Hair Loss Treatments for Women: Medications, Shampoos, and More – Healthline

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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 schedule an appointment with a doctor so 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.
Female pattern baldness also called androgenetic alopecia, is hair loss that specifically affects women. It’s similar to male pattern baldness, except that women can lose their hair in a different pattern than men.
If you’re experiencing female pattern baldness, you’re not alone. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), this condition affects roughly 33 percent of all women who are at higher risk for the condition.
Hair loss in women is a normal process, especially as you age, with most women experiencing hair loss after menopause. More than half of women ages 65 and older will experience some degree of hair loss.
In female pattern baldness, the hair’s growth phase slows down. It also takes longer for new hair to begin growing. Hair follicles shrink, leading the hair that does grow to be thinner and finer. This can result in hair that easily breaks.
Female pattern baldness is hereditary. It’s also more common after menopause, so hormones are likely responsible. If you notice that you’re losing hair, it’s important to talk with your doctor or a dermatologist. They will be able to determine if you’re experiencing female pattern baldness or a different type of hair loss caused by other factors.
There are many treatment options for hair loss caused by female pattern baldness and other types of alopecia, so talk with your doctor to find the option that is best for you. Treatments can include topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants. You may need to use one or a combination of treatments for months or years to see the full results.
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.
Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can be used for men or women with alopecia areata or androgenic alopecia. Rogaine works only for certain types of baldness and only if you keep up with its application, but it does not work for everyone.
This drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It 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 for 6 months or more to prevent further loss and promote regrowth.
Some common side effects include:
You should not use Rogaine if:
If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor before trying Rogaine.
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 FDA has not labeled it as a treatment for androgenic alopecia. This drug is used to reduce swelling from liver disease and nephrotic syndrome (a kidney problem). It’s also used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and hyperaldosteronism (excessive secretion of the hormone aldosterone).
Side effects include:
Spironolactone oral tablet can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. If you’re interested in trying Aldactone for hair loss, talk with a doctor or pharmacist to see if it may be a fit for you.
Retin-A, or topical tretinoin, is sometimes used as a combination therapy with minoxidil for androgenic alopecia. There is limited information on whether tretinoin alone can promote hair regrowth, but a 2007 study found that when combined with other medications, it can show promising results.
Some side effects of tretinoin may include:
Topical tretinoin cream and gel are only FDA approved for skin care and supportive pro-aging purposes but not for hair loss treatments. It’s important to use this type of medication under the guidance of your doctor. In some circumstances, tretinoin can actually cause hair loss.
Women with hair loss due to alopecia areata may consider treatment with corticosteroids injected at multiple sites in the affected area.
Corticosteroid injections work by modulating immune system activity and lowering inflammation. People with alopecia areata develop hair loss when their immune system attacks their body’s natural processes. Corticosteroids work to prevent these attacks from happening.
Corticosteroids mimic cortisol, the hormone naturally produced by your body’s adrenal glands. They’re injected into the sites of hair loss to encourage new growth. Hair growth may be noticeable as soon as 4 weeks, and treatment can be repeated every 4 to 6 weeks.
Side effects with injections include:
Topical corticosteroids are also available, but they aren’t necessarily as effective, and oral corticosteroids may lead to unpleasant side effects.
Anthralin cream was originally used as a treatment for psoriasis but was also found to be effective in the treatment of mild alopecia areata. In women with alopecia areata, anthralin is both safe and effective. It can be applied at home, once a day, starting with just 5 minutes and working up to periods as long as an hour.
Known as a “scalp sensitizer,” anthralin creates an irritant reaction that stimulates the immune system and encourages hair growth. Anthralin is applied once per day 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:
PRP therapy involves having your own blood drawn and putting it into a centrifuge to separate red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma, which contains growth factors, is then injected back into your body.
When PRP therapy is used for hair loss treatment, the plasma is injected into your hair follicles. It involves only minimal discomfort and can take about 10 minutes.
After the first treatment, usually you’ll receive injections monthly for 3 months, then once every 3 to 6 months. Within a few months of treatment, they can notice less hair loss. Soon after, they may experience an increase in thickness or regrowth.
This treatment is relatively new, so there isn’t much research to support its effectiveness. That said, some studies have shown it to be a simple, cost-effective treatment option.
PRP therapy involves several sessions within a 4- to 6-week period with maintenance every 4 to 6 months.
Possible risks include:
Women with androgenic alopecia may consider trying prescription ketoconazole at a strength of 2 percent. This drug comes in the form of 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.
One of the most common side effects is skin irritation where the product is used, which can take the form of pimple-like bumps. In some individuals, it may also cause either oiliness or dryness of the hair or scalp, abnormal hair texture, or discoloration. It can cause permed hair to lose its curl as well.
In rare cases, ketoconazole shampoo can result in hair loss, so talk with your doctor right away if you notice this side effect.
Laser devices may stimulate hair growth for people with androgenic alopecia and pattern balding. Other names of laser treatment include:
Devices are available without a prescription in the form of:
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 FDA regulated as medications are. Long-term safety and other considerations are unknown. Currently, there are no adverse effects associated with laser therapy.
Portable devices are available without a prescription through companies like HairMax. Their devices include laser caps, bands, and combs that are all meant to stimulate weakened follicles and reverse hair thinning or loss.
HairMax devices use laser energy to directly revitalize and stimulate hair follicles, working to promote the growth of new healthy hair with low-level laser therapy (LLLT). The laser devices help increase blood circulation and remove waste in the follicle to support natural hair growth.
Studies show that regular use of LLLT to help stop hair loss and promote hair regrowth is possible and promising. FDA-cleared LLLT devices, like HairMax’s, were safe and effective in treating those who did not respond to standard hair loss treatments.
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:
Try your best to stay away from tightly bound styles, like braids, buns, or ponytails, and resist twisting or rubbing your hair.
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.
You may want to try to implement more nutrient-rich foods that have been found to help with hair regrowth.
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.
Foods rich in vitamin A, like sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, and kale can help hair regrowth. Consuming whole grains, almonds, fish, and meat rich in vitamin B can also help.
Vitamin C rich foods, including strawberries, peppers, guavas, and citrus fruits, can help to create a protein known as collagen — an important part of hair structure.
If you suspect you may be deficient in certain vitamins, talk with your doctor who can order blood tests to check your vitamin levels and address any other dietary issues, such as eating disorders or health conditions that might block nutrient absorption.
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 can talk with your doctor about getting a blood test to check your iron and zinc levels.
From there, if you and your doctor determine that you need supplementation, you can work with them to find an appropriate dose according to your deficiency level.
Excessive or unnecessary supplementation can be dangerous, so consult with your medical professional before adding any new supplements to your diet.
Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many types of acupuncture applications, and some researchers believe that it may help with hair loss from alopecia areata.
The needles inserted into the scalp may help stimulate hair follicles and promote regrowth.
More research needs to be done in this area, but some smaller studies have shown promising results. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a licensed acupuncturist if this treatment sounds appealing to you.
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.
Choosing a hair loss treatment plan is a highly personal decision. When exploring your options, it’s best to talk with your doctor to first identify what is causing your hair loss to select the best treatment. Some people find success with home remedies or OTC hair loss treatments, and some are better candidates for prescription medications and treatments.
Signs of hair loss can greatly vary from person to person, but you may notice more hair collecting in your hairbrush or in the shower drain, or thinning hair on your scalp. A dermatologist can help you understand if you have hair loss, excessive hair shedding, or both, along with identifying the underlying causes.
If you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or a rash on your scalp, consider talking with a dermatologist. Sudden hair loss can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition that may require treatment.
If you are experiencing hair loss, remember that you’re far from alone.
According to one study, hair loss affects approximately 40 percent of women by age 50. While it can be a difficult experience to navigate, there are effective treatment options available for many.
Some conditions that lead to temporary hair loss will go away without treatment or with simple lifestyle changes. Others may respond well to treatments for promoting regrowth, so starting sooner rather than later is key.
Before starting any treatment, talk with your dermatologist to find the treatment path that is right for you.
Last medically reviewed on February 10, 2022
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