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About one-third of women experience hair loss (alopecia) at some time in their lives; among postmenopausal women, as many as two-thirds suffer hair thinning or bald spots. Hair loss in women often has a greater impact than hair loss does on men w, because it’s less socially acceptable for them. Alopecia can severely affect a woman’s emotional well-being and quality of life.
The main type of hair loss in women is the same as it is men. It’s called androgenetic alopecia, or female (or male) pattern hair loss. In men, hair loss usually begins above the temples, and the receding hairline eventually forms a characteristic “M” shape; hair at the top of the head also thins, often progressing to baldness. In women, androgenetic alopecia begins with gradual thinning at the part line, followed by increasing diffuse hair loss radiating from the top of the head. A woman’s hairline rarely recedes, and women rarely become bald.
There are many potential causes of hair loss in women , including medical conditions, medications, and physical or emotional stress. If you notice unusual hair loss of any kind, it’s important to see your primary care provider or a dermatologist, to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. You may also want to ask your clinician for a referral to a therapist or support group to address emotional difficulties. Hair loss in women can be frustrating, but recent years have seen an increase in resources for coping with the problem.
Clinicians use the Ludwig Classification to describe female pattern hair loss. Type I is minimal thinning that can be camouflaged with hair styling techniques. Type II is characterized by decreased volume and noticeable widening of the mid-line part. Type III describes diffuse thinning, with a see-through appearance on the top of the scalp.
Almost every woman eventually develops some degree of female pattern hair loss. It can start any time after the onset of puberty, but women tend to first notice it around menopause, when hair loss typically increases. The risk rises with age, and it’s higher for women with a history of hair loss on either side of the family.
As the name suggests, androgenetic alopecia involves the action of the hormones called androgens, which are essential for normal male sexual development and have other important functions in both sexes, including sex drive and regulation of hair growth. The condition may be inherited and involve several different genes. It can also result from an underlying endocrine condition, such as overproduction of androgen or an androgen-secreting tumor on the ovary, pituitary, or adrenal gland. In either case, the alopecia is likely related to increased androgen activity. But unlike androgenetic alopecia in men, in women the precise role of androgens is harder to determine. On the chance that an androgen-secreting tumor is involved, it’s important to measure androgen levels in women with clear female pattern hair loss.
In either sex, hair loss from androgenetic alopecia occurs because of a genetically determined shortening of anagen, a hair’s growing phase, and a lengthening of the time between the shedding of a hair and the start of a new anagen phase. (See “Life cycle of a hair.”) That means it takes longer for hair to start growing back after it is shed in the course of the normal growth cycle. The hair follicle itself also changes, shrinking and producing a shorter, thinner hair shaft — a process called “follicular miniaturization.” As a result, thicker, pigmented, longer-lived “terminal” hairs are replaced by shorter, thinner, non-pigmented hairs called “vellus.”
Each hair develops from a follicle — a narrow pocket in the skin — and goes through three phases of growth. Anagen (A), the active growth phase, lasts two to seven years. Catagen (B), the transition phase, lasts about two weeks. During this phase, the hair shaft moves upward toward the skin’s surface, and the dermal papilla (the structure that nourishes cells that give rise to hair) begins to separate from the follicle. Telogen (C), the resting phase, lasts around three months and culminates in the shedding of the hair shaft.
A clinician diagnoses female pattern hair loss by taking a medical history and examining the scalp. She or he will observe the pattern of hair loss, check for signs of inflammation or infection, and possibly order blood tests to investigate other possible causes of hair loss, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and iron deficiency. Unless there are signs of excess androgen activity (such as menstrual irregularities, acne, and unwanted hair growth), a hormonal evaluation is usually unnecessary.
Minoxidil (Rogaine, generic versions). This drug was initially introduced as a treatment for high blood pressure, but people who took it noticed that they were growing hair in places where they had lost it. Research studies confirmed that minoxidil applied directly to the scalp could stimulate hair growth. As a result of the studies, the FDA originally approved over-the-counter 2% minoxidil to treat hair loss in women. Since then a 5% solution has also become available when a stronger solution is need for a woman’s hair loss.
Clearly, minoxidil is not a miracle drug. While it can produce some new growth of fine hair in some — not all — women, it can’t restore the full density of the lost hair. It’s not a quick fix, either for hair loss in women . You won’t see results until you use the drug for at least two months. The effect often peaks at around four months, but it could take longer, so plan on a trial of six to 12 months. If minoxidil works for you, you’ll need to keep using it to maintain those results. If you stop, you’ll start to lose hair again.
How to use minoxidil: Be sure that your hair and scalp are dry. Using the dropper or spray pump that’s provided with the over-the-counter solution, apply it twice daily to every area where your hair is thinning. Gently massage it into the scalp with your fingers so it can reach the hair follicles. Then air-dry your hair, wash your hands thoroughly, and wash off any solution that has dripped onto your forehead or face. Don’t shampoo for at least four hours afterwards.
Some women find that the minoxidil solution leaves a deposit that dries and irritates their scalp. This irritation, called contact dermatitis, is probably caused not by the minoxidil itself, but rather by the alcohol that is included to facilitate drying.
Side effects and concerns: Minoxidil is safe, but it can have unpleasant side effects even apart from the alcohol-related skin irritation. Sometimes the new hair differs in color and texture from surrounding hair. Another risk is hypertrichosis — excessive hair growth in the wrong places, such as the cheeks or forehead. (This problem is more likely with the stronger 5% solution.)
Because the patent on Rogaine (the brand-name version of minoxidil) has expired, many generic products are available. They all contain the same amount of minoxidil, but some include additional ingredients, such as herbal extracts, which might trigger allergic reactions.
Anti-androgens. Androgens include testosterone and other “male” hormones, which can accelerate hair loss in women. Some women who don’t respond to minoxidil may benefit from the addition of the anti-androgen drug spironolactone (Aldactone) for treatment of androgenic alopecia. This is especially true for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) because they tend to make excess androgens. Doctors will usually prescribe spironolactone together with an oral contraceptive for women of reproductive age. (A woman taking one of these drugs should not become pregnant because they can cause genital abnormalities in a male fetus.) Possible side effects include weight gain, loss of libido, depression, and fatigue.
Iron supplements. Iron deficiency could be a cause of hair loss in some women . Your doctor may test your blood iron level, particularly if you’re a vegetarian, have a history of anemia, or have heavy menstrual bleeding. If you do have iron deficiency, you will need to take a supplement and it may stop your hair loss. However, if your iron level is normal, taking extra iron will only cause side effects, such as stomach upset and constipation.
Hair transplantation, a procedure used in the United States since the 1950s to treat androgenic alopecia, involves removing a strip of scalp from the back of the head and using it to fill in a bald patch. Today, 90% of hair-transplant surgeons use a technique called follicular unit transplantation, which was introduced in the mid-1990s.
During this procedure, surgeons remove a narrow strip of scalp and divide it into hundreds of tiny grafts, each containing just a few hairs. Each graft is planted in a slit in the scalp created by a blade or needle in the area of missing hair. Hair grows naturally this way, in small clusters of one to four follicles, called follicular units. As a result, the graft looks better than the larger “plugs” associated with hair transplants of yesteryear.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
To build concentration and balance, try doing the tree pose: Stand with your feet directly under your hips, feet parallel. Lift your right foot and rest it on the inside of your left leg, under your knee. Clasp your hands together in front of your heart. Keep your gaze forward and take up to six easy breaths. Then repeat, this time standing on your right leg and lifting your left. If your balance is shaky, rest your hands on a chair in front of you.
Hair loss affects up to 50 percent of women. I’m part of the 50 percent you don’t want to be in. And that’s how I came to know that once you start to look, there are solutions in so many corners of your world.
Hair loss affects up to 50 percent of women. I’m part of the 50 percent you don’t want to be in. And that’s how I came to know that once you start to look, there are solutions to this common problem in so many corners of your world. Read on to find out what they are.
1. Rosemary essential oil. It smells amazing, but that’s not why you’ll want it — studies show rosemary oil can promote hair growth, says Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist in New York City. She recommends placing a drop or two of the essential oil (around $8 for half an ounce) into your shampoo before massaging it into your scalp.
2. Oil-rich conditioner. “Oils improve hair’s tensile strength,” says Paradi Mirmirani, a hair-loss specialist and dermatologist in Vallejo, California. In other words, oils make hair less likely to break under pressure, which is especially important for thinning hair that’s prone to snapping when brushed or styled. Mirmirani recommends using a conditioner fortified with natural oils, like Burt’s Bees Very Volumizing Pomegranate Conditioner, which contains avocado oil ($8), or Honest Company Conditioner with coconut oil ($10). That one’s got an added benefit: “Coconut oil has been shown to penetrate hair,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, so it makes your hair stronger from the inside out. (Just don’t load up on pure coconut oil. “You might overshampoo your hair to get it out, and then you’ll end up drying your hair and undoing any benefit,” says Fusco.)
3. Supplements. Dermatologists don’t consider biotin (which hairstylists and models have praised for years) the go-to supplement for thicker hair. “It’s always been purported to help grow hair, but little to no data exists to support its use,” says Nicole Rogers, a dermatologist and hair-transplant surgeon in Metairie, Louisiana.
Instead, you may want to add vitamin D (about $15) to your shopping cart. A vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate hair thinning and make it almost impossible for any over-the-counter product to reverse hair loss, says Dhaval Bhanusali, a dermatologist in New York City, who recommends taking 5,000 international units of D3 a day (and it’s generally beneficial for bone health in women over 40). “There’s also a link between low iron and zinc levels and temporary hair shedding, called [telogen] effluvium,” says Rogers.
A few studies support the use of red ginseng, sometimes called panax ginseng (about $25), for hair regrowth. It can have an anti-apoptotic effect on the hair, Rogers says, meaning it slows cell death so hair follicles can grow for a longer period of time. But before taking any of these supplements, it’s important to consult your doctor; a lab test can confirm whether you need a particular supplement or if taking it will just be a waste of time and money.
1. Minoxidil. It’s the only FDA-approved topical nonprescription medication that can claim to regrow hair — and it should be part of any hair-loss plan if you have serious thinning, says Rogers. Minoxidil has loads of research to back it, but it requires commitment. If you quit using it, your hair will start to lose ground again. Use a 5 percent strength, like Women’s Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Foam ($30), once daily to see results in three to four months, says Rogers.
2. Pyrithione zinc shampoo. Traditional volumizing shampoos will give the hair you have a lift so it looks fuller (we like the sulfate-free L’Oréal Paris EverPure Volume Shampoo, $8). But some research suggests shampoos with the antidandruff ingredient zinc pyrithione can mitigate hair loss that’s caused by conditions like dandruff, says Mirmirani. Try Head & Shoulders Deep Moisture Shampoo ($6), and use a conditioner without silicones — they can make hair appear limper, especially if it’s applied near the roots (we like Love Beauty and Planet Coconut Water & Mimosa Flower Conditioner, $9).
3. Hair fibers. The best (and easiest) way to hide a widening part or sparse patch is with hair fibers. They’re tiny, charged fibers that adhere to your scalp (until your next shampoo). Toppik Hair Building Fibers ($25) come in a range of colors so you can easily find one that matches your own hair. (In a pinch, you can also brush a powdered eye shadow that matches your hair color along your part.)
1. Collagen powder. Preliminary studies suggest that marine-sourced collagen may stimulate hair growth, says New York City dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae. Though more research is needed, participants in studies reported thicker hair after three to six months of daily use. Crushed Tonic Original Powder ($105) easily mixes into coffee, tea, and water.
2. Volumizing shampoos and treatments. Typically, these work by depositing ingredients, like wheat protein and keratin, that adhere to the hair shaft to a) thicken it and b) create spaces between hairs so you look like you have more of it. Try Kiehl’s Rice & Wheat Volumizing Shampoo ($18) with hydrolyzed wheat protein; Rogers likes Redken Cerafill Defy Shampoo and Conditioner ($20 each) with ceramides that bulk up hair.
3. Scalp tonic. Serums with peptides or procyanidins (a class of antioxidants) such as niacinamide can help support overall scalp health and reduce inflammation, which is a major component of hair loss, says New York City dermatologist Doris Day. Try René Furterer Triphasic Progressive Concentrated Serum ($82), Julien Farel Magnifique Delay the Gray Hair & Scalp Serum ($135), or Day’s own Rapid Regrowth Serum ($55) once daily before massaging a minoxidil product into the scalp (there’s no need to wait for it to dry in between). “In addition to being anti-inflammatory,” Day says, “scalp tonics help minoxidil penetrate the scalp better and can minimize potential irritation from it.”
4. Tinted dry shampoo. Camouflage spots where you’re seeing more scalp than you want to (your hairline, a widening part, a thinning crown) and add volume with a colored dry shampoo (try Orlando Pita Color Boost Dry Shampoo in Light or Dark Tones, $22). But be sure to give your scalp a vigorous shampoo during your next shower — dermatologists recommend keeping your scalp free of styling products so you’re not clogging already taxed pores.
1. Hair color. Anytime you dye your hair, you’re increasing the diameter of each strand, which can help add volume when your hair is sparse and fine. As a general rule, ask your colorist to make sure highlights are finer at the top of the head, where hair is the thinnest, and more intense at the bottom, where it’s thickest, says Eva Scrivo, a hairstylist and the owner of the Eva Scrivo Salon in New York City. And beware: A color that contrasts with your scalp (blonde tones if your scalp is dark, deep brunettes if your scalp is light) will make any visible scalp more obvious.
2. A strategic cut. Long, layer-free haircuts divert volume from the roots, making your part seem wider than it is, Scrivo says. Going shorter (than your current length — no need for a major chop) helps take weight off so hair can look fuller and bouncier. And layers that angle inward on the sides will build height and body at the crown. If you’re game to try bangs, Scrivo says, they lessen the amount of scalp that shows at the hairline.
3. Nutriceuticals. Rogers recommends that her patients try Viviscal Dietary Supplements ($50 for a one-month supply) or Nutrafol ($88 for a one-month supply), both of which can often be picked up in a salon. The former contains marine-based proteins meant to beef up thinning hair. The latter is packed with antioxidants, like ashwagandha and curcumin, and boasts impressive clinical results.
1. Diagnostic tests. The first thing your dermatologist will do is try to pinpoint the cause of your hair loss — genes, inflammation, hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies — through a battery of tests. Initially, Sadick examines the structure of the hair shaft through a trichogram ($200 and up; may be covered by insurance).
The test involves plucking about 50 hairs from the head, typically at the back of the scalp, so your dermatologist can look at them under a microscope and determine how much of the hair is in the resting, growth, and fall-out phases. Next, a vial of blood is sent to a lab to check hormone and nutrient levels ($100 and up, depending on insurance). If low levels of iron, or high levels of male hormones, like androgens, are contributing to your hair loss, for example, both can be treated through oral supplements or medication.
Finally, if these tests come back normal, your dermatologist may suggest a scalp biopsy of a couple of two-millimeter sections taken from your scalp under local anesthesia ($400 and up). It can determine whether genetic hair loss, telogen effluvium (a condition in which hair falls out from stress or rapid weight gain), or a disease (such as lupus) is the cause of your shedding, and your dermatologist can treat you accordingly.
2. High-tech regrowth therapies. Laser treatments ($200 and up) expose hair to low levels of laser light, which boosts hair growth by increasing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in hair follicles. ATP provides energy to hair-follicle cells, so the more of it that’s around, the more energy hair follicles can use to grow your hair. Sadick says three months of weekly sessions are best when you’re kick-starting a hair-loss treatment.
Other options include microneedling ($1,200 and up per treatment) and platelet-replacement therapy (also $1,200 and up per treatment), which are usually offered in conjunction. Your scalp will be numbed first so you don’t feel the pinpricks involved in microneedling. They promote hair regeneration by spurring wound healing, and platelet-replacement therapy involves injecting growth factors into those wounds. “Combination therapy typically works better than monotherapy and usually yields results after three monthly treatments,” says Sadick, and should be teamed with an at-home minoxidil treatment.
3. Surgical hair replacement. If you opt for hair transplantation (which runs $5,000 and up), your dermatologist or hair-replacement surgeon will remove single hair follicles from the back of the head, near the nape of the neck, where your hair is fullest. Once those follicles are harvested, they are then dissected and reimplanted into an area of the scalp where hair is thinning. The procedure takes anywhere from three to six hours, and newly implanted hair will usually begin to grow on its own 3 to 12 months after the treatment session. Traditionally, hair transplantation required removal of an entire strip of scalp, Sadick says, but this new follicle-by-follicle technique looks more natural when it heals and allows patients to get heads of hair as dense-looking as before they started losing it.
Staring at a clump of hair in your hands—or noticing that your part seems wider than normal—can be scary. First, while hair loss can signal that something is off with your body, losing a few strands in the shower doesn’t always mean something is wrong.
It’s completely normal to lose 50 to 100 strands a day, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And nearly everyone experiences some hair loss over time. “As we age, overall hair density changes and individual strands become finer,” says Doris Day, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Centers.
But every once in a while, hair loss is a symptom of something else. If your hair loss seems sudden and excessive, talk with your doctor about other possibilities including hormone irregularities, thyroid abnormalities, lupus, anemia, or alopecia. Hair loss that begins with a widening part and progresses to overall thinning could be a sign of androgenetic alopecia, a condition that impacts millions of men and even women in their 40s and beyond, according to the AAD.
Although hair loss is quite common, it can take a toll on a person’s confidence, research shows. Fortunately, there are a number of shampoos and treatments made with ingredients to help encourage and strengthen regrowth.
Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved ingredient found to improve hair loss, and it’s available as an over-the-counter treatment or prescription. “Minoxidil can enhance the size of the follicle so that it produces a bigger strand of hair,” explains Wilma Bergfeld, MD, a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist. A small, recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that men with androgenetic alopecia who applied a Minoxidil topical foam experienced hair growth in both the frontal and vertex scalp.
Shampoos that moisturize the scalp can create a healthy environment for hair regrowth. Anti-dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders and Dove Dermacare Scalp contain zinc pyrithione (ZPT), an ingredient that removes dead skin cells that could be preventing growth. Plus, all of that itching and scratching from a dry scalp can lead to excess shedding.
What’s more, hair thinning can also stem from a hormone called DHT (a derivative of testosterone). DHT signals hairs to shrink and become vellus hairs (aka small, short hairs), says Caroling Chang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Rhode Island Hospital and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. “It does this by changing the hair cycles and causing a shortening of the growth phase and increase in the resting phase,” she explains. In this case, consider a DHT-blocking shampoo like Alterna Haircare.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet can keep your hair healthy, too. And while hair supplements won’t cause hair growth, they can help your strands grow stronger. “The combination of fish protein, vitamin C, zinc, biotin, and niacin in Viviscal supplements encourages the body to produce healthier, thicker strands,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Nutrafol is another hair supplement to consider, according to Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York City. “This uses highly concentrated botanicals to address every stage of the growth cycle. It has excellent clinical studies to support its efficacy. I recommend it daily to my patients,” she recently told Prevention.
OLLY Hair, Skin & Nails supplements also contain a blend of biotin, vitamin C, E, and keratin protein to help you fight free radicals that damage hair follicles. You can also take a biotin supplement alone, which helps the body break down fats and carbohydrates to grow stronger strands.
Again, hair thrives on protein, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, magnesium, and vitamin B12. To ensure you get the most nutritional bang for your buck, load up on foods that fight hair loss with these nutrients, like lean meats, leafy greens, nuts, beans, sweet potatoes, and fish.
You’re halfway there every time you shampoo: Massaging your head in the shower can increase blood flow to the the scalp. This means a better environment for hair growth, and it also aids the penetration of any treatment shampoos you use.
Both sudden and chronic stress can halt hair growth, according to Mayo Clinic. If you’ve been going through a challenging experience, your hair should grow back once you give your body a break. If you’re under constant pressure, consider stress-relieving techniques like meditation.
If your hair loss seems prolonged or excessive, you should meet with your doctor ASAP. A doctor can assess your symptoms and treat the underlying condition. They can also provide an additional range of hair loss treatments and tests.
Some women are genetically predisposed to female-pattern hair loss or experience increased thinning during menopause, when your estrogen takes a dip. Birth control pills and other forms of hormone replacement therapy, such as estrogen and progesterone pills or creams, can help boost your levels to ward off hair loss.
Routine blood work can test your ferritin (iron stored in the blood) and vitamin D levels. Low levels can lead to hair loss, and the solution may be as simple eating more iron-rich foods or adding a vitamin D supplement to your routine. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate dosage.
They hurt, but they can prove effective. Injecting cortisone directly into the scalp blocks the hormonal activity that induces hair thinning. This works especially well in patients with inflammatory scalp disease, Dr. Bergfeld says.
Once you’ve spoken to your doctor about a plan that’s right for you, it will still take time to see noticeable regrowth. In the meantime, you may be interested in covering up any balding or hair thinning.
Hair loss can be a life-altering experience, especially for women who identify with luscious hair as a symbol of youth and vitality. If you’re one of the more than 80 million men and women in the United States struggling with hair loss and thinning tresses, we’re here to help.
When washing or brushing your hair, you might notice a significant amount of hair strands lifting away from the scalp. Panic not—that’s likely not hair loss. According to Dr. Dominic Burg, chief scientist and trichologist at évolis professional, it’s completely normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day. “If this sounds like a lot, you have to remember that you have around 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on your head so this only represents 0.001% of your total hair,” he assures. “After they fall [out] they are generally replaced by a new hair growing in its place,” Dr. Burg adds.
So, what is hair loss? “Hair loss describes the gradual or sudden loss of actively growing hair follicles on the scalp, usually following a change in the hair growth cycle,” explains Dr. Burg. “To truly understand hair loss, we first need to understand how hair grows. The hair on our head is quite unique in the way it grows: It does this over a long, repeating cycle called the hair cycle,” he notes. “The hair cycle is a repeating pattern of growth, rest and fall that happens many times over your life with the average hair cycle being six or seven ears in length,” Dr. Burg says. That said, this cycle is not in unison. “The hair cycles asynchronously with each hair following its own timing and pattern.”
At the center of the hair cycle and hair growth are the hair follicles. “Hair follicles are actually little organs—much like any other organ in your body, and like other organs, are made up of different parts that do different jobs,” says Dr. Burg. “Ultimately, hair follicles are little machines geared up to manufacture hair shafts out of keratins. The follicles have to work extremely hard to do this 24/7, burning a lot of energy in the process,” he notes. “The body’s control over the process is complex, and like anything complex, it can be quite easy to disrupt the balance and for things to go a little awry. This is the root cause of hair loss and thinning,” he explains.
According to Dr. Burg, most forms of hair loss are caused by a shortening of the growth phase during the hair cycle. “When the growth period becomes too short, hair falls out quickly, excess shedding occurs and the regenerating hair comes in finer and is less substantial,” he notes.
A shortened growth cycle might be the root cause of hair loss, but what messes with the hair cycle to begin with? “Hormones, diet, stress, genetics, aging and your hairstyles are many of the reasons,” says Dr. Burg. “The causes of hair loss are varied and complex and can be a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. Common to all of these is a resulting dysfunction in the hair cycle and shortening of the anagen phase [the first phase of the hair growth cycle],” he notes.
Think at-home lasers are just for your complexion? Think again. The HairMax LaserBand 82 is an at-home hair-stimulating laser device for all hair types. Thanks to its therapeutic light energy, the follicles are stimulated through 82 medical grade lasers to promote a fuller head of hair.
Phillip Kingsley’s Tricholotherapy Regime may consist of three steps but, trust us when we say it’s worth it. Enhanced by B6, panthenol, green tea extract and methyl nicotinate, this hair-growth treatment regimen can nourish strands, stimulate the scalp and promote healthy hair growth.
Hair regrowth can be as simple as a rinse and repeat. Case in point: miriam quevedo’s Extreme Caviar Special Hair Loss Shampoo is specifically designed with weak, thinning hair in mind. Made with caviar to strengthen and L-Arginine to stimulate the scalp along with nourishing ingredients like vitamin B complex and protective Hyrdo-lipids from coconut and olive oil, this hair-growth shampoo is made for vivacious locks.
When it comes to hair loss, scalp care is another important factor to keep in mind. Alterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging Clinical Densifying Leave-In Root Treatment features keratin, castor oil, algae extract and vitamin E along with a slew of hair-benefitting ingredients that can boost volume, improve nourishment and create the perfect environment for regrowth.
What shoppers say: “I bought this because I have started to thin at my temples and have been trying to slow the process with many products. This one seems to give results but you need consistency and time. It leaves no buildup and it seems to have helped slow the process of losing hair.”
Experiencing some hair loss? Let Leonor Greyl’s Complex Energisant Hair Loss Leave-In Treatment help you boost your strand count. Made with mimosa bark extract to improve biotin synthesis and yeast protein to strengthen and fortify, this conditioning leave-in treatment helps nourish and condition follicles to improve the appearance of thinning hair.
What shoppers say: “This product has really improved the look and feel of my hair. It’s been a few months now and I’m seeing a lot of new hair growth. My hair is noticeably thicker, friends are even commenting on it!! I’ve always been self-conscious about my thin hair and it feels so good to love my hair!!”
Biotin isn’t the only vitamin that can help improve hair growth. In fact, a combination of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, biotin and iron found in Viviscal’s Extra Strength Hair Growth Supplements can help get the job done. These hair growth supplements boost the look of strands while providing it with key nutrients to stimulate hair growth.
What shoppers say: “I had severe hair loss due to stress a number of years ago. At the advice of my dermatologist, I started taking this product daily along with Biotin and have seen a difference. You need to be diligent and take it every day to achieve maximum results. I have recommended it to many friends who have also been pleased with the outcome.”
No matter what you use, you won’t see hair growth overnight. But, Elon’s R3 Extra Strength for Thinning Hair can help get you there over time and with regular use. Formulated with a blend of rich proteins, vitamins and minerals to nourish your scalp and strands, this daily supplement is a must-try for those experiencing hair loss.
Made for thinning hair and hair loss, Keranique’s Regrowth Treatment for Women is a spray-on formula that targets the scalp with 2% minoxidil, which is the only FDA-approved ingredient clinically proven to enhance hair growth in women.
What shoppers say: “Excellent product! Easy to use. Been using faithfully for several years now. Really has regrown my hair in places where I had some thinning patches, specifically around the hair line. Definitely worth the time and money!”
Cover up signs of thinning and hair loss with Toppik’s Hair Building Fibers. This hair thickener comes in a variety of natural hair colors and is formulated with colored keratin fibers that blend in seamlessly with your natural hair so you can conceal bald spots and achieve a thicker-looking hair.
What shoppers say: “I am in my 30s and have had increasingly thinning hair for the last 10 years. With a few sprays, this powder can easily add density to your hair almost instantly. It won’t reshape your hairline with a natural look, but will definitely fill it in nicely. Very discreet. I recommend buying the spray applicator for proper application.”
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There’s no cure for baldness, but there are ways to hold on to what you’ve got. The clinical studies and six dermatologists we consulted point to three methods: minoxidil, laser treatments, and prescription finasteride. The key is finding the hair loss regimen that works for you. A doctor is your best bet for that kind of guidance — but we found a few trustworthy products that will work for most people.
The root cause of genetic hair loss is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone that shrinks certain hair follicles until they eventually stop producing hair. Other medical conditions — most commonly, telogen effluvium and seborrheic dermatitis — can also cause hair loss, but most people can trace their follicular woes back to androgenetic alopecia.
We started with more than 200 products, including all-natural solutions and high-tech gadgets, while skipping treatments that focus only on volumizing or thickening hair. Unfortunately, the vast majority of hair loss treatments boast exaggerated claims, and a startling number have absolutely no scientific backing whatsoever.
We cut products lacking scientifically-validated active ingredients, case studies, or FDA clearance — which left us with only 20 contenders. There are only three types of treatments that have actually been cleared by the FDA and supported with clinical studies. Since finasteride (commonly marketed as Propecia) is prescription-only, we looked at the other two options: minoxidil and laser treatments.
Laser treatments are the latest frontier in staving off hair loss, and these treatments do work — the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology in 2014 reported a “statistically significant difference” in hair density with no “serious adverse events” or side effects. Dr. Cheri Ong, dermatologist for American Dermatology Associates, Inc., confirmed and explained, “Low-level laser treatments (LLLT) are popular non-invasive and non-chemical options for hair loss that work by activating energy production in the hair follicle and modulating DHT.”
Results can take up to 18 months to show up, so Dr. Wolfeld stresses that patience is a virtue. And it’s worth noting that the expensive price tag for laser treatments doesn’t guarantee stellar results.
Minoxidil widens blood vessels and allows more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to reach the hair follicles. This, in turn, stimulates thicker hair to grow. Not surprisingly, studies show that treatments with 5% minoxidil work considerably better than treatments with 2% minoxidil for both men and women. So we cut the lower percentage treatments from the running.
Men’s Rogaine Unscented Foam contains 5% minoxidil, which has been clinically proven to slow hair loss and even regrow some hair. It’s also FDA-approved and non-prescription, which means that in addition to being effective and safe it’s also widely available.
Although Rogaine is only FDA-certified for use on the crown of the head, some suggest decent results are possible when using it for a patchy beard, receding hairline or along the front or sides of the scalp. The key is to make sure the product reaches the skin itself, rather than just sitting on the hairline—something that is easier to do with this foam than with the liquid version of the product, which tends to drip and be messy.
The research is abundantly clear: plenty of women suffer from hair loss, too. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that as many as 30 million women in the U.S. suffer from hereditary hair loss. While Rogaine has a different product specific for women, it’s actually exactly the same – it just costs more.
According to Rogaine customer service, FDA approval required gender-specific products to cater instructions to male hair loss (typically a bald spot on the crown) and female hair loss (generally thinning throughout). Basically, men are instructed to use Rogaine twice daily and women only once. Why? The theory is that a higher concentration of minoxidil would result in more unwanted hair (sideburns, for example). However, a study in Skin Therapy Letter reports that unwanted hair was actually more common in 2% minoxidil solutions (which, confusingly, Rogaine instructs women to use twice daily). None of this explains why the women’s product is more expensive, though. Since the active ingredients are the same, don’t spend more on the women’s packaging – men and women can both use this product.
No hair loss treatment—including Rogaine—can restore a full head of hair overnight. Among the cautions on the Rogaine package is the reminder that some may have to wait four months to see any results, and even then, “this product will not work for all men.” So be aware going into this treatment that there can be multiple factors impacting your hair loss, and not all of them will respond to Rogaine. But for many men and women it can be a game-changer, and is worth the time and effort.
Like Rogaine, Kirkland Signature Regrowth Treatment Minoxidil Foam for Men is an easy-to-use foam in a 2.11 ounce canister. It also contains 5% minoxidil, and thus should give you the same results as Rogaine for about $10 cheaper. Each container gives you one month’s worth of treatments, and it’s conveniently sold as a pack of three containers.
Kirkland Signature’s light, non-greasy foam squirts out just like hair mousse and you simply apply it with “cool, dry hands.” Applying means working the foam down to the scalp where you want to see thicker growth. Once massaged in, the foam dissolves into a watery liquid that leaves a tingly sensation – “but no burning!” one of our balding testers was happy to discover.
As the very first product on the market with minoxidil, Rogaine has a lot of street cred, with more than thirty years of satisfied customers to spread the word and more than enough testing done to establish that the product is effective. Kirkland Signature markets everything from garbage bags to button down shirts and doesn’t have the same focus on health care as Johnson & Johnson, which distributes Rogaine. But with the same active ingredient, and subject to the same regulations, it’s a safe budget alternative.
When we scanned reviews on several sites, including Amazon, we came up with a higher-than-you’d-expect number of reported issues with getting the product out of the cans. Reviewers commented that the cans work fine at first, but once they’re about half empty they jam up and stop working. Many customers had no problem with canisters, but we saw the same complaint often enough that it stood out. That said, if you buy directly from Costco, they have a great return policy.
The general medical consensus around laser treatments like HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb is that low-level laser light therapy stimulates the cells within the hair follicle. These devices may also increase cell metabolism to promote thicker and more durable hair shafts, something that neither minoxidil or finasteride can do. Dr. Wolfeld notes that it’s a popular option in his practice. “Some people like the action of combing something through their hair,” he says. Dr. Khadavi also recommends using a laser treatment of some kind in conjunction with other treatments. “Lasers do help in stimulating the hair into the growth phase. We don’t know the exact mechanism of how it works, but it definitely helps.”
To use the HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb, all you have to do is glide it slowly over your scalp. Treatments take about eight minutes, and should be done three days per week for the best results. According to HairMax, this helps stimulate hair growth, reverse the thinning process, and increase density and fullness.
Many dermatologists recommend using laser treatment in conjunction with minoxidil. If hair loss is leaving you embarrassed and self-conscious, the one-two punch of these treatments used together may be more than worth it.
At $395, the HairMax LaserComb isn’t the cheapest option out there for hair regrowth. But you’re investing in a tool that may last for many years. A year of Rogaine, meanwhile, will set you back roughly $180, and even the cheaper Kirkland Signature product would be $140 a year.
Like all hair loss treatments, this laser comb is neither a sure thing nor a miracle product. Your results may vary depending on the cause and extent of your hair loss, and how you use this and other products.
There are products that don’t have FDA approval or clearance, but may help prevent hair loss. For example, shampoos with ketoconazole, a chemical with anti-DHT properties, is widely used to treat fungal infections but has become popular among consumers as a hair loss treatment. It makes sense — research shows that ketoconazole actually has beneficial effects on hair growth (especially for those with seborrheic dermatitis).
However, ketoconazole is still not FDA approved for hair loss treatment, which means it cannot be endorsed or marketed as such. Ketoconazole likely curbs hair loss, but additional research is needed for the FDA to give it approval.
Neither of these will cause hair loss. Hair follicles get their oxygen from the bloodstream as opposed to the air, so go ahead and rock your favorite team’s cap every day. And the balding effect of hair products is just one of several myths debunked in an entertaining 2011 report by US News.
No, but they do have a higher percentage of hair follicles genetically susceptible to DHT. It sounds a lot less sexy when you put it that way. BBC Future did a whole investigation into this myth, proving once and for all that Bruce Willis is no more virile than Fabio.
We haven’t focused on Propecia (active ingredient finasteride) because it requires a prescription, but we recommend you talk to your doctor about it. “In men, the most effective treatment for thinning hair is finasteride,” says Dr. Wolfeld, who routinely prescribes the pill to his patients. Finasteride works by lowering the body’s levels of the hormone DHT, which binds to receptors in hair follicles at the top of the scalp, causing them to gradually shrink and lose the ability to grow thick hair.
“Finasteride is a great medication that goes to the root cause of hair loss. You always have to address the root cause of the hair loss or you’re going to continue to lose more hair,” says Dr. Khadavi.
“With women, finasteride is not an option,” says Dr. Wolfeld. “It’s not FDA approved for women to take, so we don’t prescribe it.” In fact, due to the drug’s effect on hormone levels, pregnant women are advised to not even touch broken or crushed tablets.
A hair transplant is currently the best long-term solution for hair loss, but it’s an investment. It’s a procedure where hairs are removed from another part of your body and then transplanted to the thinning or balding areas. Does it work? Yes. Research suggests that most hair transplant recipients report they are “very satisfied” with their results. While successful, transplants are also far more expensive than medications, foams, or lasers with costs averaging anywhere from $4,000 or $15,000.
Hair transplants will likely lead to better results in the long run, but you’ll still need to use minoxidil or finasteride after surgery to maintain the results. Like all hair loss treatments, hair transplants are best when combined with other methods, and you’ll want to speak with your doctor to see what combination is best for you.
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You can cover gray with dye, but it’s harder to disguise the sparsely covered scalps that millions of women start to notice in their 50s and 60s. Some unlucky ones have thinning hair long before that. This kind of hair loss is unrelated to cancer treatment or other serious health problems.
Of course, there are plenty of men who wish desperately to restore their youthful locks, and a few — we can think of one powerful one — who cling to elaborate comb-overs, but many balding men simply clip their hair short and go on with their lives. Dermatologists say hair loss is emotionally harder for women, who are often deeply embarrassed by thinning hair even though it’s quite common. By the time they reach 50, about 40 percent of women are experiencing what’s known as female-pattern hair loss, said Gopal Patel, a dermatologist with Aesthetic Dermatology Associates in Media. Women of African descent struggle with even more conditions that can damage hair follicles and cause bald spots.
“Hair is such an important part of youth and vitality,” said Aradhna Saxena, a Montgomery County dermatologist who is affiliated with Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health. “I don’t think people realize that until it’s gone.”
It is normal for women to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, dermatologists said. It’s also normal for a woman to get more hair during pregnancy and return to normal after the baby is born. George Cotsarelis, chair of dermatology at Penn Medicine, studies hair thinning in men and women.
He said women also often shed more hair than usual about three months after an illness or rapid weight loss. Hair lost that way typically comes back. People shed a little more hair in the fall than during other seasons, he said. That’s probably a vestige of the coat changing animals do in preparation for winter.
Many other women, though, start noticing thinning hair on top of their heads. Doctors say the defining sign is a widening of the part. The hairline itself is usually intact, but the hair becomes less dense behind it. Doctors will often run a battery of tests to make sure there are no treatable medical conditions, such as anemia, thyroid problems, tumors, or hormonal problems. “Ninety percent of the time, it’s normal,” Patel said.
The cause of female-pattern hair loss is unknown, but doctors said there is a strong genetic component. The risk can come from male or female relatives. Though it looks as if the hair is falling out, that’s not really what’s happening. Cotsarelis said hair follicles are becoming smaller and producing hairs that may be so small that you can’t see them. Women tend to retain more normal, thick hairs than balding men do.
Because the condition is usually considered cosmetic, insurance companies don’t cover treatments. Doctors warn that the available treatments may thicken hair growth for some women, but that the more realistic goal is to stop or slow the thinning.
While thinning generally worsens after menopause, doctors said hormone treatments typically do not improve hair growth. Minoxidil lotion or foam, which can be purchased over the counter, is the first line of treatment. About half of women who use it have not lost more hair a year later, Cotsarelis said. Spironolactone, a blood-pressure drug, can also help, doctors said. Some may also try finasteride — approved to treat baldness in men — off-label. The evidence that it works in women is weak, Patel said.
Beyond that, things get more controversial, with some doctors saying there’s inadequate evidence for other treatments. Saxena thinks there is enough scientific evidence to support some of the alternatives and recommends them to patients. But they are not for women on tight budgets. There’s Nutrafol, a “nutraceutical” that costs about $80 a month. Women can also get injections in the scalp of platelet-rich plasma made from their own blood. The first four treatments cost about $2,000 at Saxena’s practice in Fort Washington or Lansdale. Maintenance injections, done every three to six months, cost $515 each. Women can also buy Theradome, a light-emitting helmet, for $895 online. Saxena, who has hair loss herself, said she has had the injections and currently uses minoxidil, spironolactone, and Nutrafol.
Patel said the problem with those treatments is that they have not been subjected to large or head-to-head research. There’s great variation in how doctors give the plasma treatments and in laser-based devices, so it’s hard for patients to know whether they’re getting a proven regimen. Nutrafol seems promising, he said, but he does not think that company-funded research showing its effectiveness has been replicated. He has not recommended it yet.
The more upsetting problem is central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, a type of baldness that starts at the crown of the head and spreads outward. “It’s hugely, hugely difficult,” said Susan Taylor, a dermatologist at Penn Medicine who specializes in treating women with CCCA. “It affects quality of life.” She said it is seen “almost exclusively” in women of African descent. One study found it in 10 percent to 15 percent of black women, but Taylor thinks it’s more common. “I could see women all day, every day, with this problem,” she said.
It used to be called hot-comb alopecia, but Taylor said even women who wear their hair natural can develop CCCA. Though its exact cause is unknown, the damage stems from scalp inflammation. If left untreated, it can “scar” or destroy the hair follicle.
“The treatment is very successful in regard to preventing further hair loss, not necessarily in growing new hair,” Taylor said. She tells women, “Run, don’t walk” if they see bald patches. Hairdressers can play an important role, she said, because they may be the first to see the bald areas.
CCCA is treated with oral antibiotics, which reduce inflammation, and cortisone cream. Sometimes, Taylor may also inject cortisone into the scalp or use Plaquenil, a drug typically used for malaria, lupus and sarcoidosis.
Doctors said hair products are likely not the cause of female hair loss, so perms and dyes probably won’t hurt you. Really harsh chemicals and high heat are not recommended. “Anything that causes pain is a sign of damage,” Cotsarelis said.
Giovanni Mele, a stylist who owns Giovanni and Pileggi in Center City, said many women with thinning hair try to wear their hair long. He thinks they’re much better off with short, pixie-like styles with light layering on top. He recommends that lighter-skinned women choose colors that are a little darker than blond or gray. He is a fan of a hair-thickening product made by Nioxin.
Syreeta Scott, a stylist who owns Duafe Holistic Hair Care in North Philadelphia and is a passionate advocate for healthy lifestyles, tells women who notice thinning that they’re likely going to have to change their hairstyles.
“Wearing your hair natural, it is imperative,” Scott said. A lot of women resist that, but she tells them it’s not their hair that makes them successful. “It is not about your hair,” she said. “It has everything to do with you showing up and being present.”
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According to the Genetics Home Reference, the likelihood of experiencing androgenetic alopecia increases with age. Although it can affect teenagers, over half of males aged 50 and older have some degree of hair loss. It is most likely to affect females following menopause.
Article last reviewed by Tue 28 May 2019.
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© 2004-2019 All rights reserved. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media. Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
2019 Healthline Media UK Ltd. All rights reserved. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media. Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
After 20 years of trying every drug, supplement, diet and procedure for hair loss — including driving four hours twice a week for laser therapy — Lina Telford, a graphic artist, gave up on her “comb over” (her description) and shaved her head. From then on, she alternated between a $1,500 wig and a $4,000 wig.
In February, though, Ms. Telford, 46, flew from her home in London, Ontario, to Sarasota, Fla., for a new $1,400 hourlong treatment known as platelet rich plasma (P.R.P.), which is said to stimulate dormant hair follicles. The procedure involves drawing blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to extract the plasma, adding various nutrients (like more protein), then injecting the resulting mixture in one-inch intervals in a grid on the top of the scalp, which has been numbed with a local anesthetic.
Like the long-suffering friend who inspired her to undergo the procedure, Ms. Telford quickly saw an improvement in her hair. New hair growth usually take at least four months, but at the two-month mark, she has already spotted some baby hairs. “Not a gazillion,” she said, “but it’s a start.” She’s planning to return for follow-up treatments every six months, and has high hopes of ditching the wigs and wearing her hair in a pixie.
Joseph Greco, Ms. Telford’s practitioner, who shares a patent for a process to remove growth factors from platelets, said he gets results in 80 percent of patients, more than half of whom are female. Roughly half of them fly in and out, often on the same day, he said, because the procedure doesn’t require downtime and has minimal side effects. (Small clinical studies suggest further research is necessary but acknowledge the procedure’s “excellent safety profile.”)
P.R.P. is one of a number of new hair-loss treatments being marketed to women, who suffer hair loss in fewer numbers but often more acutely than men because, for them, hair loss is less socially acceptable, and historically they have had fewer and less potent medical solutions.
Some 30 million women in the United States have hereditary hair loss (compared with 50 million men), according to the American Academy of Dermatology, though that figure does not include the millions more who struggle with thinning hair because of pregnancy, menopause, stress and other health conditions. Barely 5 percent of women are said to be good candidates for hair transplant surgery because women lose hair everywhere, meaning that, unlike with men, there is rarely a luxuriant spot on the back of the head from which to harvest hairs unobtrusively.
Dr. Carlos Wesley, a hair restoration surgeon in Manhattan, said that women in his practice respond better to P.R.P. than men do, which may have something to do with the fact that women with genetic hair loss tend to have more inflammatory cells around the follicles. From 2013 to 2014, he said, he had an 83 percent increase in female patients, in part because of P.R.P.
P.R.P., considered a nonsurgical treatment, is not covered by insurance, and clinical studies about its effectiveness (and longevity of results) are not conclusive because different doctors use different mixes. But P.R.P. has a long (though also inconclusive) history of use elsewhere in the body. Athletes like Kobe Bryant have received the treatment in an attempt to heal injuries.
“It’s extremely promising,” said Spencer Kobren, founder of the independent American Hair Loss Association, “but I don’t want to say it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Because P.R.P. varies so much, it can be hard to know what one is getting, and some doctors “ride on the vulnerability of women,” he said.
Drugs for hair loss have been slow in coming because researchers are unable to grow hairs in petri dishes to use for screening. Hair drugs approved so far were serendipitous finds: side effects of compounds used to treat other conditions.
But in November, after 10 years of research, Rogaine introduced a new 5 percent minoxidil formulation for women. It’s a mousse (instead of a liquid) that needs to be applied only once a day instead of twice, which means that it can be more easily incorporated into a woman’s evening skin-care routine. Teal replaces the blue and silver palette of the men’s Rogaine, and the packaging bears a lotus flower. (Also last year, Pantene introduced its Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women, which is 2 percent minoxidil.)
Angela Ledford, 34, a beauty blogger, had used the Rogaine men’s formulation, after hair extensions, M.A.C. Black Carbon eye shadow, Joan Rivers hair fill-in powder and supplements all failed to hide her thinning jet-black hair. (The men’s product was not F.D.A.-approved for women, but that didn’t stop women from buying it.)
“I’m not worried I’m going to sprout a mustache anymore,” Ms. Ledford said of her switch to the women’s product, which doesn’t drip down the face. Recently she watched a video blog of herself in which she looked down and was pleased to note baby hairs sprouting “all over my scalp,” she said.
Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said that Rogaine works better on the top and crown (for reasons not fully understood, the frontal hairline tends to be more resistant to treatment) and ideally should be started as soon as women notice thinning. “Any regrowth you get is a minimal amount,” Dr. Piliang said. “So the more density when you start, the better results you get.”
Latisse, a prescription medication used since 2008 to grow longer, fuller eyelashes, is now being tested for the scalp. (Doctors report that patients have tried it on their own, but a limiting factor is that Latisse comes in a very small bottle; it doesn’t go very far.)
Dr. Piliang said she expects Latisse’s results to be less striking on the head than on the lashes because the drug works by shifting more hair from the resting phase to the growing phase. For lashes, only about 30 percent of the hair is in the growing phase at any given time, she said, but on the scalp, that figure is 80 or 90 percent.
Some treatments in development hold particular promise for women. Angela Christiano, a hair geneticist and Columbia University professor of dermatology, is hoping to begin clinical trials in a year or two on a procedure in which she dissects hair-follicle stem cells, grows them in the lab until she has several million, then injects them into the scalp, where, a very small study done with a human skin model has shown, they induce new hairs.
This stem cell therapy needs only a dime-size donor spot on the scalp: 50 to 100 hairs, as opposed to the bloody, painful four-to-five-inch strip of 1,000 hairs typically required for a hair transplant.
“It’s been, I would say, kind of the holy grail in the field to be able to find something that is less invasive, less surgically intensive and can capitalize on the natural properties of these hair stem cells,” said Professor Christiano, who herself suffers from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes partial or total hair loss.
Her hope is that the procedure (she has helped start a company named Rapunzel to develop it) will eventually become another lunchtime cosmetic treatment. Once a patient has had her cells harvested and cultured, they could be stored indefinitely; then, after giving her doctor a month’s notice (the time it takes to grow the million needed), she could pop in for injections. Costs would likely be on par with hair transplants, roughly $10,000 and up.
Laser treatment companies, which claim their devices can reverse shrinking of the follicles, stimulate hair growth and more, are also targeting women with caps and combs. For example, the $895 Theradome, a cap that looks like the top of a bike helmet, has been cleared by the F.D.A. for women. Users wear it for 20 minutes twice a week.
If that sounds a little too much like a late-night infomercial, consider that Dr. Shani Francis, a dermatologist in Skokie, Ill., often recommends laser treatments in conjunction with minoxidil in her practice, which is 90 percent female.
Skeptics (among them, Dr. Wesley) are starting to come around after a 2014 randomized double-blind study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found a “statistically significant” difference in hair density for women who used a laser comb compared with those who used a sham device. (“Comb” is something of a misnomer. The device looks like a hairbrush crossed with a cordless phone; it is glided back and forth across the scalp, roughly a half-inch at a time, usually about 15 minutes three times a week.)