I can't pretend it isn't happening anymore
The day before my 34th birthday, my husband was standing behind me and asked me if my hair was thinning. I couldn't pretend I was just imagining it anymore.
My maternal grandmother is bald. When I was a child, I remember she wore a tiny hairpiece that scared the bejesus out of me when I saw once it on her bathroom counter. She now wears a full wig. Her oldest daughter (my motherís older sister), is balding. My aunt does nothing to hide it (vanity is a sin - I'm not kidding, she believes that), and it's so sad and just sickly looking. My motherís hair was perfectly fine until she came down with cancer. She finished her chemo treatments last year, but it has yet to recover. She took to wearing different colorful scarfs on her head, and she loves that each day she has a "new" head.
I made an appointment with my doctor. She let me know that this is a known possible side effect of my antidepressant, but then had my thyroid checked (it came back normal). She suggested trying the Nioxin line of shampoos and conditioners and seeing a dermatologist.
The dermatologist did some blood work and took two biopsies of my scalp. The blood work showed that Iím anemic, so now I'm on an iron supplement.
The results of biopsy came back and this is what it said:
Nonscarring alopecia within the spectrum of findings present in androgenetic alopecia. Telogen count of about 14% is not diagnostic by itself; however, may represent a component of chronic telogen effluvium.The dermatologist told me it looked like it was heredity, and other than Rogaine there was nothing I could do. I went home, crawled into bed, and didnít want to come out. My husband tried to get me up, but I wouldnít budge for a whole day. I felt so defeated... I'm starting to feel better now, but each time I think about the inevitable it tries to drag me down again.
There is no need to feel defeated. It is treatable and Rogaine does work. In some ways Rogaine works better for women than it does for men. I grew a lot of hair back with Rogaine. There are other medications that can help you as well. Seek out a doctor who specializes in treating hair loss and ask the doctor if Spironolactone might be appropriate for treating your hair loss. Spiro can not only arrest hereditary hair loss in women, but it also allows you to use the stronger 5% version of Rogaine without worry of facial hair as a possible side effect.
Originally Posted by Friend
If you are in the US, you can also use Nizoral A-D shampoo in place of your regular shampoo once or twice a week. The active ingredient in Nizoral is Ketoconazole, which can also arrest hereditary hair loss in women.
Hereditary hair loss sucks. Trust me, I've been treating mine for over four years now, but it is treatable. I had lost a lot of hair before learning how to treat it. I've grown a lot back since learning how to treat it. Keep your chin up and if you have questions feel free to ask.
Don't be afraid of Rogaine. It does work and if you have hereditary hair loss you need it. Just don't start off right away with the full dose every day. Taper up slowly over time. A good starting regimen is to use the 2% women's Rogaine once a day every other day for the first bottle. Then once a day every day for the next two bottles. Then work up from there in a similar fashion. It may sound like a lot but it really isn't. Again, feel free to ask.
Here is a link to the AHLA's page on women's hair loss. It's good information that can help you so please read it.
Tracy, thanks for taking the time to read all of that; your reply was a kindness.
I think I've noticed the hair loss for about ten years now. My first ďrealĒ job out of college was very demanding. I remember my stylist telling me to get out of there, as too much of my hair was coming out when she washed it. We attributed that loss to the current stress levels I was under. However, after finding a new job in my mid-twenties my hair still was never as thick as it was before.
This feeling of defeat mostly comes from how scared I am that my denial caused me to wait too long to address this. That I did this to myself, if that makes any sense.
The dermatologist told me to start with the "more effective" men's Rogaine; however, if I noticed any facial hair to switch to the lower dosage version for women. I'll ask about the Spironolactone, but I think I'm going to find a new dermatologist/hair specialist. I asked her if there was anything else I could do... She said if it was "bad enough" later, then hair transplant surgery might be an option. I'm upset, and perhaps I'm assigning blame or in denial again, but I want to find someone more encouraging.
Anyway, I bought the men's foam. I've been using it twice a day for about two weeks now; I'm not wild about it. It feels like bad product, the texture of my hair near the roots is gritty. I foolishly bought a three month supply pack without trying it out first. Would it be even be worth it to go back to the women's version and start tapering up?
Yes, I'm in the US, so I'll ask about the Nizoral. CVS says that a prescription is required, but Walgreens has an over-the-counter version. Google came back with conflicting reviews on which works better, and even if they were any different. Thoughts?
I'm also going to ask if switching to a different form of birth control would help. Iíve just read that I should only use low-androgen index birth control pills, and from that website it seems that my NuvaRing isn't one of them. I really wished my gynecologist had asked about any history of hair loss in my family. I'll check the pamphlet that came with my prescription, but I'm pretty sure it never mentioned a side effect of hair loss either (I would have remembered that).
I know I have to keep trying, and that giving in to curling up in a ball is a slippery slope for me. I'm not in favor of letting my depression control me again with its lies, especially since there may be something I could do about it. I shouldnít take one doctorís say so, not this early on.
I'll try to address your questions as best I can. So this post may be longer than you would like, but there is a lot to say.
Most dermatologist will recommend the 5% strength men's version of Rogaine, even for women. So that's not out of the ordinary. Since you have already started with the Men's Rogaine foam, it would be best for you to stick with it. The reason for tapering up slowly is to avoid or reduce the impact of the shed associated with treating hereditary hair loss and to allow your body time to acclimate to the medicine. Since you have already been using it for two weeks it might be too late for you to avoid that. The shed may not happen though, but it usually does. Do your best not to stress out over it. This is a very hard thing to do but you need to try your very best. I made it through it, other women have made it through it, you can make it through it too.
If you apply the foam while your hair is towel dry damp, it makes it undetectable and you won't know you have it on your scalp. Make sure you are getting the medicine down to your scalp. This can be hard but you will get the hang of it.
To save money, I use the foam in the morning because it is undetectable and the generic liquid Minoxidil for my evening dose. Sometimes I miss doses but since I am also on Spiro it's not a big deal if I miss a dose.
Nizoral is available in two strengths. The 2% strength is by prescription only. The 1% strength (Nizoral A-D) is available without a prescription. I use the 1% version once or twice a week. Usually on Wednesday and/or Saturday. Nizoral is not a "stand alone" treatment. It is an adjunct treatment for stand alone treatments such as Rogaine and Spiro. I would recommend getting just the 1% Nizoral A-D version and use it just once a week. After a while you can start using it twice a week if you want to, but don't ever use it more often than than twice a week.
It would also be a good idea at this time to switch your regular shampoo and condition out for sulfate free shampoo and conditioner. You will likely be washing your hair more often than you are used to now, so you need a very gentle shampoo and conditioner. Sulfate free shampoos and conditioners are better for your hair anyways and you will likely notice a positive difference in the quality of your hair pretty soon after switching. I like Aveeno's sulfate free shampoo and conditioner but you can use whatever you prefer.
Yes, you want to switch your birth control. Make sure your doctor is aware that you have hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). Birth control is well known for causing hair loss even for women who have not inherited hair loss. I don't use birth control at all and I never have. However women's hereditary hair loss runs very strong in my family.
I was about your age when I realized that I had the problem. It took me ten years to learn that it is treatable. Now that I know it is treatable and I have successfully treated mine, I am here to help other women learn what to do.
One more thing I want to mention is the laser comb. When I first started treating my hair loss, I started with the laser comb on the recommendation of my primary care physician. The device is very expensive but it did help me. My hair improved at lot but I am not sure if it made any hair grow back. The regrowth happened when I started using Rogaine. Using my laser comb helps improve the hair that grows back from using Rogaine as well as over all improvement of the quality of my hair.
The last thing I want to tell you about it concealers. There is no shame in using a good quality concealer. I use Dermmatch myself and it is amazing stuff. Even though I have grown a lot of hair back and had transplant surgery to fill in stubborn areas that wouldn't fill back in, I still have a thin area on the top left side of my head. Dermmatch conceals that area so perfectly that no can tell it isn't the same density as the rest of my hair. Like any other makeup it takes some practice to get it right, but when you do it is amazing.
Sorry this post was so long. I do hope it helps you.
I've made an appointment with another dermatologist, and I'm compiling a list of questions to ask. A lot of my questions so far have come from your post, so thank you.
It also turns out that my insurance doesn't cover any doctors designated as hair specialists. How they are that different from dermatologists is honestly beyond me, since I'm going there for the exact same purpose. But, I won't let that upset me yet since this is something I can control.*
* My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans, so I've added a "hair fund" to our budget to cover those expenses. I'm sure that by the time (if) I need anything expensive like hair transplant surgery, I'll be ready.
If I do start to shed, how much is that usually and how long does it last? I haven't noticed any shedding yet... well, I haven't any more shedding than usual, and the last few years that been significant. If I do shed, then is that a sign that the Rogaine is (technically, will be) working?
Yes, shedding is an indication that the medicine is working. It is an ironic reality that anything and everything you can do to treat hereditary hair loss has a period of shedding associated with it. Some people do not go through a period of shedding but most do. The shedding is emotionally devastating but it is temporary. When your hair grows back it will be thicker than it was before treatment.
Originally Posted by Friend
Sadly, health insurance generally does not cover any of the cost associated with treating hair loss. Which is odd considering many will cover at least part of the cost of prosthetic hair for women. I don't get it but it is what it is.
Originally Posted by Friend
Hopefully after treating your hair loss for a year or so you will find that you won't need to consider hair transplant surgery.
It takes a painfully long time to treat hereditary hair loss - and there is no way to speed up the process. Give it a reasonable amount of time (about 18 months) before considering hair transplant surgery.
I do not believe I'm at that point yet, but if there is a great deal of shedding to come from the Rogaine then it might look like it, temporarily. However, realizing the (possible) expense involved means I need to plan ahead, regardless.
Originally Posted by Tracy C
Anyway, I have little way of knowing if I'm actually shedding, as I've never tracked this before. I feel like it is more sparse (especially on top), but I'm not seeing an increase of my hair falling out in the shower. I do realize it will take months to see if treating it is effective. It is odd that I was able to delude myself for so long, yet I'm incredibly impatient right now.
Do yourself a really big favor and don't start tracking it. Doing so will drive you all kinds of crazy.
Originally Posted by Friend
The best thing to do it to take good quality photos of your scalp every six months while you are treating your hair loss. If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to take your "before" photos. They should be of good quality and show the top of your head with your hair damp and parted in the middle. Repeat that every six months and you should see your part gradually become narrower in about 12 to 18 months. Then you will know it is working for you.
Yes for women it generally takes at least six to eight months before you will know if the medicine is working for you. This is mainly because we have longer hair that can easily hide regrowth as it is starting to happen. It takes much longer before you will know how well the medicine is working for you.
Originally Posted by Friend
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