My gradual balding, which I have mentioned in the past, becomes more noticeable by the day so because I am tired to death of thinking about it, over several months, I have spent serious time and effort looking for a solution.
This, then, is a report on one old woman's odyssey in search of hair.
Before I treat you to that narrative, let us be clear: nothing, not anything, zilch, zero, nada regrows hair in women (nor many men).
Unless there is a medical cause, no matter what anyone tells you or what advertisements promise, it's all snakeoil.
That said, two-percent Rogaine (minoxidil) for women is the only FDA-approved hair loss drug in the United States. It comes in liquid or foam and must be applied twice a day producing only minimal regrowth in about 20 percent of women. But you won't know if you are in that minority for about six months of use. If you are, any improvement will be lost if you ever stop using Rogaine.
There has been some small success with the higher-dosage Rogaine but not much. Here is part of what WebMD says about the use of the five-percent version which is available under a physician's supervision:
”Results from clinical studies of mostly white women ages 18 to 45 years with mild to moderate degrees of hair loss report that after using minoxidil for eight months, 19% of users had moderate regrowth and 40% had minimal regrowth.”
There are a few annoying and, sometimes, possibly dangerous side effects so all-in-all, Rogaine is not for me. Remember, aside from these minimally successful treatments, hair loss is permanent.
And if you still believe hair can be regrown, just back up a minute and take a breath: don't you think if there were anything that successfully regrows hair it would be headline news with millions of people standing in line to get it at any price? Of course that's true. It would not be a secret.
There are those colored powders that supposedly fill in and make bald areas less noticeable but they look exactly like what they are and you're in big trouble when caught in the rain. It is not a reasonable solution.
So, other remedies must be found.
My hair has been thinning for at least ten years and all treatable causes have been ruled out. Both my great grandmother and grandmother on my father's side became bald – my great grandmother after childbirth (which may not count), my grandmother in old age.
My mother's hair, by the time she died at age 75, was much thinner than mine is now so you could say I come by my own hair loss honestly.
It's called androgenetic alopecia, sometimes referred to as female pattern baldness which is more diffuse over the head than male pattern baldness. It is usually inherited and although it does occur in young women, it is far more common after menopause affecting at least 30 million women in the U.S.
Here is a photo from Wednesday of my crown:
Now really – would you want to walk around looking like that? I sure don't.
What I have been doing for several years is twisting my long hair in a updo and securing it with a clip to cover the growing empty area. But that is less effective now than in the past and doesn't do anything for the front hairline area that is becoming bald even faster these days than the crown.
Here are some of the solutions I have entertained seriously and not so seriously:
Learn to tie scarves
Buy a lot of hats
See if there is a hair style that will cover it
Shave what's left and go bald
Hair extensions and weaves are, of course, out of the question as they would cause more strain on the hair and more baldness.
Scarves? I've never been any good at arranging them around my neck so I doubt I can learn the more intricate skill of making them work on my head. They, along with full-time hats, feel like a nuisance that would quickly become a daily irritant.
Going bald is a solution that is attractive for its ease – no work except regular shaving. I'm tempted and may yet wind up there. But the downside is that it would create an identity I don't relish: “Oh, you know who Ronni Bennett is – that old lady with the bald head.”
I don't want that to be the main way people describe me.
So I set off some weeks ago to see if I could find a hair stylist who has experience with balding women's hair and if there are styles that can minimize the pink scalp exposure.
To be continued...
UPDATE: Although as someone below suggests, arthritis is a good topic for us sometime in the future, today's topic is hair loss. Nothing kills an online conversation faster than off-topic comments so as is routine at this blog, arthritis comments have been removed.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judith Dubin: On Sailing