If you don't think female baldness is a problem, consider this: More than 20 million American women experience alopecia, or hair loss. And not until Monaco's Princess Caroline mysteriously lost hers did hair loss in women come into public consciousness. So why does a woman's hair fall out? L. Lee Bosley M.D., medical director of The Bosley Medical Institute based in Beverly Hills, California, says hair loss can be due to various conditions such as infection, reactions to medicine, pregnancy, a low-protein diet, stress, or the onset of hereditary baldness.
Some Types of Hair Loss
Female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in women over 35. It is a permanent condition generally described as hair loss on the top of the head. A woman with telogen effluvium experiences hair loss diffusely over the head after a significant health incident such as childbirth. The condition usually resolves itself after her health returns. Other types of hair loss include alopecia areata, a generally untreatable, sometimes chronic autoimmune disease in which patches of hair fall out; and androgenetic alopecia, a genetic predisposition to having thinning hair.
What You Can Do
Surgical Procedures Hair transplants are a permanent solution for many women with female pattern baldness. Doctors can take hair follicles from areas that are in good shape and relocate them to the thinning area. Since each follicle has encoded DNA, the hair will grow as it did in its previous site; it won't take on the characteristics of the recipient site. But this also means that follicles cannot be taken from any other source except the patient's own head. "We can't create hair, we can only redistribute it," says Dr. Bosley.
New technological advances now allow surgeons to move as many as 3,000 follicles in one session to thinning spots. This makes new growth look more natural, unlike the older method of moving 20 to 30 follicles at a time, resulting in hair plugs that looked like the bristles on a toothbrush. The procedure can take up to six hours, but the patient feels minimal pain with a local anesthetic and, in most cases, can return to work the next day. For more information on hair restoration or to find a licensed, experienced physician in this field, call The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery at (800) 444-2737.
Hair Additions Elline Surianello, founder and president of Le Metric Hair Center in New York City, is an expert at hair additions for women with alopecia. Her system involves assessing the amount of hair loss a woman has and custom-designing a hairpiece that matches the client's hair perfectly in texture, color, length, and style.
The process involves creating a "track" of hair around the thinning spot by tying small sections of hair to each other with a needle and thread, then sewing the custom-made piece onto the track to hold it firmly in place." Even if a woman only has twenty percent of her hair, I can work with her," Surianello says. It's considered a semi-permanent solution since the client can wash and style the addition as if it is her own hair, but the track must be tightened periodically since the hair it is composed of will grow away from the scalp and loosen the addition. Additions begin at about $1,000, but, Surianello says, "It can change a woman's life and make her feel whole again." To contact the center or to find affiliate salons, call (800) 217-9052.
To find a less expensive hair-loss treatment you need look no further than your local drugstore. Shelves are filled with products promising thicker, filler hair. But most physicians and stylists remain skeptical about their effectiveness. Rogaine for Women, available without a prescription, has substantial test results backing its claims, but unfortunately seems to work only on a small percentage of the population. Still, other hair-loss sufferers swear they have noticed a difference by using topical products such as Nioxin, VazoCure 30-Day Thinning Hair Treatment Program, Foltene Research Hair Maintenance Program, and J.E Lazartigue Hair Loss Treatments.
Styling Solutions Gordon Nelson, international artistic director for Regis Hairstylists, says that women with fine, thin hair can use these styling tips to give their locks some lift: Choose a haircut that de-emphasizes hair's thinness. Nelson suggests a one-length bob worn at shoulder length or above." Lots of layers can actually take away from the fullness of the hair," he says. Choose a hair color that is a shade or two lighter than the natural color." This will give it the appearance of having more depth and thickness," he says. Permanent hair color also makes the hair shaft swell, adding volume. Perms and body waves are also good ways to add volume and texture to the hair. *For temporary fullness, try using heated rollers at the roots, then finish with hair spray to hold.
By Vanessa C. Penna, New Woman Magazine, 05-01-1997