Q. I’m a 62-year-old woman, and the part in my hair seems to be widening. Am I going bald?
A. As your question indicates, it’s not always men who worry about balding. Millions of women experience female pattern hair loss (FPHL), or alopecia, as they age.
Hair loss can begin any time after puberty but prevalence increases with age. FPHL is hereditary and thought to result from hormonal shifts that occur during and after menopause. Women tend to experience thinning mostly on the top of the head and crown (the upper back of the head) and possibly the temples. Their frontal hairlines tend to be unaffected, and women rarely go almost or completely bald, as do many men.
A dermatologist, after ruling out medical reasons for hair loss, may suggest the over-the-counter topical medication minoxidil (Rogaine) in the 2 percent concentration. Currently, it’s the only FPHL treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Applied daily to the scalp when your hair is dry, minoxidil usually slows or stops hair loss and may actually regrow hair in 20 percent to 25 percent of women. However, it can take up to a year to see results, and if you discontinue using it, you’ll lose the hair you grew within about three to four months.
If minoxidil doesn’t achieve the desired result, a dermatologist may prescribe another drug, such as spironolactone. Some women may be candidates for a hair transplant. You can also try hair-loss shampoos. Although these products don’t promote hair growth, they can help hair retain moisture, which gives the appearance of thicker hair, and reduce breakage.