Why don’t more people talk about it?
Hair loss in women is called “the last taboo” by the American Academy of Dermatologists. The women I spoke to in my book felt ashamed to be losing their hair. While it’s acceptable for a man to lose his hair, for a woman it’s a stigma. Is something wrong? Are you sick? Fighting cancer? Illness?
In fact, most of the women I spoke with would not accept the diagnosis of genetic hair loss. They would rather have an illness. If a cure could not be found, at least there was a reason beyond their control. A woman appearing without hair because of a cancer fight is brave. What about those of us who are just losing our hair? There is no place for us, so we hide in shame.
What can women do to treat it?
As I note in my book, the first thing to do is to get a true diagnosis and find Dr. Right (for you). Women need to know that no stone has been left unturned. So the go-to person for hair loss is a dermatologist. Find a physician who is experienced in treating women’s hair loss. You should go there ready to tell the doc what’s been going on in your life–stress, recent pregnancy, severe weight loss due to dieting/anorexia/bulimia; current medications (over the counter and prescription), herbs, vitamins, birth control pills (start/stopping); HRT (start/stopping) and even habits such as wearing hair in tight buns, pony tails, corn rows etc. The physician should be able to tell if something is causing the hair loss and/or go on to a more definitive exam,which might include a scalp biopsy to rule out a fungus or other infection.
There are also autoimmune disorders–alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disorder–that can cause the hair to fall out in round smooth patches. Some men, women and children lose their hair this way or lose all their hair over their entire body. This is a devastating condition that can often go into remission and the hair will grow back as suddenly as it disappeared. This is particularly difficult for young women and I interviews some women who told me they contemplated suicide.
One caveat: If the physician does not give you a good physical work up and really look at your scalp and just hands you a bottle of Rogaine, find another one. While Rogaine is about all we have for genetic hair loss, it should not be the first step without a good physical, history and scalp analysis.
Another caveat: What works for one might not work for anyone else. Hair loss in women does not have a clear cause as it does with men.