Why am I losing my hair?
Anybody with hair on their head will lose a bit every day. A woman with healthy hair could easily lose 150 hairs a day. Normally, other hairs grow back to take their place. But if you're noticing that your hair is getting thinner, you're losing hair faster than you're replacing it.
Just like men, many women have inherited a tendency toward thinning hair as they grow older. And it's a lot more common than you might think. One out of three women has so-called "female-pattern hair loss," more technically called androgenetic alopecia. It's not nearly as noticeable as male-pattern baldness because women tend to lose hair evenly, not just on the very top of the head and around the temples.
And, just like men, women can partly blame testosterone for their hair loss. Women make a lot less of the hormone than men, but those with "female-pattern hair loss" are extra sensitive to it. The hormone causes some hair follicles to shrink so they produce only fine, short hair (peach fuzz) or no hair at all.
Some women also lose hair after physically or psychologically stressful events or after they stop taking birth control pills, but this type of hair loss is usually temporary.
What can I do about it?
There aren't any shampoos or conditioners that can stop or reverse hair loss, although you can get your hair cut and styled to make it seem fuller. Medication might help, too. Rogaine, a cream often used by men to prevent or delay baldness, also works pretty well for women. Rub it on your scalp twice a day, and you should be able to stop your follicles from shrinking. You might see new hair growth, although it will be likely be finer than the hair you lost. Rogaine, available without a prescription, costs about $50 for a three-month supply. But to maintain any new hair growth, you must use it continually. Stop, and you'll be back to where you would have been without it in a few months.
You may have heard that the drug Propecia can help prevent baldness in men, but it's not approved for women. Women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant shouldn't even touch Propecia because it can cause serious birth defects.
The most drastic remedy is hair transplant surgery. It works best for women who have distinct bald patches; if your hair is thinning everywhere, surgery won't help much. The surgeon will take small plugs of skin from a part of your scalp where hair is still abundant and move it to the part that could use more coverage. You may need several procedures over the years to keep up with your thinning hair, a commitment that could add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
National Alopecia Areata Foundation. About alopecia. 2011. http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_alopecia_intro
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Female pattern hair loss. 2011. http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/female_pattern_hai.html
Mayo Clinic. Hair Loss. 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hair-loss/DS00278/DSECTION=2