Women's Rogaine

Women's hair loss seems to be a taboo subject. About six months ago I noticed a very tiny (invisible to the human eye, according to my husband) amount of receding at the temples (mine, not his). Being a hypochondriac, I immediately went to the dermatologist just to make absolutely sure that I hadn't been inadvertently exposed to radiation.

It was almost worse. I listened glumly as he patiently explained that an 80 year old woman doesn't have the same hair as a 17 year-old and because you don't wake up one day at the age of 79 with about-to-be-80-year-old-hair there must naturally be gradual process of aging and thinning. Great. Wrinkles, cellulite, and now hair loss.I should be grateful that I haven't yet gone grey.

Turns out that a person aged 20–30 years typically has 615 hair follicles per square centimetre. The number falls to 485 by 50 years of age and to 435 at 80–90 years of age. Also, each hair becomes thinner. Statistically then, I'm probably around the 450 mark.

Pick up a bottle of Rogaine and all will be well after about three months, the dermo said cheerfully. He added that there was no point getting the women's version with only 2% of the formulation but to get the 'for men only' 5% version.

There is some useful background information at ForHair.com that concurs with this advice. The 5% version isn't FDA approved for women yet, so not only do you have to go through the ignominy of buying the stuff in the first place, you risk that the person in Duane Reade won't believe you when you insist that you are buying it for your husband.

ForHair also says that you might get a red, itchy scalp as a result of using the 5% formula. I did. I stopped using it after a couple of months and it took another two months for my scalp to get back to normal. Worse, the 5% formula can cause facial hairness in women (even though its only used on the head). Thankfully, this didn't happen to me but some 1 in 20 women have apparently woken up with a beard, according to a brilliant British website devoted to answering embarassing questions.

Then a friend of mine who recently suffered from thinning hair after having a baby said she tried Jan Marini's Age Intervention Hair Conditioner. Jan Marini's eyelash conditioner is one of those cult products that people really rave about. So I have decided to give the hair conditioner a try - which at $170 for a 4 oz spray is actually a commitment. I'll report back in a few weeks.

Crib Sheet:

  • We each have about 100,000 hairs on the scalp
  • It is normal to lose 50–100 hairs from the head each day
  • Each hair on the head grows for about 5 years before being shed
  • Eyebrow hairs grow for only 10 weeks
  • Scalp hair grows at a rate of about 1 cm (just under half an inch) a month
  • Each year, American men spend about $900 million on efforts to regrow hair
  • In the USA and UK, there has not been a bald President or Prime Minister since the television age began