They say a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. But I feel anything but regal when I see more and more of that glory clogging the shower drain. It’s something I’ve always feared because my mother has had thinning hair for as long as I can remember. In fact, after I turned 40, I started noticing that certain areas along my hairline seemed more sparse — I could’ve sworn I had less forehead there! It didn’t help that for a couple years, being the lazy and unskilled hair person that I am, my go-to hairdo was a topknot — constantly pulling your hair back, say experts, will exacerbate female hair thinning. That’s when I freaked out and began researching hair loss in women. After all, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that, for women, thinning hair can seriously affect self-esteem and emotional well-being.
What I discovered is that the most common cause of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, is due to a combination of genetics (either mother’s or father’s side), hormone levels and the aging process. This hereditary hair loss can start as early as your 20s and becomes more common (and noticeable) with age, says Dr. Doris Day, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Up to 42 percent of women will suffer from hereditary hair loss in her lifetime,” she adds.
Women with hereditary hair loss experience a general thinning of the hair, most obvious at the top of the head and along the part. Of course, women can also experience thinning hair due to weight loss (I wish), during pregnancy (never), in times of extreme stress (bingo!) or even nutritional imbalances (like too much vitamin A or too little protein or iron), according to the American Academy of Dermatology. What complicates things for women of Asian descent is that while Asian hair fibers are generally thicker (50 percent more so) than Europeans, we also have less hair follicles in general than whites and blacks. So when we lose hair, it’s more obvious (especially because our hair is dark) and can be more devastating. Sigh.
But don’t rush out to buy that wig or hat just yet. There are a number of products on the market claiming to address female hair loss and thinning — all manner of supplements with biotin, scalp health shampoos and serums, even thickening fibers. And Rogaine — the brand long known for its hair products catering to balding guys — now has its first ever FDA-approved 5 percent minoxidil product made specifically for women. “Volumizing and thickening products and hair extensions may temporarily help hair to appear thicker, but will not actually regrow hair,” says Dr. Day. In their clinical studies, 81 percent of women actually regrew hair after using Women’s Rogaine for 24 weeks, with new hairs coming in up to 48 percent thicker than before. And since it’s a foam you apply once a day (morning or night), it’s easy to incorporate into your usual beauty regimen.
To cover up thinning areas while you wait for Rogaine to kick in, SureThik Hair Thickening Fibers does a fairly good job at minimizing the look of that widening part. It takes a bit of practice to sprinkle the fibers on just so (and not get it all over your face), but once in, it stays put and doesn’t look too obvious.
If you prefer supplements or want to grow hair faster, beauty supplement brand La Muse Beauty offers an all-natural hair supplement, Hair La Vie, that does not contain synthetic additives, fillers or binders, which are “often a cheaper way to fill or bind the product,” says Carla Rivas, co- founder of Hair La Vie. She adds that binders and fillers interfere with the dissolution of the tablet, and “you lose some of the nutrients because of that.” In addition to 5,000 micrograms of biotin, Hair La Vie uses vegetable cellulose to make a veggie capsule with 20 all-natural, clinically proven ingredients like kelp, a natural source of iodine, which helps support the hair follicle, and bamboo stem and leaf extract, a rich source of silica, which has been shown to accelerate hair growth. In a consumer study, according to the company, 92 percent of users saw more hair growth in one month.
In my own battle against hair thinning, I’ve been taking Hair La Vie and other biotin supplements (you need 5,000 mcg a day) for a couple years now. I also use Women’s Rogaine religiously, and I have to say, it definitely grows hair (albeit, the new hair that now grows is gray, but hey, I’ll gladly take gray hair, any color hair for that matter, over no hair). I’ve also switched up my hairstyle and no longer wear topknots. As for minimizing stress? Trust me — seeing a little less hair clogging the shower drain will do wonders for that.
Adapted from a story written by me, originally published in Audrey Magazine.