Hair loss is brutal, but for women the condition can be especially devastating. Hair is often synonymous with beauty and losing it is a blow to our self esteem. It doesn’t help that hair loss is thought of as a condition that affects men, making it socially acceptable to see a man with thinning hair, when the truth is 40 percent of American women suffer from the disorder, too. Now as more women seek answers, scientists, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic brands are getting in the lab to find solutions. While there isn’t a cure yet, there are several steps women can take to ensure a thicker, healthier head of hair.
Ahead, we spoke to leading hair loss experts to find out why hair loss happens in the first place, and how to take control of the situation.
Figure Out Why You’re Thinning
Hair loss is a natural part of aging but other factors such as a genetic predisposition, poor nutrition, pregnancy, tight hairstyles, health issues, and hormonal and Thyroid anomalies can cause thinning at a younger age. If you’re experiencing excessive shedding or notice your part widening, book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for tests.
It’s Most Likely Genetics
Like with most things, blame your folks. Androgenetic alopecia is the leading cause of hair loss for both men and women. “This type of hair thinning has many names—hereditary hair loss, genetic hair loss, male and female pattern balding—but all refer to the same type of hair thinning,” explains Lars Skjoth,founder and head scientist of renowned Danish hair loss system, Harklinikken. “The hormones [ mainly Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)] carry out the ‘order’ from your genes to attack hair follicles, which ultimately causes these follicles to shrink, resulting in gradually thinner hair.” Even if you have this genetic predisposition, stress, poor sleep, and poor nutrition can accelerate the thinning process says the expert.
Find a Topical Solution Right For You
There’s a slew of topical options on the market today that contain DHT inhibitors and encourage hair growth. Minoxidil (most common under the brand Rogaine) is the only FDA approved option to treat female hair loss. It comes in a 2 % or 5 % liquid or foam solution. The downfall is that the product has to be used indefinitely or the minoxidil-dependant hair will fall out.
The hair and scalp specialist at Philip Kingsley formulated Tricho 7, the brand’s hero product rich in antioxidants, including Green Tea extract, Piroctone Olamine, Escalol, B6, Zinc Sulphate and Azelaic Acid. For a true luxury hair care experience, their clinic offers a spa hair treatment, where a trichologist massages in a scalp-stimulating mask that will revive and instantly thicken hair.
What really makes the Harklinikken extract stand out is that it’s custom-blended to the client’s needs and environment. The plant-based system is formulated with a proprietary blend including calendula, burdock, and cow’s milk. “They form to become a symbiotic defense system against the attack and eventual deterioration of the hair cells in the hair follicle,” says Skjoth.
Whichever topical you decide to go with, note that they are most effective when applied consistently. “Think of face care,” says Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York City. “It responds well when we cleanse, moisturize, and specifically target its needs—hair follicles are the same. The follicle vulnerabilities are ever-present, so by being consistent with the prescribed protocol we are ensuring optimal outcomes.”
Go One Step Further with PRP
If you’re someone who needs more than topical therapy and not ready for surgical intervention, Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank says PRP might be the best solution for you. PRP, or platelet-rich plasma is one of the most recent advancements in hair loss. “Platelets carry various growth factors and communication signals in the blood,” he explains. “By using PRP we’re able to draw blood, isolate the portion of the blood that contains these communication signals, and inject someone’s own platelet-derived growth factors into their scalp to stimulate hair thickening.” The catch? It won’t grow hair that doesn’t exist but will increase the thickness of the thinning shaft. Dr. Frank most often uses the procedure to treat hormonal hair loss and androgenetic alopecia. “We use it a lot for women after they have babies to stimulate hair growth and on women who are going through menopause,” he says. In order to see results, however, patients have to undergo several sessions.
Shampoo More Often
It’s so tempting to stretch a good blowout by a few days but not washing your hair could be doing more damage than you think. “Scalp health is critical to healthy hair growth,” says Phillips. “They go hand in hand, studies have shown that imbalances in scalp health can contribute to hair loss.” In order to keep your scalp in the best shape, Phillips recommends shampooing regularly to avoid sweat, product, and oil from building up which can lead to irritation and inflammation. Another key reason your scalp needs to remain clean is that hair follicles sit right underneath the scalp and an unclogged surface ensures the topicals you use will be delivered to the follicle says the expert.
Fix Your Diet
Too busy to eat? Think again. “Hair cells are one of the fastest dividing cells of the body, however, they are non-essential for living,” explains Dr. Lamees Hamdan, CEO and Founder of DL.MD. “So, what usually happens is that [because they aren’t a vital organ] hair cells are the last cells to get nutrition and that’s why for healthy hair you really want to make sure your intake of vitamins and minerals are on the higher side of normal.” Phillips says hair cells need a balance of all food groups within your diet to function at their best. This means proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and water. She also stresses the importance of not skipping meals or going four hours without eating. And because hair is composed primarily of keratin, which is a protein, a daily intake of protein is essential. “The best sources are lean animal protein such as fish, poultry, and lean meat,” says Phillips. For vegetarians the expert says tofu is a great plant-based option.
Find Ways to De-stress
Not surprising, stress is another major player that contributes to hair loss. “An increased production of cortisol in response to stress (work, relationships, health to name a few) can interrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to an increase in shedding,” says Phillips. And guess what? Worrying about the fact that you might be losing hair only adds more stress to the problem. To break this unhealthy cycle Phillips recommends finding an outlet for stress management. “I frequently ask during consultations, ‘When was the last time you took a deep breath?’ she says. Some tactics she recommends include taking time for a walk, finding a quiet place to take deep breaths, or signing up for a yoga or meditation class.
Improvement Takes Time–So Hang in There
By now you’ve got quite the lifestyle improvement checklist going. Although you might start making switches right away know that hair functions on a three-month cycle, so the results won’t kick in for a little while. The main takeaway is to figure out what’s causing your hair loss, optimize your health, and find the right game-plan for you.