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December 3rd, 2010
08:59 AM ET

My hair is thinning. What can I do?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: My hair is thinning. Is there anything I can do?

A: For nearly half of women who experience some hair loss, it’s caused by a hereditary condition known as alopecia.

One solution: Women’s Rogaine, the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for hereditary hair loss in women. But if your hair’s coming out in clumps or patches, it could be a sign of a thyroid disorder (diagnosed with a blood test) or a result of stress, illness, damage from blow-drying and styling, and even crash-dieting.

Make sure you get plenty of protein and iron in your diet: Try adding a little extra lean red meat or an occasional boiled egg. Certain medications that meddle with hormones, like some antidepressants, antiarthritis meds, and even birth control pills, can cause thinning, too. If you’re taking one of these, your doc might be able to change your prescription or dosage.

Finally, a new-mom alert: Postpregnancy hormone shifts often cause some hair loss, but that should end after a few months.

Roshini Raj, M.D., is Health magazine’s medical editor and co-author of “What the Yuck?!.” Board-certified in gastroenterology and internal medicine, Raj is also an assistant professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center and a contributor on the “Today” show.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Casey

    Im surprised that you didnt mention Alopecia Areata and it's various forms... losing hair in clumps is a big indicator of this and its probably more common than a thyroid disorder

    December 3, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lance corporal

      it was in the first issue

      December 3, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse |
  2. Praveen

    Hello

    December 3, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jimmy Rigsby

    Whatever you do ladies, you'd better do it fast. Winter is on the way.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sag coopersmith

    Here's something older women should know...it is ok to use Men's Rogaine if you are no where near child birthing years. My own doctor said that it is ok and I use the foam version. It HAS made a difference and it is worth the $. You have to keep it up, however, if you stop, the thinning is as bad as ever if not worse.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Health Professional

      It can also cause facial hair growth in women, regardless of age.

      December 3, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  5. Beth Aldridge

    'Thin' hair and Alopecia are two very different things. However, both can be caused by severe or prolonged illness; medications used for treatment of these illnesses should be scrutinized...severe asthmatics (as myself) are routinely given prednisone as part of treatment – especially during transition weather. While it works, prolonged use of prednisone is extremely detrimental on all of the body's organs and progressively weakens the immune system. I was able to stop the regular use of prednisone through diet change, vitamin and herbal supplements, and the daily use of Symbicort or Advair (fairly expensive with insurance – highly expensive without!).

    Alopecia comes in many forms; I have transitioned to all of them. Alopecia Areata = patches of hair loss on the scalp; they can range from small, quarter sized to large palm size. They can grow back on their own (Rogaine does have some success) and sometimes the need for scalp injections is necessary – highly effective, somewhat painful, and NOT a long term solution as the scalp does stop responding after awhile (I know first hand). Alopecia Totalis = total loss of hair on the scalp; while the body and face retain hair folicles, the scalp does not. A 50/50 chance of regrowth is all that is expected and Rogaine will NOT work. Alopecia Universalis = total body hair loss; no scalp hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows, no leg, arm hair, no pubic hair, no nose hair – NO HAIR – Period. After experiencing all forms of Alopecia, I now have lived with Universalis for 3 years. There are many millions out there just like me; some have had Universalis 90% of their lives; it is an equal opportunity disorder – men, women, children, blacks, whites, etc.

    Psychologically and emotionally devastating...as it is an auto-immune disease, the uninformed public assume we all have AIDS – or Cancer. The less-than-sensitive ask how long I have to live, (this, by the way, is an insensitive question on ANY level), or tell me I should wear a hat, or assume they are making me feel better by saying, "But you're still beautiful INSIDE" – or, "It's ONLY hair"! My own mother & mother-in-law have pronounced their extreme discomfort in the form of, "It really is difficult to look at you". Yeah? Try BEING me!! Are there cranial prosthetics (wigs)? Of course, but they are hot, itchy, uncomfortable, and expensive!! Not to mention the self-conscious factor.

    OK, I'll climb down off my soapbox now...

    December 3, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn

      Thanks for your informative post – I don't think you were "soapboxing" at all. Sorry you have to live in such an unsympathetic world.

      December 3, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
    • Sachiko

      Beth, I actually gained more knowledge reading your response, than the article!
      Thanks for sharing!

      December 4, 2010 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • Rexa

      One of the number one factors is depression as well. Most of the time it's hereditary and you'd have to trace your roots (no pun intended) to other family members who've had some form of it but depression and/or stress aggravates it. Something to think about.

      December 5, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
  6. Jane

    Go to the HLN Helmet Hair Store!!

    You too can look like me and Nancy............

    If you order RIGHT now we will throw in an extra "Helmet Hair Wig" for FREE!

    Operators standing by now.....BUY NOW!!!

    It makes a great X-Mas gift!!!!

    CALL NOW ....1-800-HEL-METT

    alcohol not included.....................*Wink*

    December 3, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Don't Forget Lupus

    Hair loss may also be associated with Lupus and 1/3 of people have this symptom at the time of diagnosis. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system and/or other organs /sytsems of the body. The cause is unknown. To learn more visit http://www.lupus.org – the website of the Lupus Foundation of America.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. why not

    I actually tried Ovation Cell therapy and it worked! I do not work for the company and I do not get paid anything for singing its praises. I did not say anything to my stylist about using it and one day she said "do you know you have new hair growth all over your head?" Now she is recommending it to all of her clients with thinning hair.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • German

      (Health and Beauty) I am using rogaine for 5 days, since third day of using I have bad hehcadae and I have high arterial pressure after starting rogaine, before I have never had such a problems, so I stopped using rogaine! Be careful, not everyone can use this product without any damage for their health!

      June 30, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse |
  9. Mary Menet

    My hair started shedding due to a perscription I was taking and my doctor suggested Selenium supplements. I've had no further issue since I began taking the supplements and my hair stylist even confirmed that my hair is again doing well.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Iron Celt

    I lost most of my hair at age 40–and found out it was because I had WAY too much iron in my system. Hereditary hemochromatosis plus multivitamins with iron can kill you. Don't take extra iron unless you know your iron levels are actually low.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jean

      I recently discovered I had too much iron in my system due to supplements I was taking. Did your hair growth resume after your iron levels reduced?

      December 7, 2010 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  11. Ayurlady

    I hear what you are saying regarding Alopecia, losing hair etc. can have many causes. As women face many factors as mentioned above, including heredity, autoimmune, hormones etc. I have been using an all NATURAL product called Healthy Hair from a small company called ElanVeda. It actually has worked rather well for me, making hair healthier, and I have noticed less falling out in the shower or coming off in the brush.

    December 3, 2010 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mother

    On the new mother note: I experienced a lot of hairloss (in my opinion) 12 weeks after birth. And it wasn't just thinning, it was a patch of hair above my temple on both sides. It was more than I expected and I never seem to come across other who have experience the same. My mother has also experienced thinning so the issue has been something I have thought about before, for myself and the future.

    The article, and moreso the comment by Beth Aldridge, were very informative and gave me something to think about.

    December 3, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • newmomtoo

      I have had the same thing with both kids, now I have ridiculous patches of short hair at both corners of my hairline. My hair grew back somewhat after the first one, but it was never as full. After number two, it is even worse. My husband doesn't care, but I do.

      December 8, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
  13. Angelina

    Mine is hormonal because I am sensitive to testosterone. Or sometimes it can be because of lack of estrogen. There's a Dr. Redmond in NYC that helps women treat this. Try googling him, he may be of some help. He also has a good book out that discusses hormonal hair loss in women, it gives all the symptoms.

    December 3, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Karen

    Having been there, I will say: being a female who is losing her hair is DEVASTATING. It often hits when you look your best in every way and are in the middle of real career growth. It takes money and time to try to find the cause and can be frustrating and depressing. But, there are basics everyone who's been there would agree on: Start with a dermatologist for a good look at your scalp. Then, see an endocrinologist to determine if you have a thryroid problem or another type of hormonal imbalance. If skin and hormone problems are ruled out, you either are dealing with the effects of heavy emotional stress on your body, or, genetics. The dermatologist is not going to be able to say if its one or the other. But, you should have some idea if you've been though something emotionally wrenching that could have "kicked off" the hair loss. If this is from an emotional assualt, it may reverse itself (this was my situation...after nearly ten years, I have a full thick head of hair again). Either way, you need to concentrate on good nutrition and good care of your emotional well-being. Find a good wig shop. Try on some wigs and hair peices of good quality and choose something you're comfortable with (a color, style, and consistency closest to your normal head of hair is usually the best choice). Actresses wear these in roles all the time and you can't even tell. So, why shouldn't you benefit from the same items? You don't have to be polite to rude people and morons. This is YOU. If some female coworker she-devil asks you if she can feel your wig, the answer is "No". If she asks why you wear a wig, the answer is: "And, you need to know....why?" or, "Because I choose to". Hair loss is frightening (how bad will this get? and can I get the help I need before it gets that bad?), embarassing (are they staring at the top of my head?) , hurtful (heartless verbal jabs from certain femaile coworkers), painful (sometimes the scalp can get very tender), and expensive. The expensive part can be controlled by doing research. Go to http://www.naaf.org for information on alopecia (hair loss) in women. Areata is patches. Diffusa is diffuse, all over thinning. You will see you are far from alone and that there are many products to choose from. Do your homework. See the doctors, try on some wigs. Forget to be shy. No time for that. This is a journey. This journey may end with your hair filliing back in. But, either way, YOU control the quality of the journey so do your best to be good to yourself. You did nothing wrong. S**t happens...that's all. And, please note: Men are much more understanding about a woman wearing a hairpeice or wig that you would ever believe. Just tell him what my friend used to say: "Sometimes I go through period where my hair is thin. When that happens, I wear a hairpiece". He didn't care. He married her and they had two lovely daughters and when I met her the girls were teens and they were still a happy family. MY STORY: Boss turned into a drunk, mother dying, and a divorce all at once. Hair loss started and I was diagnosed with Telegen Effluvium (hairloss from an emotional onslaught). When the problem continued on, I got a new diagnosis of Alopecia Areata and when the thinning had progressed throughout my head in a diffuse manner it was Alopecia Areata DIffusa. In the end, of course, it was Telegen Effluvium.....but, it took TEN years for my hair to say "Ok....I give in....I'll grow for you". So....you never know.....

    December 3, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Hebba

    The question is WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT. In other words, I am in a stressful situation and I want to go through it with hair on my head, what to do.......

    December 6, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kate

    I had thinning hair and eventually it started falling out! I found this YuccaMax Shampoo on a website * I think the website was http://www.hair-tek.com * idk But this shampoo works good. Been using it about 2 months so far and it appears as though my hair has started to re-grow. I like this stuff

    March 23, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply

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