The hair up there

By Gus Bode

Hair loss in women is not uncommon but there are treatments available.

It’s not just a man thing.

Nearly 33 million women – beginning in their early 20s – will experience some form of hair loss.


At the age of 21, Ari Smith of Carbondale, noticed a large round bald spot in the back of her head. Not knowing what caused it, she just shrugged it off and made sure she greased her scalp and tied it up at night.

With her hair not growing back, she needed answers. So she sought some. While seeking information about hair loss, she cut her chemically processed hair and let it grow back naturally.

As time passed, her hair did not grow back, so she went to the doctor and was told that she was suffering from a mild case of alopecia. More specifically, she had what is known as andogenetic alopecia.

“I would run my hands through my hair and would have a hand full of hair every time,” Smith said. “I thought something was wrong, but people were telling me it was from stress so I did not worry about it.”

Although Smith sought medical help, hair loss in women continues to be a taboo subject causing many to be reluctant to discuss hair thinning with family, friends and even doctors.

Types of Hair Loss

While temporary conditions such as pregnancy, medication, diet or stress can cause hair loss, almost 70 percent of women who suffer from the condition can attribute it to androgenetic alopecia.


This form of alopecia occurs over the entire top or crown of the scalp, leaving hair in the front of the scalp.

The second form of alopecia is arata and often occurs abruptly. Arata is an immune-system disorder, which causes hair follicles to stop producing hair. Typically, it can be recognized by patchy hair loss with some areas of thinning or complete baldness.

Telogen effluvium is a temporary condition, normally brought on by a “shock to the system” such as stress or illness, which results in excessive hair shedding.

Traumatic alopecia may be caused by the use of hair reshaping products – relaxers, straighteners or hot combs – or hair braiding. There are several types of traumatic alopecia.

Traction alopecia is caused by the persistent physical stress involved with tight rollers and tight braiding. This type first appears as severe thinning above the ears with marked recession of the hairline, and can occur as thinning at the forehead as well. Prolonged practice of these styling methods can result in irreversible hair loss.

Chemical alopecia is damage of the scalp and hair shaft caused by over-the-counter relaxer products. This form looks similar to hereditary hair thinning, but also includes scarring of the scalp.

Follicular degeneration syndrome is the excessive use of pomades with a hot comb or iron. The result is a fairly distinct appearance with scarring that begins in the crown and spreads symmetrically.

Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp. This is a form of patchy hair loss that occurs when the scalp is infected by a fungus called Trichophyton tonsurans. The scalp eventually becomes flakey or scaly.

All types of hair loss can be corrected if caught early in the process with several different methods.

Treatments for hair loss

Some forms of hair loss can be prevented or halted by minimizing stress, practicing good nutrition or changing hairdressing techniques.

The number one treatment sought is Rogaine. The drug is either a 2 percent or 5 percent minoxidil solution placed on the scalp to help make hair stronger, thicker and less likely to fall out.

Unfortunately, using Rogaine is a lifelong commitment to applying the solution twice a day. If dosage is decreased to once a day, the result will be hair loss or regression of treated area.

Hair loss steaming from a fungal infection can be prevented by making sure the hair is clean and never sharing hats, combs or brushes with others.

Fungal scalp infections can be treated with oral medication in conjunction with or without the use of a medicated shampoo.

To combat her hair loss, Smith was given medication cream and shampoo to use for up to 12 weeks.

“In order to get my hair to grow back I put a prescribed medication on my scalp just like I would regular hair grease,” Smith said.

Women who opt not to use the medications or undergo surgical replacement may choose to wear wigs or hair weaves.

According to a hair-weaving website, the most common forms used are synthetic wigs or weaving human hair onto the natural hair.

“I use to keep my hair braided, but in the end I realized that that was not helping my situation,” Smith said. ” I just decided to try different weaved hair styles in hopes that my hair would grow back soon.”

Braiding is a popular style, but can also contribute to breakage and lead to hair loss. When women opt to wear weaves, the cost can be high because the hair has to be retightened every few weeks.

“We see women who suffer from hair loss and they want styles that help their hair look fuller,” Dawn Pinkham, a hairstylist at J.C. Penney salon. “They want perms to help make their hair fuller, or we recommend products for them.”

Pinkham said that a perm is safe for women whose hair is thinning because in some cases it makes the hair fuller. She said that as long as the hair is not damaged or bleached it is safe.

Smith has since relaxed her hair, but still has bald spots every now and then. She continues to use the cream on her scalp, and may have to for the rest of her life.

“Female hair loss has been taboo for a while and until women accept it and men don’t make a big deal about it, people still will not discuss it openly,” Smith said.

Reporter Samantha Robinson can be reached at