Why hair plays a disappearing act after 40

Nearly half of women over 40 suffer from hair loss, but take note: It’s not inevitable. Here’s how you can prevent future shedding and even regrow what’s been lost.

By Annemarie Iverson
Photograph: Photo by: Plamen Petkov

What Causes the Fallout
I had thyroid imbalance hair loss in my 20s, postpartum thinning twice in my 30s, big-time strand shedding after the death of my father in my early 40s, and now, at 47, visible thinning three months after suffering a fever of 104. No actual scalp peeking through as of this morning, thank god, just stringy gobs of lifeless blond in the comb.
So when New York City dermatologist David Orentreich, MD, tells me that nearly 50 percent of women will experience hair loss by age 50, I am unsurprised — and utterly empathetic. While a man’s baldness can symbolize power, success, and virility (note such chrome domes as athlete-mogul Michael Jordan, actor Bruce Willis, billionaire investor Ron Perelman, and short, rich Harry Goldenblatt, Charlotte’s second husband on Sex and the City), women’s sexual attractiveness has always sprung — historically, anthropologically, and culturally — from gorgeous, shiny, plentiful hair.
So where did it all go, that mass of thick, hormonally hopped-up high school hair? At puberty — decades before we can appreciate it or have the money and good taste to properly deal with it — we are blessed with the fullest mane of our entire lives. Then, inexorably, the strands begin to diminish, not just in number but also in diameter and in their ability to grow long. Ever see a 90-year-old woman with wonderful eyes and a magical smile? Sure. With great hair? Not so much. But don’t get depressed. Even though slightly thinning hair is a fact of nature for women in their 40s and 50s, there’s a lot we can do to fight back and look good.

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