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Why Has the Hair on My Head Gone While My Chin Hair Has Definitely Not?

Dermatologists reveal what you can do about it.

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illustration of woman watering her hair to make it grow like the plants on the ground, hair loss
Pete Gamlen
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In the 1988 rom-com Crossing Delancey, Amy Irving plays Isabelle, a 33-year-old single whose Bubbie (Yiddish for grandmother) hires a matchmaker to fix her up on a date. Yes, I remember that her intended beau was a pickle maker (albeit a very nice and handsome one) and that the matchmaker was played by the incomparable Sylvia Miles.

But the scene that’s etched most indelibly in my mind is when Irving’s Izzy plucks the hairs from her grandmother’s chin. Amy Irving is 68 now, about the same age as I am. And, as she did when she made the movie, still has curly hair. Although, in recent pictures, it does seem to be sparser than it used to be. As for me, my once tightly coiled locks are deflated and thinning. And, like the movie’s Bubbie, my chin hairs are coming in fast and furiously.        

Why has my hair gone into early retirement while my chin hair is running rampant? And what can be done about it? Two prominent dermatologists, Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D., of New York City, and Shani Francis, M.D., of Los Angeles, provide some answers.        

As we get older, there’s a loss of melanin, which is why hair goes gray or white and becomes more brittle and unruly. Then, too, hair spends less time in the growth phase, and while it’s “resting” it’s more likely to fall out. And those hormones, bloody hormones! “Our faces and scalps react differently to hormonal changes in the bodies,” Francis explains. Alas, nature played a cruel trick on our wiring because those hormonal changes cause facial hair to grow, and 50 percent of postmenopausal women have noticeably thinning hair on their scalps. (Tyra Banks, Kristin Davis and Rosie O’Donnell have all publicly bemoaned their thinning hair.)

The hair under your chin is easy to get rid of: Tweezing, lasers, waxing or creams will all do the trick. But it’s harder to get the hair on our heads to grow back. I’ll add here that both doctors I interviewed warned that the stress over hair loss will only make things worse. Which only adds another burden: I have to stop worrying about worrying about my hair loss. But OK, on to the options.        

First, check with a doctor to make sure your hair loss isn’t the result of an under- or overactive thyroid, a side effect of a medication you’re taking, low iron levels or some other medical problem. Once you rule out any underlying conditions (besides, um, age), you can try minoxidil, typically marketed as Rogaine, the only FDA-approved medication for hair loss. “I liken it to rainwater to help plants grow,” Bhanusali says. “You apply it twice every day, and it’s meant to make the hair thicker by extending the growth phase. You’ll know after about three months if it’s working or not.”  

Did I mention that even if these treatments do work, you have to use them every day, as prescribed, for the rest of your life — or the hair growth you’ve regained will all fall out?! Francis says you have to be “consistent, patient and objective.” And because regrowth on a day-to-day basis can be so incremental, she recommends taking a photograph before you begin any treatment so you can recall what your hair looked like before you started.        

Remember when Kim Kardashian caused a stir with her so-called “vampire facials?” PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, is a gel derived from the plasma in your blood, which is rich in components called platelets. Kardashian’s own platelets were injected into her face to stimulate cell and tissue growth. And yes, folks, you, too, can have your own blood drawn, rejiggered and injected into your scalp monthly for the first three to four months and then every six months thereafter.          

For those who want to go the "natural route," Vegamour, which contains red clover to block the production of a hormone that's been shown to stunt hair growth, is a popular choice.

However, while praising the efficacy of Vegamour's ingredients of caffeine and turmeric, Bhanusali has expressed reservations about the product, which has yet to be clinically tested and has a $52 price point. The treatment is cutting-edge and just starting to be studied, but evidence suggests that it only works about 20 percent of the time. For a gentler solution, you can try an LED laser cap. Again, results for the cap — which  uses low-level lasers to stimulate hair follicles to grow — are anecdotal. But as Francis points out, it is “painless and noninvasive. And once you buy it, you have it in the house, so you don’t need to go to the dermatologist for appointments.”        

Still, I have to ask: Isn’t there a pill, a magic bullet to restore my once luxurious locks? Maybe. Francis says there’s medical literature emerging showing that omega-3 improves hair density; Biotin can help with breakage; vitamin D stimulates hair follicles; and saw palmetto, found in the popular supplement Nutrafol, may, to some degree, combat hair loss. However, both Francis and Bhanusali warn against taking any supplements without checking first with your doctor, in order to make sure you’re not overdosing or that the supplements won’t interact with other drugs, including multivitamins, you already may be taking.        

The right shampoos can tackle hair loss and help hair hold in moisture — which makes our manes look thicker and lessens breakage. Some popular shampoos are the protein-based Kératase Densifique, which contains hyaluronic acids to aid elasticity, and Nizoral. Nizoral contains ketoconazole, which blocks a substance called DHT that can destroy hair follicles. (It’s also marketed as a dandruff shampoo, which may be a bonus.)

In either case, it’s recommended that you wash your hair no more than two or three times a week. And if you use a conditioner, apply it at the tips — not the roots — of your hair. As for styling, don’t overload your hair with “product,” which will only weigh it down. And avoid parting your hair down the center — a side part will make the hair look fuller.        

Finally, what about plopping a wig on your head and forgetting about your lessening locks? A wig made of human hair will look more natural, be easier to style and will last about five times longer than one made of synthetic hair. Look for a wig that has a full lace or lace front and has been tied with monofilament, both of which will make the hairline seem more natural. Always store your hairpiece on a wig stand and wash it with sulfate-free shampoo. 

Keira Knightley, Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani (who once said, “I haven’t seen my real hair since the 9th grade”) all wear them. So does Dolly Parton, who got Jimmy Fallon to try one on during an appearance on The Tonight Show. The always authentic Dolly, who claims to have more than 350, summed up her love of wigs simply: “They’re so handy, and I’m always so busy.”

Point taken.

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