Let’s Talk Hair Loss & Treatments that Work
Hair loss in women is a distressing occurrence. Suddenly seeing thinning of your hair without regrowth changes your perception of yourself. It can highlight our attachment to hair and appearance, (and is NOT a convenient time for friends to offer philosophical advice on self-image and self-acceptance). Women often become panicked, and, regardless of any other condition they may be struggling with, prioritize hair regrowth.
Normal Hair Loss and Thinning Timeline
From 20-40 years of age, most women have thicker hair shafts and more dense hair growth, but from 40-50 plus years of age, the hair shaft diameter decreases along with overall density. The result? Thinner hair and less of it.
What Causes Hair Loss in Women?
- Pregnancy & post-pregnancy hormone changes
- Peri-menopause and menopause hormone changes
- Genetic predisposition (male-pattern baldness, and female-pattern hair thinning)
- Thyroid hormone changes
- Alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss)
- Scalp infections or lesions
- Medications (including Accutane, antibiotics, anti-depressants, and oral contraceptives)
- Radiation damage and chemotherapy
What Are Your Treatment Options?
Common ones include spironolactone (which can help slow hair loss, but doesn’t contribute to re-growth), some birth control pills decrease androgens thereby decreasing the rate of hair loss (and some oral contraception will contribute to hair loss), finasteride, and minodoxil topically. The problem with these medications (aside from numerous side-effects), is that they only really address the hair loss that is due to excess androgens (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone).
Addressing thyroid function, HPA axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function), and ovarian function are all important, especially if this is the cause of the hair loss. Excess and prolonged stress causes hair loss, low thyroid function slows metabolism including hair cycles, and ovarian dysfunction (lack of ovulation, cysts, insufficient progesterone production, insufficient estrogen production) may also contribute to hair loss.
Treating Underlying Conditions
Treating autoimmune conditions, genetic conditions, or infectious causes will help. Ultimately underlying causes need to be addressed to maintain hair regrowth.
Dietary and lifestyle changes, correcting imbalances, supporting missing nutrients, and influencing genes are necessary to healing, but these things take time, and when you're losing hair faster than preferred, healing time isn't something you're willing to prolong.
So while we're waiting impatiently, there's PRP - Platelet Rich Plasma
PRP involves drawing your blood, centrifuging it so that the plasma can be separated, and injecting it, in hair loss cases, into the scalp.
What does your platelet rich plasma contain and why do you want it injected into your scalp? Growth factors! Growth factors include Transforming Growth Factor-beta, Platelet Derived Growth Factor, Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. These are proteins that are critical to regeneration of hair follicles, hair growth, and healing...and they're all naturally yours.
Studies have recently shown that negative side effects are minimal (it's your own blood), and hair growth improves after 3-4 treatments (done 21-30 days apart). Overall hair density is significantly improved, along with increased keratin levels (stronger hair), and more small blood vessels in the scalp (blood flow = hair growth).
Sounds pretty amazing, but this treatment may not be right for everyone.
Talk to your naturopathic doctor about hair loss, PRP, and healing the cause.
1. Growth Factor Content and Their Application in Medicine. 2012.
2. The Effect of Platelet-Rich-Plasma on Hair Regrowth: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study. 2015.
3. Study of Platelet-Rich-Plasma in the Treatment of Androgenic Alopecia Through a One-Year Period. 2014.
4. Platelet-Rish-Plasma as a Potential Treatment for Noncicatricial Alopecias. 2015.
5. What Women Want - Quantifying the Perception of Hair Amount. 2012.