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When faced with hair loss, many women will begin researching potential treatments or remedies. Though a quick internet search will bring up a long list of recommended treatments and products, there are relatively few that have been proven to reduce hair loss and promote regrowth.
If you’re losing your hair, read on for a guide to which hair growth products are effective – and which to avoid.
Currently, there is one hair growth product available to women that is clinically proven to halt loss and stimulate growth. This product is known as minoxidil. This treatment does not require a prescription, and is available to purchase over the counter in pharmacies.
Minoxidil is licensed to treat male- and female-pattern baldness, both of which are genetic. Female-pattern baldness is characterised by the gradual thinning of the hair on top of the head and is more common in older women, particularly those who have been through menopause. Though minoxidil is not licensed to treat alopecia areata (in which the hair falls out in patches) it has been proven to have an effect on this kind of hair loss.
Minoxidil comes as a lotion or foam that is designed to be applied directly to areas of the scalp with thinning hair. It is available in strengths of 2% and 5% and must be applied once or twice a day, every day. If you apply minoxidil as instructed every day for three or four months, you should begin to see an effect. You will have to keep using minoxidil on an ongoing basis to prevent further hair loss and retain any new hair growth.
In one study it was shown that minoxidil with a strength of 2% was effective in 88% of women; these women experienced a halting of hair loss and, in some cases, hair regrowth. The evidence suggests that minoxidil is more effective in women than in men, which is why it’s particularly popular as a female hair growth product.
Caffeine shampoo is a popular product amongst women, however its success rate is not fully clear. In this study from 2012, it was found that caffeine seemed to have a beneficial impact on hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia – otherwise known as male- or female-pattern baldness.
As one of our doctors at Online Doctor has outlined here, however, caffeine shampoo is not a hair growth product endorsed by health bodies such as the NHS (which is why you won’t find it in their list of hair loss treatments).
As explained here, a severe deficiency of biotin, zinc, niacin or iron can lead to hair loss. For this reason, some women faced with thinning hair or hair loss may choose to take hair growth supplements containing these kinds of vitamins.
However, there is very little evidence to suggest that taking regular hair growth supplements has a positive impact upon hair growth. If you follow crash diets or eat an extremely calorie-controlled diet you may be restricting certain vitamins and nutrients, which may lead to hair loss. You may wish to consider a healthier, nutrient rich diet alongside vitamins and supplements.
The most popular treatment for male-pattern baldness is finasteride (Propecia). This is a tablet that is taken once a day. It works by blocking the production of dihydrotestosterone, the male hormone that causes hair loss.
Finasteride has been shown to promote hair growth in two thirds of men; and to halt hair loss in 90%*. However, it is currently only available to men. For this reason, women experiencing female-pattern baldness or other kinds of hair loss will not be able to obtain finasteride from a doctor. It isn’t fully understood what kind of effect this treatment has upon women and their hair growth, which means it isn’t safe for women to take.
Verdict: Not available to women
Hair growth treatments for Alopecia Areata
If you are experiencing patchy hair loss it’s likely that you have alopecia areata. This type of hair loss is usually temporary, which means treatment isn’t usually needed. However, if you are concerned you can visit your GP to discuss potential treatments.
Currently, the only hair growth product available in pharmacies that is proven to work is minoxidil. In one study minoxidil halted hair loss in 88% of women.
Evidence for the efficacy of other hair growth products such as caffeine shampoo and hair growth supplements is limited.
You can buy minoxidil over the counter in high street pharmacies, as you do not need a prescription.
The male hair growth product finasteride is very effective in treating male-pattern baldness. However, it is not licensed for use by women, which means women cannot get a prescription for it from their doctor.
If you are a women experiencing hair loss you should not try to take finasteride, as its effects upon women are not fully understood.