Andrew Messenger, a consultant dermatologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, discussed hair loss in women last September with Dr Mark Porter for the BBC Radio 4 health series ‘Case Notes’. He said that Minoxidil is the first treatment to try if a woman’s hair loss is not a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Dr Porter points out that at least one in 20 women will experience significant hair loss by their late 40s, rising to one in three by the age of 70.
Messenger is leading a team that’s investigating the genetics of female (genetic) pattern hair loss. He says that while the pattern of this condition has some differences from genetic male pattern baldness, and it is less severe than it is for men, it is still a “fairly frequent occurrence”.
Whereas the pattern for men is the receding hairline, the expanding crown, women tend to show a “more diffuse pattern where there’s a reduction in hair density across the scalp”. Messenger explains that while this reduction tends to be most pronounced on the top and front of scalp, it’s not unusual to see all parts of the scalp, including the back, which is usually spared in men. “And also women tend to retain their frontal hair line, so they don’t show the recession that you commonly associate with male balding”
The hair loss can develop in females at any age following puberty. Messenger says that he frequently sees women in their teens and in their 20s. Most women will begin to experience hair loss at some point between 30 and 50.
Dr Porter asked Messenger what he should do if a patient complains of hair loss and he wants to rule out any underlying condition before diagnosing female pattern hair loss. Messenger says that while the shedding is often thought to be as a result of a thyroid condition, in reality, it is not that common. He would advise checking also for increased levels of testosterone (facial hair, irregular menstruation).
Assuming that there is no underlying medical condition, Messenger says that the first thing he would advise for the patient is to try a course of Minoxidil, the only licensed product for female hair loss (which can be used by men also, along with Propecia). He says that success rates vary depending on the severity of the hair loss and that the earlier a person starts treatment, the more effective the medication: “If you have very early hair loss then the results can be quite good and it may be possible to get back to almost normal hair density”.
Messenger says that while they don’t fully understand the process behind Minoxidil, there is some evidence that it works by opening up the potassium channels in cell membranes.
Here at the Belgravia Centre, we have been successfully treating clients for over thirty years using combination products as part of an individualised treatment programme. If you are experiencing hair loss or hair thinning, please call on 020 7730 6666, or message the clinic, to arrange a free consultation with one of our experts. Alternatively you can complete the online diagnostic form and a treatment advisor will be in touch.