Fuck female-pattern hair loss
December 20, 2013 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Female-pattern hair loss: Is Rogaine my only hope?

So, it looks like I lost the genetic lottery and am developing female-pattern hair loss. I'm not bald yet, but my hair has just gradually gotten very, very thin on top. Thin enough that I can't pull my hair back into a ponytail without exposing streaks of scalp on top, and that even when it's down, the only way I can keep my scalp from being too noticeable beneath my hair is to dye it blonde. But I'm afraid I'll be needing a wig in a year or two.

Biotin, vitamins, and thickening shampoos haven't done squat. Is Rogaine the only real nonsurgical option here?

And I see that the 5% version is not approved in women. Is there a particular reason for that--or has that strength just not been sufficiently tested in women for FDA approval?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
There's that hair powder that Joan Rivers makes, it tints your scalp to look less pinky and it does a fairly good job of disquising the lighter areas. I use it when the gap between my bangs and hair looks too big. It comes in a variety of shades.
posted by AuntieRuth at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

See your doctor, they can prescribe Spironolactone (Aldactone), its an anti-androgen so it treats the cause of your hairloss. You'll need regular blood tests though to check kidney function - its serious stuff but the sooner you get treatment the more likely it is you can reverse the loss and prevent future loss. (you should see your doctor to have other things ruled out and get a positive diagnosis of androgenic alopecia if you haven't already, lots of things can cause hair loss, its not necessarily your genetics).

A lot of people also swear by Nizoral - an over the counter anti-dandruff shampoo. The active ingredient is also anti-androgenic.

But I also want to add that wigs are awesome, you can have a different style and colour every day of the week if you want and doing your hair takes seconds.
posted by missmagenta at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2013

First off, I'd get diagnosed to make sure it's not something you could actually treat medically. Minoxidil 2% is the one they make for women, but from what I've read many women will use the 5% because the 2% doesn't do squat. If you're in baby making mode, it would be worth asking a doctor before, but otherwise, go to the 5%. I never grew another head or anything with the 5%. Personally I stopped using it because honestly, who can deal with that mess twice a day forever, plus with my dark hair, it always showed as a white haze. I don't know that I used it long enough to make a difference. My hair loss is PCOS induced (whacked hormones), so I went the low androgen birth control, high dose Spironolactone route and it stopped it from getting worse (though I don't think I got any back). But if you don't have high testosterone, that probably wouldn't work for you.

Check out Toppik powder for coverage. It's all the rage with us balding women. FYI, go lighter than you think you'll need. It tends to be dark stuff, though maybe not the blonde?

Sorry you're having to deal with this. It sucks as a woman...
posted by cecic at 1:15 PM on December 20, 2013

Biotin and vitamins are nice for strengthening the integrity of the hair shaft, but often do little to facilitate actual growth.

Have you tried a DHT (dihydrotestosterone) blocker? DHT is commonly associated with hair loss/thinning, particularly in women (1).

You can find natural DHT blockers (ie: Shen Min), which I would give a solid try before resorting to Rogaine (chemicals).

1. http://anagen.ucdavis.edu/143/commentary/alopecia/scheinfeld.html
posted by stubbehtail at 1:17 PM on December 20, 2013

I don't have any firsthand experience with this but I do know several women with female-pattern hair loss. Three of them are (unrelated to each other, and to my knowledge do not even know each other) of pacific islander descent, and rogaine does absolutely nothing for them. I don't know if it's a genetic thing or what, but it's a data point that stuck out to me in the small sample size of people I know. If you are of similar ancestry, you might have better luck looking into other options with a doctor.
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on December 20, 2013

Low estrogen can cause hair loss -- I lost at least 30% of my hair during my first year of menopause. I now use an estrogen patch and my hair has gradually grown back almost to its early fullness. If you haven't already, you could get your estrogen level checked -- especially if you have other low-estrogen symptoms.
posted by wryly at 2:09 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely get checked out by a dermatologist and/or endocrinologist.
posted by radioamy at 3:08 PM on December 20, 2013

This happened to me a couple of years ago, too. I went to my very good GP, and he put me on spironolactone, which did nothing for me. He also put me on Biotin 5000, which seemed to make my hair grow faster, but didn't curb its disappearance.

Then I went to a very good dermatologist, who concurred about the Biotin, but couldn't offer anything else. So he sent me to a women's clinic where they specialize in women's hormone health, and have a lot of dealings with hair loss.

The doctor there tested my iron levels, and said the range of normal, from something like 10 to 110, is too large, and that she's repeatedly seen women testing under 40 suffer from hair loss.

So my iron came in "normal" but just above the bottommost cut-off, and far under 40. The doctor put me on massive doses of iron and Biotin 5000. She also endorsed Nizoral a couple of times a week, and she noted inflammation on my scalp, and prescribed something of other for it, which quickly scared me off, so I started rubbing olive oil into my notably dry (at times peeling) scalp a few nights a week instead.

Three or four months later, the doctor retested me. And my iron level was, by then, near the top of the cut-off, and my hair had started growing back! The olive oil, presumably, had addressed the inflammation, which she said was then gone. Under her advice, I've stuck with the olive oil and the Biotin 5000. I eventually gave up the Nizoral. It's been about a year since all that. And my hair's fine now, praise God. It's probably worth mentioning that this doctor's nurse had also upped her iron, added in Biotin, etc. when suffering hair loss a few years prior, and she told me that her daughter, also a nurse, had had the same experience!!!

I note all this in such detail because the first two doctors said to me it could just be age. I also have a same age friend who is married to a doctor who reached the same conclusion. But that doesn't make sense to me. For women in their 70s or 80s to lose hair seems not inconceivable, for women in their 30s or 40s, it seems mostly unlikely despite lots of current writing saying it happens to most of us. To me, it seems far more likely that a lot of American women don't eat enough iron, and the tests are too crude to fully catch it. So instead, the body gets rid of the least important element first: hair.

Anyway, your mileage may vary. But in my experience, hair loss (at least thus far: knock on wood) is not necessarily permanent, to do with genetics, or to do with aging toward the middle years.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 3:51 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding iron as a possible culprit - but specifically have your serum ferritin checked, that's your iron reserves. This isn't a standard test, you really need to ask for it.

My ferritin was in the single digits at a time of heavy shedding, then when I started supplementing it slowly got up into the 40s and my hair came back.

Good luck. This is heartbreaking to deal with.
posted by Dragonness at 4:03 PM on December 20, 2013

Latisse, the medicine that makes eyelashes grow, is supposedly effective off-label for hair loss as well.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:21 PM on December 20, 2013

I solved that problem by cutting my hair like this. If that's not an option for you, try the Aldactone. I take for hormonal acne but it works very well for hair loss also. It's one of the older anti-hypertension drugs, has few side effects (for most folks) and it's cheap. My GP prescribed it for me.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2013

have your thyroid checked, if you haven't already. Both hypo- and hyperthyroid can cause hair loss.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:33 PM on December 20, 2013

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