About half of all women find their hair thinning by age 50. Although some websites promote estrogen as a way to prevent hair loss, the hormone’s effects on hair growth are not well known, and long-term hormone therapy is linked to serious health risks, “so unless you need to take it for other reasons, it’s not something I would recommend,” said Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, the regional director for hair disorders at Kaiser Permanente-Northern California.
If you are losing patches of hair in an apparently random manner you may have alopecia, a condition where a person (male or female) loses patches of hair from parts of their body. In extreme cases this may affect all of the hair on the body. Alopecia is thought to have hereditary and autoimmune factors (where the body mistakenly attacks itself). It is not the same as male pattern baldness.
Similar to hitting the gym too often, restricting your diet in unhealthy ways can have severe consequences for your luscious locks. If you’re majorly restricting your daily calorie intake, this will slow down your metabolism and your bodily functions, including the growing cycle of your hair. Aside from that, your hair will be thirsty for those essential nutrients that it is no longer receiving. If you really must diet, start taking biotin supplements to maintain hair growth.
Devices that emit low-energy laser light may help new hair grow. They're available in some clinics and for home use. Several are approved for both men and women, and studies show they do work. But it might take 2-4 months before you see results. Keep in mind: The FDA doesn’t require the same rigorous testing for devices as for medicines. The long-term safety and effects aren’t known.
Topical Medication: There are a few alternatives to finasteride, should it prove to be ineffective or if it starts causing side effects (some patients report losing their sex drive on the drug). One of these options is minoxidil (aka Rogaine). It’s a topical product, available over the counter, that stimulates hair growth “by activating potassium channels in the follicle—this results in growth factors and prostaglandins that promote hair growth,” Fusco says. “This keeps the hairs in the growth cycle for a longer period of time.” Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe minoxidil formulations of higher percentages, she adds. So, see your doctor to decide which route is best.
These three levels of approaches are not mutually exclusive. A woman may use different approaches at different times or any combination of them depending on the duration and severity of symptoms. Today, more and more women find that dealing with menopause symptoms is best accomplished via a combination of healthy lifestyle and alternative treatments.
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Minoxidil (Rogaine) is approved by the FDA for female pattern hair loss. It can slow or stop it in most women and may help hair grow back. But the benefits go away when you stop using it. Corticosteroids can help regrow hair for women with alopecia areata. And if the cause is an underlying medical problem or poor nutrition, your locks should grow back on their own once things are under control.
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Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a nonprescription medication approved for male pattern baldness and alopecia areata. In a liquid or foam, it is rubbed into the scalp twice a day. Some people have an allergic reaction to the propylene glycol in the minoxidil solution and a minoxidil foam was developed without propylene glycol. Not all users will regrow hair. The longer the hair has stopped growing, the less likely minoxidil will regrow hair. Minoxidil is not effective for other causes of hair loss. Hair regrowth can take 1 to 6 months to begin. Treatment must be continued indefinitely. If the treatment is stopped, hair loss resumes. Any regrown hair and any hair susceptible to being lost, while Minoxidil was used, will be lost. Most frequent side effects are mild scalp irritation, allergic contact dermatitis, and unwanted hair in other parts of the body.
Chris Deoudes has been a fitness writer since 2006, with articles published at Bodybuilding.com and Avant Labs. He is certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise and as a performance sport nutrition specialist by the International Sports Sciences Association. He has a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and business management from the University of Florida.