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Menopausal Hair Loss: What You Need to Know
Hot flashes, sleeping problems, gaining weight, losing your sexual appetite, mood swings, and hair loss. The symptoms of menopause are numerous and unpleasant. And while we manage all the symptoms that only we can notice, hair loss hits us differently. But what can we do about it? Staying informed to know what’s normal and what’s not is vital. So here’s all you need to know about menopausal hair loss.
Menopausal hair loss: why does it happen?
While hair loss during menopause is normal, it can be scary. But what's normal? Thin hair, hair breaking due to loss of elasticity, finding bald spots, seeing a lot of hair on your pillow, in the sink, bathtub or on the floor, noticing your ponytail is reducing in size, a significant loss in volume, seeing your hair parting getting wider and your scalp becoming more visible, these can all be signs of menopause affecting your hair.
How to recognize menopause hair loss?
How does menopause affect your hair? Hair loss in women is a common symptom during menopause: about 50% of women experience it. Some women notice hair thinning all over the head, others notice hair thinning on the sides, while some experience losing hair at the crown of the head.
What are the causes of hair loss during menopause?
While hair loss can happen at any age, menopause is a major trigger. Factors such as age, diet, genetics, ethnicity, and lifestyle influence the changes we go through at menopause as well.
- Genetics is a major factor and it can play a role in both male and female hair loss.
- A stressful lifestyle or a stressful event can enhance the odds of losing hair at menopause.
- Your diet can positively or negatively impact hair loss at menopause.
- Illnesses such as thyroid afflictions and anemia can also trigger hair loss at menopause.
Is there a connection between hormonal changes and hair thinning?
“Why does my hair fall at menopause?” many women ask their physicians. Most of the time, hormonal swings and imbalances influence the hair’s growth cycle. Fluctuating hormonal levels can cause all the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, including hair loss. The lowered production of estrogen and progesterone makes hair grow slowly and become thinner. When the feminine hormones drop, androgens, a group of male hormones, are triggered. Androgen levels rise, and they can seriously impact your hair's growth cycle.
Male hormones shrink the hair follicle. This means the hair shaft is not so stable anymore, nor is it as nourished as it used to be. The result: hair thinning, breakage, and even hair loss. However, some women report only an increase in facial hair (peach fuzz) during menopause and no hair loss.
What are the types of hair loss?
To know what happens to your hair when it falls, first you have to know that hair goes through three growth cycles:
- At any given time, 90% of your hair is in the anagen phase, aka the growing phase, which lasts from 2 to 8 years.
- 1% of your hair is in the catagen phase, or the transition phase, when follicles become smaller. This stage lasts for about three weeks.
- Finally, roughly 9% of your hair is in the telogen phase, aka the resting phase, when hair falls out. This phase lasts for about four months.
It’s important to know these facts, because typically anagen effluvium (hair loss of the hair in the anagen phase) is caused by medications that harm the follicle, telogen effluvium is caused by emotional stress, thyroid problems, certain medications, pregnancy, and menopause, while female pattern alopecia or androgenetic hair loss is what happens when hair thins out as a result of menopause or hormonal imbalances, aging, or as a consequence of a genetic predisposition.
Does hair grow back after menopause?
Is hormonal hair loss reversible? While menopausal hair loss can make you self-conscious about your appearance and femininity, fortunately it is not permanent. So stop grieving your lost hair! If hair loss during menopause is hormonal, it can be reversed. Will your hair grow back? Yes! And there are some things you can do to support your body along the way.
What can you do?
The first thing you have to do is schedule a meeting with your doctor to rule out any medical issues that might be causing or worsening the hair loss. A doctor can also evaluate if you are shedding more than what’s normal and if you're dealing, in fact, with alopecia. Also, s/he can determine if any of the medication you’re taking is what’s triggering the hair loss and potentially adjust your treatment.
Can you prevent hair loss during menopause?
Here is what you can do, as you transition to menopause, to help prevent hair loss:
Lower estrogen levels not only cause hair loss, but also trigger mood swings, sadness, even depression and anxiety. All the changes your body goes through can also trigger a powerful reaction of panic and stress, which can do significant harm. Learning healthy coping techniques to relieve stress can help. Be it yoga, swimming, therapy, massages, walking in nature, or aromatherapy, anything that helps relax the body and clear the mind can help with your overall health and hair health in particular.
Vitamins (D and B, in particular), minerals (Zinc and Iron) and proteins are vital in keeping your hair healthy. Foods that fight inflammation and that have a low-glycemic index are your allies. Fresh veggies, fruit, iron-rich foods, leafy greens, healthy fibers, and high-quality protein foods are your friends. Sugar, fatty foods, sodium, and alcohol are to be avoided.
Menopause causes dry skin and hair and the easiest way to combat this is to drink more water. Hydrating is also important if you experience hot flashes and night sweats. Additionally, it helps flush out toxins and relieve symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and fatigue.
While you’re likely to feel exhausted from all the changes in your body, mood swings, and disturbed sleeping routine, exercising can help, so make an effort! Moving your body improves blood flow (including to the scalp), keeps your muscles toned, and helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for hormonal balance.
Having a delicate approach to how your care for your hair is vital. Learn to treat your tresses gently and avoid all techniques and products that harm your hair and scalp:
- Don’t comb your hair when wet;
- Use a natural, mild shampoo and nourishing conditioner;
- Avoid hairstyles that can lead to hair fall and breakage, such as tight ponytails;
- Limit the use of heated tools since they can cause serious damage to the hair shaft.
Menopause and hair loss: how to deal with it?
While hair loss due to menopause is often reversible, waiting for your hair to grow back is definitely not easy. If you’re exercising, sleeping and eating well and you’re still experiencing hair loss, there are a few things you can try to boost the appearance of your mane, such as hair extensions, microneedling or even a hair transplant. There are also laser treatments and certain hair growth topical solutions that might help.
However, these treatments can be invasive and quite expensive, so, alternatively, you can try tackling the problem by revamping your hair care routine with high quality, natural products. Thickening shampoos, volumizing conditioners and nourishing hair masks and hair oils can significantly improve your hair’s appearance. Natural hair care formulas can maintain your scalp healthy, your follicles unclogged and stimulated, and your tresses strong, nourished, and hydrated. Look for products containing keratin and vegetable protein to nourish your scalp and tresses and keep them strong and make sure to stay away from sulfates, parabens, detergents and other harsh chemicals.