March 1, 2012
LOS ANGELES (The New York Times News Service) -- Britney Spears has done it -- same as Demi Moore and Amber Rose.
Even the young star Willow Smith recently debuted a freshly shaved head.
But for most women in America, their hair is associated with their beauty. So if shaving their head is out of the question, having female-pattern baldness would likely be considered taboo.
"I think that in the male world, being bald is oftentimes not as big of a deal, but most women don't feel comfortable being bald," said Dr. Glynis Ablon, an assistant professor at UCLA and owner of Ablon Skin Institute in Manhattan Beach.
"I mean, unless you're this absolutely gorgeous woman who just has this perfect face and everything is perfect about you, women use their hair as a sign of their beauty."
One of those women is Stacy Cox, who began losing her hair when the stress of her divorce started taking a physical toll.
Cox never thought such a thing could happen to her -- after all, she was only in her 30s and was often praised for her beautiful hair. Not to mention she made a living as an aesthetician at her Studio City spa Pampered People and as an on-camera beauty consultant, regularly appearing on "Dr. Oz" and "The View," among other shows.
But as she learned, hair loss doesn't discriminate.
"It's a conversation, a dialogue that has to be brought up in social media," Cox said. "And the moment you do that, everyone starts shaking their head. It's like a sisterhood. Everyone is like, 'Yes, I'm having that problem,' 'I'm having that problem, too, what do you do?' It's a very bonding, unifying topic."
Women make up 40 percent of those that suffer hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association.
There are two main categories when it comes to hair loss, which is clinically known as alopecia.
Scarring alopecias -- which are much harder to treat and sometimes irreversible -- are generally caused by inflammation that results in the hair follicle being destroyed. Some causes of this include cutaneous lupus erythematosus (a form of lupus), chemicals or alopecia mucinosa, according to the American Skin Association.
Non-scarring alopecias are more common and include male and female pattern hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia), alopecia areata, and hair loss due to aging, hormones, stress or nutrition.
So the first thing Ablon does when a patient comes to her office is determine whether there could be an underlying condition causing the hair loss.
This is true for men and women, though the pattern in which they lose their hair is often different between the genders.
"Women tend to initially start off with a different pattern, definitely doesn't go across the board, but typically it's a little bit different pattern," Ablon said. "Men typically will start to lose that frontal hairline, where women will typically retain that frontal hairline and get thinning profusely on the top of the scalp, but it's not 100 percent."
In Cox's case, she began noticing chunks of hair falling out around the crown of her head when she took showers.
She began taking a variety of pills such as biotin supplements and horsetail extract, trying to curtail the problem. And then she found a pill that offered everything she was looking for in a single form.
Viviscal is an all-natural supplement with ingredients such as AminoMar C Marine Complex that is proprietary to the company, horsetail extract, vitamin C and other antioxidants and proteins that help strengthen hair and support hair growth.
Using the supplement, her hair grew back and she was so pleased with the results she continues taking it twice a day.
"As an aesthetician, I'm encouraging my clients to stay on the supplement because of so many, I'm finding, far-reaching benefits by taking all of the antioxidants and proteins involved in the ingredients," Cox said.
"My nails have never been longer, which for an aesthetician is terrible so I'm constantly getting manicures. My hair looks back to what I normally look like. And my skin looks great. And again, this is an all-natural product and that's really important."
Though the company conducted its own clinical trials to prove Viviscal's efficiency, Ablon wanted her own proof.
She brought the product into her office about a year ago, began using it on a few patients and saw phenomenal results, she says.
Ablon then decided to do her own study. Currently five months into the process, she says the three-month data is unheard of.
"We're seeing over 100 percent hair growth where patients were actually counting the hairs, say (they start) at 200 to 300, they are seeing 400 to 600 after the three months," Ablon said. "So it's really dramatic and it's all statistically significant and our patients are thrilled. We even have twins in the study and one is actually on the placebo and one is not and you can see a huge difference."
Ablon's study includes men and women ranging in age from 20 to 70. She adds that there have been no side effects or adverse events at all.
There are two forms of Viviscal. One is professional strength, available only through a doctor, and the other is over the counter, though both are made from natural supplements. Cost for a one-month supply is $60 for professional strength, $50 for the over-the-counter version.
Ablon's study used the professional strength for non-scarring alopecias. She recently presented the data from her study at the South Beach Symposium in Miami and hopes to publish the data by summer.
While there are other forms of hair loss treatment including prescription medications and sprays such as minoxidil, Ablon says those drugs often have side effects and have not been shown to be as effective.
"The bottom line is that it's something that can be treated. I think a lot of people try to hide it and are sticking extensions in their hair and things like that. The problem of course is that all that damages the hair," Ablon said.
"Anything you can do naturally, safely, that can help you grow hair and nails, to me is a no-brainer."
What Cox wants women who are suffering from hair loss to know is that they are not alone, and it's never too late to start trying for a solution.
Just like the skin, hair ages, she says. And just like people use anti-aging creams and lotions to help their skin, she says these supplements can continue helping their hair over the years.
"It's never too late. Don't be apathetic," Cox said. "Sometimes women in their 50s say 'Eh, it's too late for me.' It's never too late, apathy gets you nowhere. Action, mobilizing and getting in the conversation ... that creates solutions."
Copyright 2012 The New York Times News Service. All rights reserved.