With all the changes your body is going through during menopause, it may feel as though you’re enduring something like puberty all over again – you’re dealing with mood swings, putting on weight more easily, and hair growth is happening in places that it never did before. Well, now let’s add menopausal hair loss to the list of side effects women experience with menopause.
Many post-menopausal women find that the hair on their scalp thins and won’t grow like it used to. For some, this can cause a lot of social anxiety. Many women experience hair loss at this stage of their lives making them feel more vulnerable.
This type of hair loss is very common for post-menopausal women. In fact, about half of women have experienced some hair thinning (also known as androgenetic alopecia) by the age of 50. The main type of hair loss in women is the same as it is men. It’s called androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss. Luckily, androgenetic alopecia hardly ever leads to balding. A complete loss of hair, as seen in men who sometimes go bald, is much rarer in women and is generally caused by a medical condition.
Causes of Menopausal Hair Loss
During menopause, the effects of androgens (male hormones) increase. This hormonal imbalance, as a result, hair grows at a much slower rate and hair follicles shrink, which produces weaker hair and ultimately causes hair loss. Some research also suggests that the pattern of hair loss in senior women may actually result from decreases in both estrogen and progesterone hormone levels during menopause.
Most women’s health care providers 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.
However, other factors might lead to hair loss as well. Some women are genetically predisposed to hair loss, while others may lose hair due to stress or illness. Hair loss can also result from an excess of androgen, which is a hormone that fuels male characteristics. Your doctor can determine the cause of your hair loss and recommend the best treatment options.
Treatment Options for Hair Loss in Menopause
Reducing stress can help a lot. Your body may be producing too much androgen if your insulin levels are chronically high and you’re maxing out your stress hormones. Reducing stress can help decrease this surging androgen.
Are you getting enough sleep? What about exercising regularly? Are you practicing mindful relaxation? All these can ease the impact of stress, which in turn can help prevent menopausal hair loss.
Hair is made of protein, so it is essential that you are getting sufficient amounts of it in your balanced diet. Good sources of protein are egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, lean meat, legumes, and nuts for healthy hair.
Non-dietary protein sources such as salon keratin treatments and protein-enriched shampoos are another way to deliver protein to your hair to avoid hair loss and improve hair health. Next time you’re at the salon, ask about their protein-enriched shampoo or treatment options.
There are cosmetic options for improving the appearance of hair and medical treatments which, when used long term can improve hair growth.
There are also some well-known over-the-counter medications that have helped curb and, in some cases, reverse hair loss, and stimulate hair growth. One popular medication called Rogaine is known to work well for decreasing hair loss. There are also other medications available by prescription, which you can discuss with your health care provider.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything, yet nothing has worked, surgery may be an option. Hair transplants and scalp reduction are two procedures that can provide a permanent improvement to your hair. These surgeries can be expensive and painful and are associated with infection and scarring risks, so be sure to weigh all your options before you go this route.