncturists insert 5-7 needles shallowly in a blossom pattern — combined with qi-invigorating superficies-consolidating therapy.
Researchers found that treatment effectiveness for the acupuncture group was 95.45%, and 81.4% for the Western medicine group.
While research supporting the benefits of acupuncture remains limited, acupuncture is considered a fairly safe treatment when performed by a trained and licensed acupuncturist.
If you’d like to try acupuncture, a healthcare professional can offer a referral. You can also search the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine directory.
5. Try stress-relief techniques
You can’t always prevent stress that comes up in your life, but you may be able to manage it more effectively with coping strategies such as:
- mindfulness techniques, like meditation
Taking steps to minimize and navigate stress before it overwhelms you could help lower your chances of experiencing physical side effects, like hair loss.
Not sure how to handle chronic or ongoing stress? A therapist can offer more support with identifying triggers and practicing helpful coping skills.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, a good next step involves connecting with a dermatologist who can:
- help determine what type of hair loss you have
- rule out any underlying medical causes
- offer more information about your options for treatment
- refer you to an additional specialist, if needed
You may want to reach out sooner rather than later if you notice:
- sudden or patchy hair loss, or more hair loss than you’d typically experience
- changes in your hair shedding and regrowth patterns
- any scalp irritation, inflammation, or discoloration
Still have questions about hair loss treatments? Get some answers below.
How do I know which hair loss treatment is best for me?
Choosing a hair loss treatment plan is a highly personal decision. When exploring your options, it’s best to talk with your doctor to pinpoint possible causes. Some people find success with home remedies or OTC hair loss treatments, and some don’t notice results until they try prescription medications and treatments.
How do I know if I have hair loss?
Signs of hair loss can vary widely from person to person, but you may notice:
- more hair collecting in your hairbrush or the shower drain
- thinning hair and flaking skin on your scalp
- scalp itch or irritation
A dermatologist can help you understand if you have hair loss, excessive hair shedding, or both, and help you identify possible causes.
When should I see a doctor?
If you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or a rash on your scalp, consider talking with a dermatologist. Sudden hair loss may suggest an underlying medical condition that requires prompt treatment.
Hair loss may be common, but you can take steps to address it.
Some conditions causing temporary hair loss will resolve themselves without treatment, or with a few lifestyle changes. If getting the right nutrients, minimizing stress, and avoiding tight hairstyles don’t seem to help, a doctor or dermatologist can offer more information on prescription treatments.
At the end of the day, remember you do have safe and effective options for treating hair loss, and treatment can make a big difference.