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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you were trying to dye your hair Gwyneth Paltrow-blonde or achieve a perfect Selena Gomez lob, you’d probably skip the barbershop in favor of a seasoned stylist. But when it comes to the opposite problem, and instead of needing to cut your hair, you’re experiencing female pattern baldness, who do you turn to?
The answer isn’t always immediately clear. It turns out, if you’re looking for hair loss treatments or have questions about why you’re losing your hair, you’ll want to speak to a dermatologist. Yep — the same doctor you go to for acne and moles that look weird.
But don’t book an appointment with just any derm — ideally, you’ll see a dermatologist specializing in hair loss.
Here, we’ll go into what a hair loss dermatologist does and treatments they might suggest or prescribe for thinning hair. And because we’d never leave you hanging, we’ll also point you in the direction of a dermatologist near you.
If you’re scratching your head (which could be contributing to temporary hair loss, by the way) about what doctor to see for female hair loss, we’ve got you covered.
It’s not immediately evident that a dermatologist is the specialist to see for hair woes. But it starts to make sense when you consider hair grows from the scalp — and the scalp is skin. Dermatology professionals help with all things skin.
Hair loss is common, though it has many different causes (more on that in a minute). So a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss will help you figure out the root cause (oy, hair pun).
If you have hair falling out with white bulbs or are noticing brittle hair, for example, a dermatologist specializing in hair loss can guide you to the right solution.
Pattern hair loss happens to three to 13 percent of women under 40, increasing to 32 to 54 percent for those over 70, respectively. But as with most medical conditions, you don’t have to go it alone — hair loss dermatologists exist, and they’re here to help.
Before diving into why you may want to see a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss, let’s touch on a couple of things that could be causing your hair loss.
There are a few common types of hair loss women experience. A hair loss dermatologist will likely look into diagnosing one of the following:
Read on for more details about these potential causes of female hair loss.
Male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss is the most common name for androgenetic alopecia, a condition caused by fluctuations in the levels of your hormones (specifically androgens).
It typically manifests as women age, especially as they approach menopause. This is the most common form of hair loss.
Telogen effluvium typically appears as a pattern of even thinning across the scalp. It’s often caused by a stressor like major surgery, bodily trauma, extreme weight loss, serious illness, giving birth or radiation treatment.
Luckily, telogen effluvium will typically resolve on its own, especially after the stressor is addressed.
Traction alopecia, simply enough, is hair loss due to traction (pulling) on the follicle, which can result in scalp injuries. Sometimes called traumatic alopecia, the culprit can be ponytails, buns, braids, cornrows and other tight hairstyles.
So when your mom told you your ponytail was too tight, she may have been onto something — ponytail hair loss is a thing. Marginal traction alopecia refers to hair loss and thinning seen along the frontal and temporoparietal margin of the hairline — basically a rainbow shape between the ears.
Alopecia areata happens when your immune system attacks your scalp or follicles, mistaking them for foreign bodies. There’s no cure, but there are effective treatment strategies.
Hair loss under the umbrella of alopecia areata is a symptom of an autoimmune disease. Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, lichen planopilaris and lupus can cause hair loss.
In some cases, nutritional deficiencies are to blame for hair loss. A 2017 study showed that not getting enough of certain nutrients could impact hair structure and growth.
Take a look at our blog post for a deeper dive into iron deficiency and hair loss.
There are several ways hair loss dermatologists can diagnose female hair loss.
These include things like:
Asking questions about your lifestyle and diet
Discerning the difference between hair loss and shedding
Performing a hair-pull test
Using a dermatoscope tool to look closely at the hair and scalp
Diagnosing any skin conditions causing you to scratch your scalp
Learn more about the myriad ways derms diagnose female hair loss below.
Seeing a dermatologist for hair loss may feel a bit more like a therapy sesh than other doctor’s appointments. No, you won’t be diving into your attachment style, but it’s crucial for a hair loss dermatologist to gather information about your life and lifestyle.
They may ask if you’ve had anything particularly stressful going on, as stress hair loss isn’t uncommon.
Be prepared to talk about your family history (like if either parent experienced hair loss) and any current medical conditions or medications you’re taking.
A hair loss dermatologist will likely ask about your diet and hormonal changes, including if you recently had a baby (enter: postpartum hair loss) or are going through menopause.
One thing you may not realize about the hair cycle is that, thankfully, not all hairs are in the same stage at the same time. Otherwise, you’d lose all your hair each time you entered the shedding (or telogen) phase.
Around 85 to 90 percent of hair follicles are in the growth phase at any time. This means 10 to 15 percent are in the catagen or telogen phases, so you always have at least some hairs ready to shed each day.
As part of the physical exam, a hair loss dermatologist will also examine your hair, hair follicles, nails and scalp. They may do additional testing, like a hair-pull test, which sounds worse than it is.
Your healthcare provider will grasp 20 to 60 hairs with their fingers, holding as close to the base of your scalp as possible.
They’ll tug on the hairs gently, and if more than 10 percent of the strands are pulled out from your scalp, it’s generally considered a sign that you’re actively shedding hair.
Your hair loss dermatologist may bust out a microscope to take a closer look at your hair and scalp. This can help them determine what might be causing the hair loss.
Don’t worry — you won’t feel like you’re back in high school biology. Instead of the microscope you’re probably picturing, the hair loss dermatologist will use a dermatoscope, which is essentially a powerful handheld, lighted magnifying device.
Millions of people experience hair loss for numerous reasons. A hair loss dermatologist will help you find the best female hair loss treatment for your situation.
Something to note is that if you turn to Google to find out what healthcare professional to see for hair loss (which you probably did if you found us here), you may see results for a “trichologist.”
You can think of trichologists as the chiropractors of the hair world. While they specialize in hair and scalp health, they’re not medically trained, so a dermatologist is a better bet for treating hair loss.
Here are some things dermatologists may recommend for hair loss.
Minoxidil is a commonly prescribed, FDA-approved dermatologist treatment for hair loss.
How it works has yet to be totally understood, but minoxidil seems to reactivate hair follicles. And it’s a vasodilator, meaning it brings oxygen, blood and nutrients to the scalp — which can help with hair growth.
It also appears to shorten the telogen phase, thereby extending the anagen (growth) phase.
Minoxidil drops are packaged in a tincture bottle. You apply them twice daily to a dry scalp on the areas you want to see regrowth.
Minoxidil foam works the same as the drops, though it’s a 5% strength solution (the drops are 2%). You’ll apply half a capful once daily.
Spironolactone is an antiandrogen that helps with hair growth by decreasing the effects of DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is a byproduct of testosterone — yep, women have testosterone too.
DHT plays a starring role in male pattern baldness, though its role in female pattern hair isn’t totally understood. It’s also prescribed for acne — so two potential birds, one stone, folks.
Spironolactone is prescribed off-label for female hair loss caused by hormones. According to research, the medication is more effective when paired with other hair loss treatments.
In a 2023 study, spironolactone showed better efficacy when combined with other therapies, such as oral or topical minoxidil, than using it alone.
Spironolactone can also improve the efficacy of other hair loss medications. Not satisfied with minoxidil or finasteride on its own? The study notes that adding spironolactone to the mix can help boost results.
If you’re not looking for medication and see a dermatologist for thinning hair, they may recommend cosmetic treatments like root spray, wigs or scalp concealers.
Microneedling for hair loss involves a little roller with small spikes all over it that gets rolled over the scalp (sounds like a torture device, but it’s not that uncomfortable).
Microneedling can be especially promising when used with minoxidil or platelet-rich plasma (PRP).
Rather than take matters into your own hands, it’s best to get this treatment done in-office. At the very least, speak to your derm about how to do it to avoid hurting yourself or further damaging your scalp.
If you already see a dermatologist who you like, it’s worth asking if they also specialize in hair loss.
Otherwise, the AAD once again has your back. Use the organization’s Find A Dermatologist tool to find a dermatologist nearby. You can search by zip code and specialty, though hair is not specifically mentioned as a specialization.
Or check out our hair loss treatments page to start an online consultation with a healthcare professional.
Your part is looking wider these days, or you’ve noticed more hair in the shower drain. What now?
Sure, you could turn to Doctor Google looking for answers. But to figure out why you’re losing your hair and what to do about it, it makes sense to see an actual doctor who specializes in hair loss dermatology.
Not sure what doctor to see for female hair loss? All dermatologists are familiar with hair and scalp conditions, but some have gone through more extensive training to be considered a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss.
There are tons of reasons your hair could be thinning, and if you’re not an expert, it’s hard to figure out exactly why you’re losing hair. A hair loss dermatologist can address the root cause and suggest lifestyle and diet changes that may help hair loss.
A hair loss derm will help discern what hair loss treatments might be best for you, like oral minoxidil, minoxidil spray, spironolactone, topical finasteride and minoxidil spray (for postmenopausal women), microneedling or cosmetic fixes.
It’s always a good idea to get some background info on your condition before seeking medical advice. That way, when you see the dermatologist, you’ll know what questions to ask about hair loss and potential treatments.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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