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The truth about hair loss in women

A local dermatologist says by the time a woman is 50, she has half of the hair on her head that she had when she was 15.

That means all women experience some form of hair loss or hair thinning, and some are speeding along the process.

“Chemicals can be very damaging to the hair, particularly if you're using chemicals or heat to straighten the hair,” said Dr. John Wolf, professor and chair of the  Department of Dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. “Hair is made out of protein, and so excessive heat or excessive physical injury to the hair will break the hairs so the hair may not be falling out from the roots but the hair can be breaking off.”
Wolf calls it hair loss trauma and says it's the second most common cause of hair loss.

“If you pull your hair back very tightly, braid the hair very tightly, that can cause hair loss, so what we do to our hair can be as damaging as things coming from inside of our body,” he said.

Inside genetics are more often times to blame, but he says it's wise to visit a doctor and eliminate a possible hormone imbalance as a reason for hair loss.

“If you have a thyroid deficiency, then you need to be treated for hypothyroidism, if you have testosterone excess then there are medications that can be used to push down the level of testosterone,” he said.

With underlying issues like that, Wolf said there's hope to reverse the problem with proper medication. For everything else, he recommends over the counter treatment that he says can stop the hair loss, even though you may not go back to normal hair growth. The ingredient you want to look for is minoxidil.  It's the active ingredient in Rogaine.

“If you catch a problem early enough you may be able to completely reverse it but if somebody has been damaging their hair for years, pulling their hair back for years, it's not likely that you're going to be able to regrow that hair,” Wolf said.

Recently, Rogaine created a line for women. It has 2 percent of the active ingredient, minoxidil, the men's has 5 percent of the same ingredient, but Wolf said some women who used the men's line reported growing facial hair.

Lastly, Wolf said women lose hair a few weeks to months after delivering a baby, but he says that hair almost always goes back to normal with time.