Does a miracle potion exist for female pattern hair loss?
In the late 1800’s, seven sisters with Rapunzel-esque hair emerged from the woods of Niagara County, New York. The Seven Sutherland Sisters became instant celebrities with their unfathomably long tresses (37 feet of hair among them). The story was told that their mother slathered their long hair with a horrible smelling ointment to promote hair growth. Their mother died without leaving behind the formula for her hair growth concoction. Their father, nevertheless, seized upon the girls’ celebrity and peddled the Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower tonic. The Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower tonic became a staple on the vanities of middle and upper class American women. With the emergence of the flapper bob, however, the sisters’ fortune saw a steep decline and by 1936, the sisters closed up shop for good. But with roughly one third of women experiencing hair loss at some time in their lives, women continue to look for a miracle potion and the market has been eager to deliver.
Today, plenty of snake oils can be found with claims to reverse female pattern hair loss. The vast majority lack evidence, if they are not bogus. There are, however, a few therapies commonly recommended or prescribed female pattern hair loss treatments:
Of the medically validated interventions for hair loss, topical minoxidil has the strongest evidence of effectiveness. Minoxidil is thought to promote hair growth by prolonging the growth (anagen) phase of hair follicles, and shortening the resting (telogen) phase. It’s also thought to thicken hair by inducing enlargement of miniaturized follicles. Minoxidil is not for the faint or impatient of heart: Shedding of hair commonly occurs during the first two to eight weeks of treatment and it takes at least four months to see a visible effect. Moreover, minoxidil is not a cure as women will lose the hair gained once the treatment is discontinued.
Excess testosterone or other male-associated hormones can accelerate hair loss in women. Data on the effectiveness of anti-androgen therapy in female pattern hair loss is limited. In the absence of contraindications, however, anti-androgen therapy may be tried. Androgen receptor blockers such as spironolactone, may be prescribed for hair loss related to excess male-associated hormones or for those women who respond poorly to minoxidil.
Hair transplant in women involves removing strips of hair-dense scalp and grafting them to affected areas of the scalp. This intervention is typically reserved for those without diffuse hair loss and who do not achieve desired response on medications.