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Hair loss and menopause


menopause and hair loss
Menopause is a natural biological process that all women experience at some point in their lives. During this time, the body goes through numerous physical changes as it adjusts to fluctuating hormone levels. Many women have unpleasant symptoms during menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia. Hair loss is another common occurrence.


Hair loss tends to be subtler in women than it is in men. Most women experience overall hair thinning rather than noticeable bald spots. The thinning can occur on the front, sides, or top of the head. Hair may also fall out in large clumps during brushing and showering.
Women expect hot flashes and mood swings to occur during “the change,” but many women are unaware and unprepared for the fact that they may also find themselves facing hair loss and thinning during this time as well. After menopause, about 40 percent of women experience hair thinning, which is almost the same rate as men. But if this is true, why don’t we see bald women on the street? Unlike male pattern hair loss, hereditary hair loss in women is usually a lot subtler and it can be easy to miss the early warning signs. Women tend to experience thinning over a wide area of scalp, and for many, the first signs and symptoms may come in the form of a smaller ponytail, a wider part line or excessive shedding during brushing and showering.

Hair loss before, during or after menopause — as well as after childbirth — is commonly attributed to hormonal changes. And while most physicians agree that replacing these hormones can alleviate many of the other troubling symptoms of menopause, unfortunately, hormone replacement alone does not seem to radically alter a woman’s “follicular fate,” and can even sometimes make matters worse.

Since September is Menopause Awareness Month, it is a good time to take a look at menopausal hair loss, to help women understand the causes of their hair loss as well as learn what they can do to treat it.

Role of Hormones — Just as high levels of female hormones during pregnancy leave women with fuller, healthier hair, the declining levels during menopause may have the opposite impact. In addition, when the levels of female hormones fall, the effects of androgens (male hormones) can increase, causing certain hair follicles to fail. Depending on your genetic risk, these follicles produce progressively weaker hair and then eventually none at all. If your doctor has recommended replacing your declining testosterone levels, this also may work against your luscious locks as many aging women can experience increased hair loss from testosterone, especially if they are “androgen sensitive.”
Beyond Hormones, Contributing Factors — When it comes to menopausal hair loss, lower female hormones might be the most common culprit, but other contributing factors may need to be considered as well. These risk factors include genetic predisposition, unusual levels of stress, other hormonal imbalances — like thyroid, for example — nutritional or iron deficiencies, crash diets, as well as illness, medications and your surgical history. A detailed medical history and diagnostic tests are obtained as an important part of a medical hair-loss evaluation to identify risk factors.
Common Mistakes to Avoid — When it comes to hair loss, missing the early signs is one of the first mistakes many women make. A staggering 50 percent loss can occur before it’s noticeable to the human eye. The other common mistake women (and men, for that matter) make when trying to treat their hair loss is not giving enough time for therapy to work and not tracking their results properly. Just like hair loss, initial changes in hair regrowth take time and can be subtle before they are noticeable to the naked eye.
Hair Loss Is a Treatable Condition — Hair restoration physicians may recommend both pharmaceutical and lifestyle changes to women experiencing menopause-related hair-loss problems. Medical treatments that will help mitigate hair loss include a specially compounded prescription minoxidil solution, platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP, also called the “vampire hair growth treatment”), prostaglandin analogs, low-level laser therapy, off-label finasteride (for post-menopausal women only) and nutritional supplements. The best strategy is to use a multi-therapy approach and routine follow ups for tracking purposes to see what’s working.
Hair Loss Can Have Psychological Effects — While hair loss is often falsely thought of as merely a cosmetic problem, studies have proven that hair loss can have wide-ranging psychological effects on women, including loss of confidence and self-esteem and in some cases, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and more. Whether your hair loss is the result of natural hormonal changes and/or other underlying causes, in most cases hair loss is a treatable condition and not something you have to live with or hide. Preventing further hair loss and improving hair growth can restore a feeling of vitality, youth and confidence for women.
Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time. When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head. In some cases, however, these hormones can cause more hair to grow on the face. This is why some menopausal women develop facial “peach fuzz” and small sprouts of hair on the chin.

For women going through menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to hormonal changes. However, there are many other factors that can contribute to hair loss during menopause. These include extremely high levels of stress, illness, or a lack of certain nutrients. Diagnostic blood tests that can help rule out other causes of hair loss include thyroid tests, and/or a complete blood count.

Hair loss may make you feel self-conscious about your physical appearance, but the condition isn’t permanent. There are also steps you can take to treat hair loss and improve the quality of your hair. Follow these tips to keep your locks healthy and strong during menopause.

1. Reduce Stress
It’s important to keep your stress levels in check to prevent a hormonal imbalance. Reduced estrogen production can affect your brain chemistry and cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression. However, doing yoga and other breathing relaxation methods are especially effective in fighting menopausal symptoms. Exercising regularly can also help reduce stress.

2. Get Moving
Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. You’ll feel stronger and happier once you incorporate exercise into your daily routine. It also helps prevent some of the other symptoms of menopause, including mood swings, weight gain, and insomnia. All of these factors are important for maintaining hormonal balance, which promotes healthy hair growth.

Choose a form of exercise that works for you. You may want to consider taking a walk with a friend, joining a gym, or going for a run.

3. Eat Well
Eating a balanced, low-fat diet is your best defense against hair loss. Make sure you include an adequate amount of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in every meal. It’s also important to incorporate mono-saturated oils, such as olive oil and sesame oil, into your diet. Drinking green tea and taking vitamin B6 and folic acid supplements may help restore hair growth as well. Essential fatty acids also play a crucial role in maintaining hair health. These fatty acids can be found in the following foods:


  • salmon
  • tuna
  • flaxseed oil
  • walnuts
  • almonds

4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Your body needs to be hydrated in order to function properly. Load up on H2O all day long and pass on juices, sodas, and other flavored drinks that contain more sugar than your body needs. The amount of water needed varies from person to person and depends on various factors, including overall health and exercise intensity. As a general rule, however, you should aim to have eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

5. Keep It Natural
In order to prevent drying and breakage, it’s best to stay away from heat tools, such as hair dryers and straightening irons. Extensions and other styling methods can also weaken your hair and cause early hair loss. If you must dye your hair, choose an all-natural hair color. Artificial chemicals found in dyes and perms can compromise your scalp and hair health. When you wash your hair, always use a nourishing conditioner to keep your scalp healthy and promote healthy hair growth.

If you swim, make sure to wear a swimming cap, as chlorine can contribute to hair breakage. When out in the sun or the wind for extended periods of time, it’s important to wear a hat to protect your hair from drying and breakage.

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