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Holding On to Your Hair: Six Ways to Treat Hair Loss

Forty percent of women suffer visible hair loss by the time they’re 50. What you can do about this.

File 2422 Kim Laudati had always been proud of her long, lush hair and she was shocked when she began shedding strands of hair almost everywhere she went.  “I couldn’t figure out what was going on, especially since I’ve always eaten well, am fit, and had no health concerns,” says Laudati, an aesthetician who owns and operates a Manhattan skin-care salon Kim Laudati Skin Care

Clearly, in a culture in which a dense head of hair is an integral part of our perception of femininity, losing your hair or seeing it turn baby-thin can be traumatic.

However, there is good news: “Many women get improvement, even if it means just stopping further hair loss,” says New York dermatologist Francesca J. Fusco, M.D., who specializes in hair loss. Hair normally grows back spontaneously, if the cause is hormonal or metabolic stress or reaction to medications, but there are ways to augment this process.  And the earlier you start treatment, the better. 

1) Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved medication for female hair loss.  Marketed under the brand name Rogaine, it is applied topically and is believed to lengthen each hair’s growing phase. According to experts, Minoxidil may help hair grow in 20 to 25 percent of women. In most women it may slow or stop hair loss. It’s available over-the-counter in a 2 and 5 percent formula; many MDs recommend the higher formula, even though only the lower formula is approved for women. The medication needs to be massaged into the scalp twice daily. If interested, consult with your doctor for a prescription. 

2) Cosmetics: Concealers and thickeners aren’t new, but they have improved over the years. Toppík combines color with keratin protein fibers and is sprinkled on top of balding or thinning areas to create a fuller look.

3) Laser Comb: There are several over-the-counter handheld lasers marketed for hair growth, but the HairMax LaserComb Lux 9 is the only one that has received FDA approval for female hair loss. You glide it over your scalp for 11 minutes, every other day, to stimulate hair growth.

4) Hair Transplants: This is a possibility if your hair loss is concentrated in specific areas and you still have sufficient hair elsewhere on your scalp. Hair follicles are removed from the back and sides of the scalp and then implanted in the thinning areas. However, according to Robert M. Bernstein, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons, only about 20 to 25 percent of female patients are candidates for the surgery.

5) Tricks of the Trade: Since hair loss treatments can take several months to a year to produce results, there are styling tips to create the illusion of a thicker head of hair. According to stylist Mairead Gallagher at the Oscar Blandi salon, keep your hair length above the shoulder level and do not over-layer it. If you color your hair, try to pick a color that’s closer to the color of your scalp. If you are light-skinned, for instance, don’t go too dark. But, she notes, hair loss is very personal, so “working with a good stylist is always a must.”  

6) Natural Remedies: Natural oils nourish the deep layers of skin where hair follicles are located and stimulate tiny blood vessels. Kim Laudati, who realized later that intense pressure had probably contributed to her hair loss, massaged organic Moroccan argan oil into her scalp three or four times a week. She also used organic hair products, stopped using a flatiron on her hair, and washed her hair in lukewarm, not hot, water. It took about six months for her to start seeing results. Two years later, just about all of her hair had grown back. 

Rona Cherry has written about health and wellness for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Ladies’ Home Journal, Vegetarian Times, and many other publications. She was the editor-in-chief of several national magazines, including Fitness and Longevity. She is currently an editorial and PR consultant with regional publications and nonprofits.