Battling Hair Loss Is a Challenge But Can Be Done
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Health

How You Can Fight Against Hair Loss

Here are some smart tips that can help.

Animation of woman losing hair in the bathroom, shower, vacuuming and while eating food
Brandon Land

Hair loss is a lonely battle. It can be embarrassing, so much so that it's often hard to ask for help. Many women notice changes during menopause, when hair may become finer and thinner. It might begin to feel more like baby hair. This happens because with age, hair follicles shrink. Hair grows more slowly and falls out more easily. It may lose some of its original density.

Some women, however, don’t need to wait for menopause. Genetics, some medications, hormonal fluctuations and stress can be culprits in hair loss. So are thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions and vitamin deficiencies. Hair loss is difficult to diagnose on your own, so it's helpful to speak to a doctor. A well-trained physician can analyze your pattern of hair loss and offer suggestions.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

——Telogen effluviam: If you have been fortunate to enjoy a thick head of hair most of your life and a sudden event causes an undue amount of stress, your hair may react by prematurely entering a stage called telogen effluvium. This is the phase of your hair’s growth cycle when natural shedding occurs. In times of stress overload, however, this stage may be jump-started. Instead of normal hair loss, you may suddenly start seeing hair everywhere: in your sink or on the pages of the book you’re reading. In difficult times like these, it’s not surprising for some women to find a lot of hair in the shower drain. If stress is causing this, it helps to know it will pass. It's important to note that the trigger can occur several months before the hair loss, and that it usually resolves within months. If you’re very concerned, check with a doctor. A dermatologist can be a good option, but other medical doctors specialize in hair loss.

——Female-pattern hair loss: Female-pattern hair loss (FPHL) affects millions of women, so you are not alone. The first signs of FPHL are often a widening part or the impression that your hair doesn't feel as thick as it once did. The condition is hereditary and is more common after menopause, meaning hormones play a role.

Typical Solutions

If you’ve read this far, chances are you are hoping this article will offer some solutions other than the usual ones: Eat a balanced diet, try over-the-counter medications such as Rogaine 2% or 5% minoxidil topical solution, or take supplements such as biotin, Viviscal or Nutrofol. Or look into buying a wig or undergoing hair transplantation. All of these can help some women. But if you need more options, here’s what to know.

——Experimental/off-label procedures: New procedures have helped thousands of women and men, and more are on the horizon. While not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some of these procedures harness your own body to help interrupt the shedding process and help grow back your own hair. When choosing a physician, do plenty of research. 

—Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): Not all physicians perform this procedure in the same way, so results vary. In PRP, your own blood is drawn and centrifuged (spun around in a machine to siphon off the platelets). Some doctors add a substance called ACell to provide a quasi-scaffold for the platelets to adhere to. Your doctor will go over your scalp with a small roller full of tiny needles in a process called microneedling. (You won't feel a thing; local anesthesia is used.) This prepares your scalp to receive the platelets. The idea behind PRP is your body is tricked out of thinking your hair loss is chronic and ignoring it. Instead it perceives the microneedling as a new injury and rushes platelets and growth factor to your scalp to help repair it. If this treatment works for you, you may see regrowth in anywhere from two to six months.

If you opt for PRP, ask the doctor if he or she performs microneedling, and whether anything is added to the PRP to increase its effectiveness.

——Exosomes: The use of exosomes represents an exciting new technique that some hair-loss specialists are using. Exosomes are small, single-membrane, cell-like vesicles enriched in selected proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other substances. They may be derived from many parts of the body, but results may vary depending on where they are extracted from. Renowned New York City hair-loss specialist Robin Unger, M.D., explains, “I have seen the best results with exosomes derived from mesenchymal cells extracted from bone-marrow donors. While still experimental, this technique offers very promising help to many patients and it is very simple to perform.” Depending on where you live, you may need to travel to find a qualified professional. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), or stromal stem cells, can differentiate into many different types of cells within the body, including hair cells. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.

Patients with chronic illness or over a certain age may see better results with exosomes rather than with PRP. But then again not all exosomes are optimal. If you decide that exosome treatment is right for you, make sure to ask what part of the body the cells come from, as they can be harvested from placenta, marrow or other sites.

"It is significant to point out that PRP is not permanent," Unger says. “You may have to refresh it every year. We don’t really know yet how long exosomes will last.” But the good news is that there are new possibilities where only a few years ago not much existed. Don’t lose hope.

As always, consult your own doctor before trying any new procedure.

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