Hair loss can be devastating. It is common in women as it is in men, contrary to the popular belief. While most men receive support from the society when they are suffering from hair loss, it is not very easy for women.
Medicine also does not seem to always support balding women. Hair loss is often seen as not life-threatening and losing one’s full head is not always a top priority for medicine. Fortunately, in the recent years, treatments in hair loss are advancing. Medicine is not as reluctant to work more on the subject as in the past.
Diagnosing the causes of hair loss in women is more difficult than it is in men. Doctors can prefer the use of topical treatments on the scalp rather than prescribing a medication. And yet, prolonging the Androgenic Alopecia can cause severe effects, and permanent hair loss.
The US organization Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart in the UK, The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) only approve Minoxidil for the treatment of hair loss in women.
Below we list other medications that are used in the treatment of female pattern hair loss. Not all of them are approved by the drug institutions.
Initially, Minoxidil was developed to treat high blood pressure. However, researchers realized with time that it had a side effect. A good side effect. Those who were using Minoxidil for their high blood pressure, observed hair growth on their bodies. After this discovery, the doctors started to use Minoxidil in treating hair loss.
Minoxidil is more effective in treating hair loss in women than in men. Female patients who have Androgenetic Alopecia can use Minoxidil.
There are currently two concentrations of Minoxidil available: the 2% concentration and the 5% concentration. FDA approved only the use of the 2% concentration of Minoxidil for female hair loss treatments. The 5% concentration may be more effective but it has not been approved yet.
Always seek medical advice before you use Minoxidil or any other treatment for your hair loss, and have your treatment under a doctor’s statement/guidance. Some treatments are more effective than others, and the results can vary from person to person. Minoxidil may not be suitable for your hair loss, or may not work well in your case.
For the following medications in the list, do not forget to ask your doctor for their advice:
Aldactone (Spironolactone) is a drug designed to prevent our bodies from absorbing too much salt. It also prevents the level of potassium from getting too low. Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates the water and the salt balance. Aldactone is used if we have too much Aldosterone. It is an anti-androgen.
In the cases where the female patient has excess androgen, and Minoxidil is not entirely effective, some doctors prescribe Aldactone (Spironolactone). Some studies suggest Aldactone can help in this case. And yet, there are different side effects of Aldactone, and it is best to consult with your doctor. Women who are pregnant, or who are trying to conceive should not take Aldactone.
Tagamet (Cimetidine) is designed to treat stomach and intestine ulcers. It decreases the stomach acid, and helps heal the ulcer. Tagamet (Cimetidine) is an anti-androgenic effect medication at the same time.
Even though, traditionally Tagamet eases heartburn, because dihydrotestosterone can be the reason behind hair loss, Tagamet can also block androgen, and stop dihydrotestosterone from shrinking the hair follicles. Some studies in the past showed a relation between the use of Tagament, and stopping of hair loss.
There is a condition of excess facial hair growth in women, which goes by the name Hirsuitism. Some physicians prescribe Tagamet to treat Hirsuitism. It can only be effective under your doctor’s supervision. It can cause some side effects, and men should not use Tagamet because it can cause sexual effects in men.
Cyproterone Acetate is an anti-androgen. It is used to treat Hirsuitism, to reduce sex drive in men, stop prostate cancer and so on. It is available in Europe but not in the US.
Some doctors prescribe Cyproterone Acetate to treat hair loss in women. It reduces testosterone, and therefore, the effects of dihydrotestosterone on hair follicles. There are some risks in using Cyproterone Acetate, and people with certain conditions such as liver disease should not use it.
Estrogen, Progestine, Progesterone (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Estrogen and progestin are female sex hormones. Hormone Replacement Therapy is often effective in menopause via pills or creams. Estrogen prevents osteoporosis, and progestin reduces the risk of uterine cancer.
The Hormone Replacement Therapy is sometimes effective in treating Androgenetic Alopecia. This is due to the prevention of dihydrotestosterone. The Hormone Replacement Therapy can regulate the hair loss and the hormones, however, consult with your doctor about the effectiveness of this therapy.
Oral contraceptives or birth control pills can reduce or increase hair loss. Anti-androgen or low androgen pills can treat hair loss whereas, contraceptives high in androgen can cause hair loss.
Even if you are using contraceptives to treat your hair loss or prevent conceiving, you should take some cautions – often the same cautions. Women have a higher risk of developing blood clots when they are on the pill. If you smoke, mention this to your doctor because smoking and contraceptive pill together can cause more blood clots to occur.
Consult with your doctor about your options for using oral contraceptives in your hair loss treatment. There are different pills with different formulas, and your doctor can decide which suits you best. Do not start taking them without your doctor’s advice.
Nizoral (Ketoconazole) is a shampoo which functions as an antifungal. It treats fungi, yeasts, dandruff, and seborrheic dermatitis. Nizoral has anti androgenic effects too. It prevents testosterone from attacking the hair follicles by reducing it, and can help treat hair loss.
There are two forms of Nizoral; one form with 2% Ketoconazole and the other form %1 Ketoconazole. The 2% form can be effective in treating hair loss with no major side effects.
Finasteride was designed to treat prostate. After the researchers discovered that it inhibits the effects of 5-alpha reductase enzymes which kill the hair follicles, it entered the market as a hair loss treatment drug. The FDA approved it.
It is very effective in treating and stopping hair loss in men – prevents it and promotes hair growth. It also works ins some women. It is not suitable for pregnant women or those who want to conceive while on the drug.
In men, it can cause some side effects related to sex, libido problems and erectile function issues whereas in women no sexual side effects occur.
Cyproterone Acetate with Ethinyl-oestradiol
Diane 35 or Diane 50 or Dianette is a contraceptive tablet is prescribed in Europe. It is not solely used for contraception.
Doctors in Europe prescribe them for women’s acne and androgenetic alopecia. They contain cyproterone acetate and ethinylestradiol and go by the name co-cyprindiol. This combination is an anti-androgen. Co-cyprindiol stops the sebaceous glands from producing too much sebum and prevents the harmful actions of the androgen.
For all the treatments and medications listed here, including the approved ones, please consult with your doctor first, and remember that your treatment depends on your hair loss type, and it should be suitable to your diagnosis.
Please keep in mind that not all medications are available everywhere, nor they are suitable for everyone. Everyone is different, and even though there are hair loss patterns, what works best for someone, may not work best for you, and vice versa. Also, there is a difference between the side effects, and uses of hair loss medications in men and women.