Losing any of your luxurious mane is a drag whatever your gender. So is investing cash in possibly phony remedies -- a whole industry feeds on hair loss anxieties.
Wise people will check to make sure their thinning tresses aren't due to thyroid dysfunction (be warned that doctors and naturopaths have different takes on thyroid health), or a protein, biotin (brown rice, lentils, oats, soybeans), essential fatty acid or zinc deficiency.
A viral, fungal or protozoan infection may also be at the problem's root. If you're taking any kind of prescription medicine, check with your doctor; many drugs besides chemotherapy agents can affect your locks, including hormone therapies.
People with alopecia areata end up with patchy or total hair loss because their immune system shuts down the hair follicles. But most thinning is a consequence of male pattern baldness, which affects both men and women. It occurs because follicles are genetically programmed to become dormant in the presence of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). There are drugs that slow DHT's ravages, but they can have nasty side effects and their long-term safety is unknown. While costly, transplants do work.
Holistic suggestions include drinking stinging nettle tea or a mix of marshmallow and burdock, B vitamins (especially B6 and B3), vitamin C, shampooing with horsetail, massaging the scalp with oil of arnica, marigold, thyme, rosemary or southernwood. Just know that no herbs have been thoroughly tested for their effectiveness in combatting hair loss. So buy wisely.
And baldness, which accentuates the eyes and facial features, can be sexy -- that's what shaved heads are all about.
what the experts say
"You have to look at the possibility of hypothyroidism, then diet, then the endocrine system. Stress affects the adrenal and thyroid glands, which affect the sex hormones. And imbalance in the sex hormones causes hair loss. We might use herbs that stimulate circulation to the head, possibly cayenne, prickly ash, maybe vitamin E to generally improve blood vessels. Rosemary is a stimulant and traditional for hair growth. Scalp massage is good; so is brushing the head two or three times a day for a total of 15 minutes to stimulate circulation and hair growth."
SUSAN EAGLES, medical herbalist, based in Dunsford, Ontario
"Alopecia areata is a condition in which hair can regrow spontaneously anytime. You can put salt water on it and make claims that it helps. The only product I know that may have an effect is saw palmetto, because it does have an effect on DHT, but it may have an anti-androgenic effect that may potentially cause sexual dysfunction. Saw palmetto is taken internally. If it's just applied topically, I have not seen much to support it. Only three things have had any good scientific scrutiny: the drugs Minoxidil and Propecia, and electrotrichogenesis. The last is like a hair dryer device that puts an electrostatic field around the scalp; there is data to show that electrical energy has an effect on biological processes. There are many products being looked at, but a magic bullet has not been found. You have to know what you're dealing with before you start spending a lot of money."
JASON RIVERS, MD, professor of dermatology, University of British Columbia
"The first thing we have to do is learn how to relax the skin with meditation. After that we learn a technique that physically pushes the skin away from the interior of the body, so the skin is no longer closing in on the body. Usually, after 8 weeks the pores start to open and hair starts growing. It costs $179.95 to learn the technique. Nobody needs herbs or supplements to grow hair; we have that power within our own bodies."
LOU GAUTHIER, Luftek Natural Hair Clinics
"Most people start losing hair at 18. The most commonly chosen treatment option is non-surgical hair replacement. We're talking about a super-thin membrane with hair inserted that is affixed to the scalp. Monthly maintenance costs $60, the hairpiece costs $800 to $1,800. If the products for hair loss out there were good, we wouldn't be doing transplants and hair pieces any more."
LARRY VASILIADIS, hair technician