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Understanding the root of female hair loss

Losing your locks? Dr. Geoffrey Redmond, author of “The Hormonally Vulnerable Woman,” explains the hormonal causes of alopecia.
/ Source: TODAY

In “The Hormonally Vulnerable Woman,” Dr. Geoffrey Redmond states that a majority of the 42 million American women between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five suffer from vulnerability to their own hormones. Appearance, emotions — and even sex drive — may be affected. Symptoms include thinning hair, persistent acne, mood swings, low energy, loss of pleasure in sex, weight gain, irregular periods, and pain. Redmond explains that all too many women experience hormonal miseries even in their thirties. The author visited “Weekend Today” to discuss the causes of a sometimes embarrassing symptom — alopecia. Here's an excerpt:

Hormonal hair loss can be treated
The first question many women ask me is whether alopecia is treatable at all. Given how easy it is to become demoralized if you have alopecia, it is regrettable that so many women encounter negativity everywhere they turn for help. Doctors either are unfamiliar with it or declare it untreatable. The Internet contributes, too. Although chat rooms at their best are sources of support, some women become embittered at not finding help and post negative messages about every possible treatment, even those they have not tried. If you surf the net about hair, remember that those who find successful treatment usually find other ways to spend their time and so stop posting, leaving the disgruntled few to fill up cyberspace.

Treatments for hormonal hair loss
We’ve seen that her inherited response to two hormones, testosterone and estrogen, decide for a woman how full her hair will be. Treatment derives quite logically from knowledge of the effects of these two hormones. Basically, it involves thwarting the injurious action of testosterone and enhancing the nurturing properties of estrogen. The relative importance of each depends on the extent to which each hormone is contributing to the hair problem. (The sidebar on page 245 summarizes the clues that point to testosterone or to estrogen.)

Clues to hormonal causes of alopecia

Signs of Low Estrogen
Onset in late thirties or afterPerimenopausal symptoms, even quite mild ones, such as hot flashes or vaginal drynessBeing very slenderHigh level of aerobic exerciseLight periods (if not on birth control pills)Dry or delicate skinFine, dry hair

Signs of Testosterone Problems
Onset between teens and mid-thirtiesOily scalp, hair, and/or skinItchy scalpAcneIncreased facial and/or body hairBeing overweightPeriods that are irregular but often heavy

Excerpted from “The Hormonally Vulnerable Woman,” by Geoffrey Redmond. Copyright 2005, Geoffrey Redmond. All rights reserved. Published by No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.