Photo by Adobe Stock / olly
Main Line experts weigh in on the reality of hair loss and how to treat the problem for strong, healthy hair.
Even at 70, JoAnn Soha’s auburn-colored hair is so thick and shiny it’s hard to imagine it any other way. But the pictures she offers tell a different story: Her scalp is clearly visible. This was before she started seeing MaryAnne DiDomizio. “I was going on a trip to Italy and figured, ‘Why not?’” says Soha, a manager at Salon D’Artiste in Wayne. “Although I wasn’t sure it would work,”
A certified hair restoration professional, DiDomizio is Salon D’Artiste’s secret weapon. Back in 1987, she was the owner of a thriving Newtown Square salon with 42 stylists when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She learned to help her mom with wigs, and she witnessed hair loss among other patients in treatment along the way. For 25 years, she ran the “Look Good, Feel Better” program for the American Cancer Society at six local hospitals. “My journey has been about helping women have healthy hair and less shedding,” says DiDomizio.
Some 55% of women 70 and older experience some hair loss—or alopecia. Often, that widening part or thinning ponytail is inherited, but it can also be related to hormones or even the aftereffects of COVID. When women first notice hair loss, they often turn to their stylist and then a dermatologist, who may pinpoint the thyroid or some other issue. Dr. Rina Kapoor lost half of her hair due to undiagnosed celiac disease. “Nothing was going to help until I got my gut healthy,” says Kapoor, an internist at ARA Integrative & Functional Medicine.
Whatever the reason, there are options. DiDomizio has had success with laser treatments. “The laser just looks like an old-fashioned hair dryer,” she says. “The diodes pulsate, which draws the blood to the surface and feeds the hair follicles.”
DiDomizio’s full routine combines scalp and haircare products, vitamins and a series of laser treatments. The goal is to strengthen hair and reduce shedding, though she admits it’s not a cure. Her process includes a magnified photograph used to examine the scalp and follicles. “The dark follicles are healthy,” she notes. “The thin, pale-colored ones are going to fall out. We strengthen those.”
Dr. Thomas Griffin gets a lot of referrals from dermatologists. “Most focus on skin—and justly so,” says the founder of Griffin Hair Restoration in Villanova. “My practice focuses exclusively on hair because there’s a real need.”
For Griffin, it’s not unusual to spend 45 minutes with a patient for a full evaluation that includes family history and possible causes. “Genetic hair loss is progressive,” he says. “It’s not something that can be cured, but it can be controlled.”
Griffin employs a variety of treatments, including platelet-rich plasma and laser treatments like those used by DiDomizio. The goal is a realistic one—to establish a maintenance program to retain existing hair. “Particularly for women, there’s a huge psychological component,” he says. “We actually become very good friends with our patients.”
Griffin does concede that transplants are always an option. But hair loss can be controlled in its early phases. “The sooner you start treating it, the better,” he says.
And while the effectiveness of treatments like platelet-rich plasma may not be backed by scientific research, Griffin can only go by what he sees in his office. “We have an 85% success rate—but it has to be done correctly,” he says.
Four to five years into her treatments, Soha’s hair began to thin again. Her maintenance routine involved sitting under the laser a few times a month. It wasn’t exactly a controlled scientific study, but her hair got thicker again—and that’s what counts.