On January 1, actress and talk show host Ricki Lake posted an Instagram photo looking stunning with a buzz haircut. That emotional post generated an overwhelming response from a mostly silent community of women who have needed a champion. From there, Ricki went on Good Morning America to talk about an issue that 30 to 40 percent of women will suffer from in their life: hair loss.
Most often thought of as an issue predominantly facing the male population, hair loss in women is actually common and can be caused by everything from hormones to diet to stress. Dr. William Lee, board-certified OB-GYN and Certified Menopause Practitioner at the Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Cool Springs, says it is important to determine the cause behind hair loss before receiving the appropriate treatment.
How much is too much?
Those who style, straighten, blow out and curl their hair daily have likely pulled a wad of hair out of the hairbrush or shower drain from time to time. So, what’s normal hair loss, and what’s considered excessive?
Hairstylist and owner of Nashville’s Shine Salon, Susanne Post hears from her female clientele when they notice their hair shedding more than usual, and other times she can see it before the client notices it themselves. “When clients ask about it, usually my questions revolve around medications, dietary changes, stress or if they are in a postpartum period,” says Susanne. “The area many women see more shedding is around the temples and the hairline around their face. It’s visible in different ways with women from what men experience.”
She says the thing to watch for is a change in how much shedding you usually have. “If you feel like you are constantly pulling hair out, or you run your hands through your hair and have hairs on your hand, that might be a sign,” she says. “Everyone’s normal is going to be a little bit different. You may lose it but also have it fill back in pretty quickly. I say watch for a shift in those trends.”
Jared Reynolds, founder and president of Zenagen, a popular hair care system designed to prevent hair loss, says a good test to see if your hair shedding is excessive is take a section of about 60 hairs and give it a light pull. If more than three hairs fall out, you might have some accelerated shedding.
“The average person has 100,000 hairs on their head with a full head of hair,” says Jared. “Losing 100 hairs a day is normal because you have 100 more growing back in at any point. What we consider hair loss is someone losing more than 100 hairs in a day.”
Causes of Hair Loss
Dr. Anna Land, a board-certified dermatologist with Ren Dermatology in Franklin, TN, says that when women start to notice hair loss or excessive shedding, they need to see a doctor who can determine the cause and recommend treatment.
“The most common type of hair loss I see in women is called androgenetic alopecia, or pattern hair loss,” says Dr. Land. “I also see telogen effluvium, which is usually triggered by some sort of illness or significant life stress, and that type of hair loss can be short-lived.”
Dr. Lee says that although there are many causes, he agrees that stress is a very important factor to examine. “I don’t think stress can be underestimated,” he says. “During the perimenopausal and menopausal season of life for most women, there’s a lot of stress going on. Kids are leaving home to go to college. There can be marital difficulties, job changes, financial stress, and all of these things can be huge factors.
But stress isn’t the only thing happening to menopausal women. There can also be hormone imbalances during this time of life, which can also contribute to hair loss. “This type of hair loss is thought to be due to a shift in the balance of estrogen and androgens, which are male hormones,” he says. “When a woman goes through perimenopause and menopause, they can see an imbalance in those hormones, and the body isn’t accustomed to that.”
But because tumors on the ovaries or hypothyroidism can also cause hair loss, Dr. Lee recommends seeing a physician to rule those things out.
Another contributing factor could be your diet. Dr. Tiff Breeding, a fitness nutrition specialist and author of The Metabolic Makeover, says it’s important for women to realize the same unhealthy practices that impact general health can also correlate to hair loss. “A lack of essential vitamins, specifically Biotin and Vitamin D, or a diet too low in protein can also impact hair loss as our hair is made up almost entirely of protein,” she says. “Thyroid complications can also impact hair loss. As we know, dietary insufficiencies often create thyroid dysfunction, so the trickle-down effect can be hair loss.”
Solutions to Hair Loss
The good news is there are ways to combat hair loss, and in some cases, actually regrow thinning hair. But treatment options and their efficacy stem from understanding the cause of the hair loss in the first place. Cleaning up your diet and adding in a multivitamin are good places to start. Beyond that, two treatment options that have a track record for success are Zenagen and platelet-rich plasma (or PRP) injections.
Jared began researching hair loss as a medical student and eventually developed Zenagen to combat androgen hormones present in hair follicles. Androgen can cut off blood flow to follicles, causing them to weaken, and over time, stop producing hair. “I had no interest in hair loss until I started to have it myself,” he says. “I tried some remedies that had awful side effects. I started researching it and focused on the inflammation that causes hair loss. I ended up developing a shampoo system that targets hair loss at the follicle point by targeting and reducing inflammation.”
Zenagen is sold online and at more than 10,000 salons across the country, including Shine Salon, where Susanne is a big advocate for Zenagen’s effectiveness because she has seen it work. “Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” she says. “I have seen the most incredible results with it, and it’s unbelievable. When I first started bringing in Zenagen, I had a few clients who had a pretty obvious need for it. When they started using it, I took before pictures on the first visit and documented it every time I saw them after that. It’s really amazing. The results are pretty dramatic.”
Dr. Land uses several different remedies, but like Jared, often sees the side effects outweigh the benefits. Unlike many topical and oral medications, one procedure she has seen success with has very few, if any side effects. “We are doing a lot of the platelet-rich plasma injections,” she says. “It’s been used for years in wound healing, and more recent data shows it is an effective and safe treatment for female pattern hair loss as well.”
The procedure consists of a blood draw that Dr. Land does in her office. That blood is processed via a centrifuge, which separates the plasma into different layers. The platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the scalp, naturally stimulating hair growth by increasing the blood supply to the hair follicle.
“With the exception of some minimal injection site stinging, there are no other side effects,” she says. “We are taking your own body and utilizing it. The response varies from person to person, but some people see a 30 percent increase in hair density. Some people see even more than that.”
Whether you choose to treat hair loss, or take the Ricki Lake route and get rid of your hair altogether, at least a community of women is now having this conversation and sharing that whatever stage of hair loss you might be combatting, you aren’t alone.
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