Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/22/2021
Think of “hair loss” and you’ll probably picture a receding hairline, bald patch or other common symptoms of male pattern baldness.
Although hair loss is usually associated with men, the reality is that many women also deal with hair loss at some point in life.
Research shows that less than 45 percent of women make it through life without losing at least some of their hair.
Hair loss can have a variety of causes, from your genes and hormone levels to stress, illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, and changes that occur in your body as you get older.
While hair loss can be an alarming and emotionally difficult issue to deal with, the good news is that it’s almost always treatable.
From shampoos to over-the-counter medications, a range of hair loss treatment options can prevent you from shedding hair and help you to grow back hair in the parts of your scalp that are affected by hair loss.
We’ve listed the best hair loss treatments for women below, along with more information on how they work, how to use them and what you can expect during treatment.
Before we get into specific treatment options for hair loss, it’s important to explain how and why female hair loss happens in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no single condition that’s referred to as “hair loss.”
Instead, a variety of different issues may cause you to shed hair, from genetic factors to physical damage to your hair follicles, scalp inflammation and others.
If you’re experiencing hair loss and want to stop it from getting worse, it’s important to be able to identify its cause.
This is because different types of hair loss often require different treatments.
For example, hair loss that’s caused by stress usually won’t respond to a medication that’s used to treat hair loss caused by androgenic hormones.
We’ve listed the most common types of women’s hair loss below, along with the key symptoms of each type of hair loss.
Most hair loss in women is the result of androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss. This type of hair loss is similar to male pattern baldness, the common form of hair loss that develops in men as they age.
Female pattern hair loss is caused by a combination of genetic factors and hormones.
If you’re genetically predisposed to this form of hair loss, hormones called androgens can damage your hair follicles and cause them to shrink, or miniaturize, over time.
As the hair follicles shrink, they stop producing healthy hairs, causing some parts of your scalp to have thinner, weaker hair coverage.
This type of hair loss often begins for women in their 40s, 50s or sixties. It’s common after menopause, although it can also happen earlier in life.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have an especially high risk of developing this form of hair loss.
Unlike male pattern baldness, which usually produces a receding hairline, a common sign of female pattern hair loss is a wide, thinner-looking part line (the line along which you naturally part your hair).
The effects of female pattern hair loss are usually permanent. However, a range of treatments can stop this type of hair loss from worsening and, in some cases, restore your “lost” hair.
Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss that occurs due to stress, injury, illnesses (particularly illnesses that cause fever), nutritional deficiencies, as well as some medications and medical conditions.
If you have telogen effluvium, you may suddenly begin to experience more hair shedding than normal, giving your hair an unusually thin appearance.
Unlike female pattern hair loss, telogen effluvium doesn’t cause permanent hair loss. Once the underlying cause of hair shedding is treated, your hair should grow back to its normal state.
This type of hair loss occurs when your immune system harms your hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in small, round patches.
Alopecia areata can affect any part of your scalp. It can also cause hair loss that affects the face and body.
Most people develop this form of hair loss during childhood or adolescence, with shed hair usually growing back within one year.
This type of hair loss is caused by continuous pulling pressure on the roots of your hair. It’s a common issue for African-American women.
You might be at risk of this form of hair loss if you wear your hair in tight braids or cornrows, or if you often tie your hair into a tight ponytail.
Some hair products and treatments, such as rollers, weaves, wigs and others, may contribute to this form of hair loss.
This type of hair loss is caused by a fungal infection that affects your scalp and reaches into the outer root sheath of your hair follicles.
Tinea capitis may cause you to shed hair in patches of your scalp.
When this type of infection is severe, it may cause inflammation that can damage your hair follicles and cause permanent hair loss.
Because female hair loss can occur for several reasons, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for every case of hair loss.
However, research shows that several treatments can shield your hair from certain types of hair loss and, in some cases, restore your hair after shedding. These include:
Commonly known as Rogaine®, minoxidil is a topical medication that’s available as a liquid and as a foam.
Minoxidil stimulates hair growth. Though its exact mechanism of action isn’t yet known, it’s believed to work by encouraging your hairs to enter into the anagen, or growth, stage of the hair growth cycle.
It also increases blood flow to your scalp, improving the supply of nutrients to your hair follicles.
Currently, minoxidil is the only medication that’s approved by the FDA as a treatment for female pattern hair loss.
Minoxidil isn’t magic, but it does work. In a placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that both 2% and 5% versions of minoxidil produced improvements for hair growth in women affected by female pattern hair loss.
A smaller study also found that even a low dose of minoxidil can produce improvements in hair growth for women with female pattern hair loss.
Although minoxidil is effective, its effects aren’t immediate. You’ll typically need to use minoxidil for several months before any changes in your hair become visible.
Since female pattern hair loss is caused by the effects of androgens, it’s sometimes treated with medications called reduce your body’s androgen hormone production.
Referred to as anti-androgens, these medications lower your levels of male sex hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the androgen that causes hair loss.
One well-known anti-androgen is spironolactone, which is sometimes prescribed to treat female pattern hair loss.
Spironolactone is often prescribed off-label to treat hair loss that occurs due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
While anti-androgens are often effective at treating hair loss, they can produce side effects. As such, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before using this type of medication.
If your hair loss is caused by a fungal infection, such as tinea capitis, your healthcare provider may prescribe antifungal medication to remove the infection and improve your skin.
Most cases of tinea capitis are treated using oral antifungal medications, such as griseofulvin, itraconazole or fluconazole.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend using an antifungal shampoo while the infection clears.
Many shampoos, including our Hair Loss Shampoo for Women, are formulated to reduce hair shedding, stimulate hair growth and strengthen your hair.
If you’re affected by female pattern hair loss, a good hair loss shampoo can be a valuable part of your hair care routine.
Look for active ingredients like biotin, which plays an important role in the hair growth process.
When female pattern hair loss and other forms of permanent hair loss are treated early, it’s often possible to regrow hair and reverse the damage to your hair’s fullness and appearance.
However, when hair loss is severe, hair loss medications like minoxidil aren’t always effective at promoting hair regrowth.
Hair transplant surgery involves harvesting healthy hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp, then transplanting them to areas with noticeable hair loss.
For example, if you suffer from female pattern hair loss and have a wide, thin part line, this type of surgery may involve transplanting hairs into this area to provide additional thickness and hair coverage.
Hair transplant surgery can also be used to lower a high natural hairline, or to treat other forms of hair loss, such as traction alopecia.
Although effective, this type of treatment can be costly. Depending on the number of hairs that need to be transplanted, it may cost several thousand dollars for this type of procedure.
Finally, when hair loss is caused by a lifestyle factor, such as excessive amounts of stress or a nutritional deficiency, making changes to your lifestyle is often the best treatment option.
Sometimes, a few simple changes are all it takes to improve your hair’s growth, thickness and overall appearance. Try to:
Eat a balanced diet. Numerous vitamins, minerals and other nutrients play important roles in the hair growth process, including iron, zinc, niacin, biotin, omega-3 fatty acids and many others. Try to maximize your intake of these nutrients by eating a balanced diet that’s focused on foods for strong, healthy hair.
Limit stress. Stress can result in telogen effluvium, a form of hair shedding that can give your hair a thinner appearance and less coverage. Try to limit your stress by maintaining good sleep habits, staying active and preventing your work from dominating your life.
Stop smoking. Research shows that smoking is associated with an elevated risk of hair loss and premature graying. If you smoke, try to kick the habit. Not only will it help your hair look its best — it also has numerous other benefits for your health and wellbeing.
Losing your hair can be a frustrating experience, especially when it happens without any early warning signs.
Right now, the only medication that’s approved by the FDA to treat female pattern hair loss is minoxidil. Used over the long term, research shows that it can stop hair loss and regrow “lost” hair.
If your hair loss is caused by a medical condition, options such as anti-androgens or antifungal medication may also help to improve your symptoms and protect your hair.
Finally, good hair care habits, such as using a hair loss shampoo, limiting stress and eating a balanced diet, can help your hair to reach its maximum growth potential.
Concerned about hair loss? View our full selection of hair care products for women online or and learn more about preventing and treating hair thinning.
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