Help for Hair Loss"By the time hair loss is noticeable, you've already lost about 30%," says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. And the more you've lost, the less likely you'll be to have regrowth. Remedies are more effective in helping you keep the hair you have than stimulating follicles that have been inactive for long periods. In short, if you think something's amiss, get to a doc fast. Here's how a pro can help.
Check your hormones High testosterone levels cause balding in men and women alike. Getting a measurement of male hormones can be especially useful in younger women who may have polycystic ovary syndrome or other conditions tied to elevated levels. To lower them, patients can sometimes benefit from birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, says dermatologist Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.
Get the twice-a-day cure Only one drug is FDA-approved for women: minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine). "As hair follicles get older, some make shorter, finer hairs, called indeterminate hairs, similar to the ones we all normally have around our hairline. Those hairs can be turned into thick ones by Rogaine," explains Dr. Draelos. It happens to be more effective on the crown, where most women experience loss, than on the sides. Because the rate of hair growth is normally half an inch a month, you'll need three to six months to notice a difference; if you discontinue the drug, the results will subside.
Consider a different drug The other hair-loss drug, finasteride (brand name: Propecia), is approved by the FDA for use in men only. While some doctors prescribe it off-label for women, it's safe only for women who are finished with childbearing, because the drug acts on hormone receptors and can cause the feminization of a male fetus. As a result, it's only been studied in postmenopausal women, and in that group, Propecia did not lead to hair growth. "I think it didn't work because researchers picked older women whose hair loss, due to their age, was too advanced," says Dr. Draelos.
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Depending on the degree of your loss, you may want to combine minoxidil and finasteride. "Each drug acts on a different mechanism in the hair, and multiple approaches can maximize your results. I just tell my patients to be realistic, though: You're not going to have the hair you did when you were 20," notes Dr. Day.
Watch for advances In 2010, a team at Columbia University published their findings for 139 genetic markers for hair loss. While a magic pill isn't around the corner, Dr. Day is hopeful: "There is active research in progress, and I believe better solutions will be available in five to 10 years."
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