Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 05/10/2021
For all the talk about hair loss in men, society would have you believe that hair loss is a men’s problem. But as much as hair loss may be portrayed as a guy’s issue, it can affect women similarly, with equally damaging effects on your confidence and coif, respectively.
Hair loss is a complicated problem, and a source of frustration, self-consciousness and more problems for women and men alike. But it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re starting to see the early signs of hair loss, you may be wondering how (if at all) you can hit the brakes and reverse course. The good news is that hair thinning and hair loss are both problems you can address… with the right products.
Before we give you some recommendations, though, let’s start by going over a few things about hair and hair loss.
Since we’re already in a “debunking” mode, let’s address the term “hair loss” and how it’s more complicated than you might think. For starters, hair loss and losing individual hairs are two completely different things. You probably know this unconsciously, but shedding is a normal type of hair loss when it’s within certain parameters.
Take your estimated daily hair “loss” average: according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a normal person can be expected to shed as many as 100 strands of hair daily (or more), out of a head full of around 100,000.
This is because, well, hairs fall out of your head normally all the time. Each individual hair and the follicle it grows from are a three-phase cycle of growth, rest and regrowth. These phases are typically referred to as the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase.
Here’s how it works. The anagen phase is the growth phase, and about 90 percent of your hair can be expected to be in this phase at any given time. This is considered normal growth. At the end of that phase, the hair transitions to the catagen phase, which is sort of like the second semester of your senior year of college: everything’s kind of winding down, no real “work” is getting done, and the hair is just preparing to transition to its next life phase.
This is where the telogen phase begins. As you might have assumed, this is sort of a rest phase. The hair itself is dead, the follicle is preparing to reenter the cycle and start the anagen phase shortly. You probably have around nine percent of your hair in this phase right now, assuming everything is working properly.
If things are not working properly, well, then you’re experiencing some form of hair loss.
Hair loss is really just the interruption of these phases, and particularly of the hair’s return to a growth phase after rest. It can be caused by any number of life, genetic, or traumatic events.
One of the most common types of hair loss in women (particularly older women) is androgenic alopecia: a hormone-induced hair loss commonly referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.
While the symptoms in men typically show up as receding edges and a bald spot at the crown, in women, this type of hair loss appears as a general thinning across your entire scalp.
You might experience it as early as your 20s, but in women it is much more common after menopause.
Whether you’re thinning or seeing different hair loss issues, though, once you see the signs, there are several steps you can and should take to stop and reverse the damage.
The first of those steps should be to see a healthcare provider. But depending on what they find, they will likely suggest or prescribe certain treatments to help you stop the hair loss and regrow what you can.
So, how do you go about thickening and regrowing your lost hair?
Well, there are surgeries, transplants, gizmos and gadgets to be had, but the research is generally not compelling, and the prices can be prohibitive.
There’s also the problem of reality: after a certain point, some hair loss is irreversible (which is why it’s best to address it as soon as possible).
There are several hair care products whose emphasis is on hair growth for women that can help you thicken your hair and regrow some of the lost follicles, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Two of the most effective are called minoxidil and finasteride.
Finasteride is an oral medication that blocksDHT: the hormone that, at excessive levels, causes androgenic alopecia. Daily finasteride can reduce DHT levels by as much as 70 percent, according to research, which can help to reduce the effects (and potentially reverse recent damage from) female pattern hair loss and other hair loss conditions.
Topical medication Minoxidil works in a complementary but different fashion: it encourages follicles to exit the dormant phase and begin producing hair again. And it’s effective — studies have shown that over a 48-week period, Minoxidil can increase thickness of hair, and can potentially boost your total hair count by as much as 18 percent.
Though these are considered the most popular and effective treatments for hair loss, they aren’t the only ones available — some of them are even over the counter medications, like the popular supplement saw palmetto. Saw palmetto may also reduce DHT levels, and is believed to be even more effective when paired with a medication like finasteride.
It’s a common shampoo ingredient as well, for this reason. If you’re looking for effective shampoos, but the way, our guide to Hair Loss for Women can help you explore more popular ingredients, supplements, and shampoo types for better hair, like biotin and iron.
If you’re seeing more of your scalp in the mirror (and more of your hair in your brush) and you think you might be seeing signs of hair loss, consult a healthcare professional soon.
Your hair loss may be coming from any number of lifestyle factors, and other diseases and disorders can cause hair loss (as can pregnancy, stress, poor diet and many other things).
We get that this can be concerning or worse. It can feel like a lot to keep up with as we know, and unanswered questions about your health can cause anxiety, for sure. But that’s no excuse to avoid treatment — in fact, it’s the very reason you should seek help sooner than later.
The longer you wait, the more damage can be done, and the more irreparable it might become. But the sooner you get help, the more control you’ll be able to take back.