Even a botched haircut is traumatizing for a woman – and hair loss is even worse. And while you might think of hair loss as a men-only phenomenon, the American Hair Loss Association reports that about 40 percent of people coping with hair loss are actually women.
How alopecia affects women
Alopecia – the medical term for hair loss – manifests itself as several different types, and there’s a wide range of causes. Temporary alopecia can be the result of illness, a hormone imbalance, substance abuse, trauma, or disease. In temporary cases, once the core issue has been resolved, hair typically grows back to its normal thickness. Hair loss that isn’t caused by illness or trauma is typically diagnosed as androgenic alopecia. In woman, androgenic alopecia results in mild to severe thinning instead of the pattern baldness you usually see in men.
Scientists believe that when the male hormone testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, it affects the receptors in hair follicles, causing them to shrink and creating an environment where healthy hair can’t grow. Women carry trace amounts of testosterone, but even small amounts make women vulnerable to the effects of DHT. Hormone levels naturally fluctuate over a lifetime, and changing hormone levels may be the cause of increased hair loss in later years.
Treating women’s hair loss
Most of the drugs developed for treating hair loss are geared toward men – and they try to achieve healthy levels of testosterone. For women, of course, ramping up testosterone levels will do more harm than good. Among other undesirable side effects, many oral medications that decrease DHT levels throughout the body also decrease women’s libido.
Treatments for female hair loss are completely different from those used to treat male hair loss. Women-specific treatments attempt to stimulate the growth of new hair, prevent DHT from binding with hair follicles, increase levels of estrogen/progesterone, or combine these three approaches.
How topical treatments work
When applied to the scalp, topical treatments that inhibit DHT are shown to be effective in treating androgenic alopecia in women without the risks that oral medications carry. Combining DHT inhibitors with ingredients that stimulate hair growth is even more effective. No hair loss treatment provides immediate results, but when applied correctly and regularly, topical treatments can halt hair loss and promote new growth Hair loss usually has a genetic component, but some products can actually reverse the process of hair loss by inhibiting hair loss at a cellular level. Here’s how.
- IF a woman has genetic predisposition to hair loss, the presence of DHT can trigger these genes to “turn on” (to be expressed). DHT is present in both men and women following puberty.
- Testosterone is the hormone that gets converted to DHT by the cells. To effectively reverse or prevent genetic hair loss, you have to prevent testosterone from entering cells in the first place by blocking the entry points testosterone uses.
- To convert testosterone to DHT, the cell requires a certain enzyme to catalyze the reaction. Women’s topical hair loss products work to inhibit this enzyme, which reduces the production of DHT.
- When testosterone is prevented from entering the cell and the specific enzymes are being inhibited, the genes for hair loss should “turn off” – and hair loss will reverse.
- Aside from just preventing hair loss, many products will also contains ingredients that stimulate hair follicles and spur hair growth.
Dr. McMullen sells a full range of products designed to stop DHT and encourage healthy hair growth. If you have more questions about products or would like to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact us.