Most common forms of hair loss (alopecia) are caused by aberrant hair follicle cycling and changes in hair follicle morphology. However, current treatments for alopecia do not specifically target these processes. We are now beginning to identify the molecules and molecular pathways that control normal hair follicle formation, cycling and growth. In parallel, new techniques are being developed for delivering molecules to hair follicles. Here, we outline the characteristics of common hair loss diseases, and discuss ways in which recent advances in hair follicle biology could be translated into effective therapies for these conditions.