Female Hairloss

Okay, a question on behalf of my mother. Not sure if this is the right forum, but nothing else seemed to fit…

Anyway, my mother recently discovered an area on the crown of her head that is entirely bald; it’s about the size of a coin. As she has black-as-night hair, and is even whiter than I am, this is rather noticeable.

So, of to her doctor she went, at my urging (she hates doctors!). Now, my mother lives in a small place, and her doctor is a general practicioner; he treats runny noses, broken arms, and now my mothers bald patch. He’s a good doctor, but not an expert on anything. On the up side, my mother is as healthy as a horse otherwise, and female baldness is apparatly not really linked with illness anyway (remember, she has the “small bald patch” variety, not the “hair coming out in clumps” variety).

When it came to treatment, however, things are bit more murky. It’s common knowledge you can’t treat baldness that’s already happened, so my mother, never one to shy away from a scandal, was all set to confiscate my fathers electric shaver and pull a Ripley. However, when it was pointed out to her that she’d have to shave twice a day, just like men do, to keep it looking neat, she gave up on that idea (she’s allergic to hair-removal creams).

Now, as things are, she says she can live with it. She’s never been a vain woman, and it’s not that noticeable untill you take a closer look, and those who are in a position to take a closer look she doesn’t mind seeing it. However, her doctor was unable to say if there is a risk of the bald area getting bigger; he says it is hormonal in nature, and as such not predictable. My mother, being a mature woman (she’s 58) has been taking female hormones since she went into meno-pause, and frankly intends to keep taking them till the day she dies. He says that it might help if she stopped, but she doesn’t want to. So, we are researching other options before deciding what to do.

Being a clever woman, my mother took a look at the precise brand she takes, Activelle (Reading from the contents, it’s Estradiol and Norethisteronacetat, whatever those are), and, lo and behold, one of the rare side-effects is hair-loss.

So, the actual questions: Does anyone have any experience with female hair-loss? What was the reason for it, if known, and how was it treated, if it was, and did it spread or remain localized?

And does anyone know of any female hormone type meds (for post-menopausal women) that do not have this side-effect?

To repeat: My mother is under the care of a doctor. I’m not looking for medical advice, but rather for others’ experience with this problem, and for more information and options she can discuss with her doctor.

Is that true? I thought Rogaine and such were to help regrow hair under some circumstances.

It’s available OTC, so it’s something she might take a look at.

My brother has had a bald spot since we were kids. Some people just seem to have them.

I agree, especially if it is hormonal. There is a special version of Rogaine or some other popular name, that is designed for women (as I understand it, you cannot treat female balding with the same drugs you use to treat males).

If that doesn’t work, there is a “hair crayon” that your mom can use to color in the bald spot so it won’t be so noticeable. I know this because a co-worker’s hairdresser forgot to change the blade on her clippers and gave my friend a half a mohawk. She crayoned in her hair until it came back. It looked pretty good.

If it’s a small, round spot, it could be alopecia areata. She may have other, smaller spots that she just hasn’t noticed yet. I’d recommend seeing a dermatologist about it to get a better diagnosis. Regular doctors tend to know jack squat about alopecia, in my experience. I say that as someone who’s been dealing with it for the past 13 years or so. I don’t like to talk much about it here, but if you’d like to talk more about it, PM me. Best of luck to your mom! Hair loss is a pain in the butt.

If I recall correctly, Rogaine is more likely to work on women than men. Also, women do lose hair in less of a pattern and more randomly. (I swear my mental notes say Rogaine is the same drug for men and women…something like ‘‘finesteride’’).

Further, the back/crown of the head is the area where the drugs can really work. While growing fuzzy hair is a medium to longshot, preserving the hair back there is the real goal with hair loss treatments.

The front hairline usually doesn’t respond as well, if at all, to treatment.

There are “female” and “male” Rogaine products. I guess the ingredients are the same but the dosage may be different, though I couldn’t find any details on that.

Propecia is the product that is for men only. I get the part about birth defects and pregnant women, but I couldn’t find out why women can’t take it.


You can get it in a kit that comes with shampoo, conditioner and a foam that you comb into the areas that need extra.

Spironolactone, an anti-androgen medicine, can be used to combat hair loss in women as well. You might want to investigate if that would be appropriate for your mom. Good luck with this.

Good to know that sort of thing works better in real life than it does in Calvin and Hobbes

I wish I didn’t know anything about this, but…

Rogaine (and the generic minoxidil, which is available in store brands at a significant cost savings) comes in two strengths, 2% and 5%. The 2% strength is the only one recommended for use by women - the stronger stuff doesn’t seem to be more effective, and is apparently more likely to cause dark facial hair and other side effects.

Finesteride is sold under the brand name Propecia and isn’t supposed to be used by women at all. Pregnant women shouldn’t even touch it.

I can’t vouch for whether minoxidil works, but I’ve been trying it myself for a couple of months. (I have a small “V” at the front and center of my hairline where the hair is noticeably thinner.) It takes about six months of twice-daily use to see any results, if results are going to actually happen. Ask me in March, I guess.

As an aside, female baldness is a normal variant in humans. The genes for baldness do act differently in males and females; there are many more balding females than most of us suspect. I expect that females tend to be better at using various forms of disguise to conceal baldness; unlike men who may find their baldness more acceptable.
Think I’ll go polish my dome…

It’s absolutely untrue that nothing can be done. Please have your mom see a dermatologist. There are tests and medications for almost any hairloss problem, especially the spotty kind- for one thing, steroid injections directly into the scalp can and often do make the hair regrow.

Thanks for all yout replies so far, it really is a big help. My mom is going to make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible (that being defined by wether or not one is actually in existense within several hours of travel.)

I exaggerated the half a mohawk part but she did shave a clipper’s width over her ear. The top hair was longer and she was able to do a modified comb-over on that spot. She was sick about it for 3 weeks.

There are, at this point, four basic approaches to treating hair loss:

Testosterone inhibition - this is the approach used by Propecia;

Enhanced circulation - this is what Rogaine does;

Hair follicle transplantation and

Prosthetics (Wigs and Hair pieces).

Women aren’t necessarily expected to benefit from DHT inhibition, as women, being women, aren’t usually in possession of that much in the way of serum testosterone. Women might, in some cases, benefit from Rogaine, but only to the extent that their problem is poor scalp circulation. Both sexes might benefit from HFT, but the problem there is the potential for problems with scarring and complications at both the donor and target follicle sites.