Hair loss in otherwise healthy women presents several challenges for the clinician. The first is to identify the cause, which may be complicated by two or more secondary factors; the second is to find effective treatments; and the third is to establish requirements for long-term management. An optimal hair growth potential is considered to exist when specific parameters for biochemical variables are operating. These include red blood cell and serum folate concentrations within the normal range, serum vitamin B12 levels between 300 and 1000 ng/L, hemoglobin levels greater than 13.0 g/dL, and serum ferritin concentrations of 70 ng/mL or greater. The two predominant disturbances, diffuse androgen-dependent alopecia and chronic telogen effluvium, both require months of treatment before the benefits can be seen. During this time several follow-up investigations and reassuring consultations must occur. Current systemic antiandrogen regimens are highly effective, but the prospect of long-term therapy, possibly for life, is daunting. For some patients there is no systemic choice and topical treatment is the only option. Minoxidil is the only topical preparation currently licensed, but with no quantitative long-term data available, assessing its value in the long-term treatment of androgen-dependent alopecia is difficult.