Everyone’s hair thins out to a degree as we age. We’re aging, and so is our hair. The number one complaint from second act women, after sagging skin, is thinning hair.
More than 20 million women in the United States alone suffer from some form of “female pattern baldness.” Consequently, a big question in my chair is, “How can I make my hair appear fuller?” It’s likely, if you want volume (or height), you are going to have to lift your arms above your shoulders and spend sometime creating it. Some time is not an hour. Some time is 15 to 20 minutes. When hair starts to thin, we often cannot rely on a good haircut alone. Hairdressers can’t just cut “height” in to your hair. To make thinning hair look thicker it takes us both working together.
The most common cause of thinning hair in women is hereditary hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia. In fact, 95 percent of all hair thinning in women can be put down to hereditary hair loss. Few women have heard about this condition and even fewer realize that this may be the cause of their hair loss.
The word ‘alopecia’ is used to describe types of significant hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia describes hair loss that is caused by androgens, which are hormones present in everyone, man or woman. Hormone changes affect many things, including hereditary hair loss. Specifically, it is your genetic sensitivity to the male hormone testosterone that is the key. The testosterone is converted to a more potent hormone called dihydrotestosterone, which causes sensitive hairs and follicles to become smaller.
Why Hair Thins Out
Normally, each of your hairs grows for two to seven years, takes a three-month “rest,” and then falls out to make room for new hair. But if you have a genetic predisposition to thinning locks, your hair follicles may become more sensitive to the male hormone testosterone sometime in your twenties or thirties, or even in your teens. (It’s not that you produce more testosterone than other women; the hormone just affects you differently.) Over time, your follicles shrink and can produce only finer, shorter, weaker hairs, or none at all. In some women, the process accelerates at menopause, when natural estrogen levels decline.
This is why you may notice short hairs that never seem to grow, particularly around the hairline and center part. You know the “little fuzzies” that you see at the top of your head. A reason why adding layers and texture helps create the illusion that those fuzzies are supposed to be there, rather than oddly shorter than the rest of the hair.
What Can Be Done for Thinning Hair?
The three common methods for treating hair loss are medical, surgical, and cosmetic. Medically, the topical drug minoxidil is used to stop hair follicles from shrinking in about 60 percent of the women who try rubbing it into their scalps twice a day. About two-thirds of those women will also see some regrowth within eight months, although the new hair is usually much finer than the old.
Medical therapy is more effective at stopping the progression of hair loss than regrowing already lost hair, but a lucky percentage of patients may see some significant regrowth. Minoxidil is available without a prescription, but you must use it continually for the rest of your life to maintain any new hair growth. Hair loss will begin again within a few months after minoxidil treatment is stopped. Some women find that the solution causes itching or headaches.
Minoxidil is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for female-pattern hair loss. Finasteride, a prescription pill that functions by moderating testosterone levels, seems to work only in men. It is not safe for women.
Hair restoration surgery is another option for women, although it works best if you happen to be thinning out primarily on top, as men do. A surgeon removes hair from a denser area on your head and transplants the follicles individually to wherever you need them most. Surgical treatment has progressed dramatically over the past 10 years, and now the most advanced surgical technique is follicular unit transplantation, which consists of replacing lost hair with microscopically obtained, tiny, natural-looking units of only one to three hairs each. It is so natural that, when done properly, even delicate areas such as eyebrows and eyelashes can be recreated. You can expect to pay between $4,000 and $30,000 over time.
Finally, cosmetic enhancement is the use of products such as thickener, concealer, and techniques that create the illusion that your hair is thicker than it actually is. As you read further you will discover the most effective cosmetic treatments available today.
Need volume? Here is what works.
o Back-combing: No, it doesn’t damage your hair. No, it won’t look like a beehive if you do it right. Learn how. It will always and forever give you control over that split in the crown.
o Styling products like mousse are often best applied just to the scalp and root area.
o Blow dry your hair in every direction with tension (pulling hair strongly away from the scalp with a brush or your fingers) with heat at the scalp, and voila, Volume! Bending “upside down” will help, but only if you also use tension with a brush or your fingers so the hair dries pulled 90 degrees from the scalp.
o Volumizing products do temporarily plump the hair shaft. You get more volume. More tangles, but more volume. They can also weigh certain fine hair types down.
o Velcro rollers: On dry hair: set, spray with hairspray, heat with the blow dryer, allow to cool. Poof! Volume. Back comb for more.
o Curlers: Rollers, magnetic rollers, rags, bendies, anything you wrap wet hair around and allow to form to that shape will add volume through wave or curl.
o Hot rollers: Always make sure the ends are neatly wrapped to avoid “fish hooks.”
o Curling iron: Start at the base of the hair, over direct up and away from the direction your are rolling for lift at the scalp, roll then up and close the clamp slightly to click the hair through, heat, release, allow to cool before styling.
o Round Brush utilizes the same concept as Velcro rollers. The more you heat and lift the hair at the scalp and allow to cool before removing the brush, the more volume created.
Creating Illusion Through Shadow
One of the simplest but least used techniques for creating the illusion you have thicker hair is to fill in the hairline or scalp area with scalp shader. Like brows with brow color and lashes with liner, your hair will look thicker when you conceal the scalp with color that matches your hair.
There are several scalp shaders on the market. My favorite is a product called Dermatch. Simply apply the shadow-like powder to thinning areas and voila – the illusion of thicker hair. This is particularly effective at hairline, temples, hair part, and that nasty split in the crown. Also great for men.