Female Hair Loss

Female hair loss is often thought to be a rare medical condition when compared with hair loss in men. This general perception is due to its diffuse balding pattern, which makes it less noticeable. However, hair loss in women is much more common than is thought, and is estimated to affect nearly one quarter of the adult female population. It can be caused by temporary hormonal misbalances (during menopause or pregnancy) but in the vast majority of instances women suffer from female pattern baldness, which is a genetically determined condition. Female pattern baldness has the same main cause as its male form, which is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a biologically active metabolite of the male hormone testosterone, attacking and killing hair follicles. The female baldness pattern - diffuse hair loss - makes it difficult to self-diagnose and, hence, a consultation with a doctor is always necessary in order to determine whether your condition is temporary or permanent and to decide upon the most suitable therapy. Hereditary baldness in women can start as early as in the late teens but for most women it starts after menopause. Hair loss during menopause is not necessarily permanent, whereas post-menopausal hair loss usually is.

Since the main cause of female hair loss is the same as in men, it can be handled in a similar way. Therefore, Rogaine (active substance minoxidil) is the most frequently used drug to treat hair loss in women. However, women have fewer treatment options when it comes to applying anti-androgens and usually do not make good candidates for hair transplantation due to their diffuse balding pattern, which leaves them with insufficient hair density in the donor area. Finasteride (trade name Propecia), the most powerful drug used to treat male pattern baldness, cannot be prescribed to women. Suitable anti-androgens, used to treat female pattern baldness, include spironolactone (Aldactone) and cyproterone acetate, which is better known under its many trade names, such as Diane 35, Diane 50 and Ginette 35. These contraceptives are also used to treat acne in women. Cyproterone acetate is generally considered to be a more powerful weapon in fighting female hair loss than spironolactone.

An alternative to Rogaine and anti-androgens is a topical application of estrogen solutions such as Crinohermal, which uses estradiol as its main active substance. This female hormone is capable of inhibiting the production of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to follicle-harming DHT. A hormone replacement therapy is another commonly used treatment that addresses changing estrogen levels in the skin. Once women enter the menopause, their levels of estrogen decline and more testosterone is then bio-available to be converted to DHT. Hormone replacement therapy is typically undertaken at menopause, with estrogens and progesterone pills and creams being the most common forms of treatment.

This list of treatments includes the best-proven medicinal remedies for female hair loss but it is not exhaustive. There are a number of other substances that might be helpful, such as aminexil (a molecule similar to minoxidil), ketoconazole, fluridil, flutamide, alfatradiol, as well as some herbal hair loss cures. However, none of these substances has ever been clinically proven to be anywhere near as effective as the aforementioned medicinal treatments. For more information on the active substances used in treatments for female hair loss refer to the "Hair Loss Treatments" section.