Have you noticed that your hair is looking a little thinner than it used to? You’re probably not imagining it. More than 40% of women report some degree of hair loss during menopause.
Like many of the symptoms of menopause, this common problem is due to fluctuating hormones. But thankfully, this type of hair loss isn’t usually permanent. And in the meantime, there are several ways you can minimize the damage and look after your locks.
In this post, we’ll delve into the reasons behind menopausal hair loss. Then, we’ll explore some of the things we can do to combat it.
Can Menopause Cause Hair Loss?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Hair loss is a normal part of menopause for many women. Most of the time, it happens gradually, and it can take a while to even notice you’re losing hair at all. But when you do, suddenly, it’s all you can see when you look in the mirror.
Thinning isn’t the only thing that can happen to your hair during menopause. Its texture can change too. Some people notice that their once soft and shiny mane becomes more dry, brittle, and dull.
What Causes Hair Loss During Menopause?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s normal for men and women of all ages to lose 50-100 hairs every day. But during perimenopause and menopause, this number can increase dramatically.
That’s because estrogen and progesterone have a direct impact on the growth cycle of the hair.
When estrogen and progesterone levels are high, hair is in the growing phase, known as the anagen phase, for much longer. Hair grows faster, and the hair shaft itself may also become thicker.
But during perimenopause (the build-up to menopause), estrogen and progesterone levels begin to plummet.
As a result, the hair spends less time in the anagen-growing phase. Instead, it skips ahead to the telogen phase. This is the follicle’s resting phase, where the hair prepares to shed to make room for new growth.
This means more hairs fall out at the same time. So, instead of losing just 50-100 hairs a day, your hairbrush could be collecting upwards of 300 in less than 24 hours. The longer this cycle continues, the thinner and patchier your hairline will become.
This type of shedding is called telogen effluvium hair loss, and it’s the main type of hair loss experienced by menopausal women.
As we’re busy losing hair on our heads, we may start to notice some extra strands appearing on our faces. This is because as estrogen and progesterone fall, male hormones, known as androgens, can increase. Androgens promote facial hair growth, as well as acne. They’re also responsible for hair follicle shrinkage, which makes the hair shaft thinner, causing more hair loss from the head.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopausal Hair Loss?
Hair loss is a gradual process. Most people don’t have major hair loss overnight. Instead, it takes weeks and even months for hair loss to become noticeable.
Some of the main signs that you may be experiencing menopause hair loss are:
- Excess hairs in your hairbrush
- Excess hair in your shower drain
- Noticing hairs on your pillow in the morning
You might also experience the following changes:
- Hair feels drier and more brittle
- Hair becomes more prone to breakage
- Greasy roots in between washes
Once hair loss is noticeable, it may appear as:
- A noticeably wider parting
- More space between hair follicles
- Sparse patches, especially around the top center of your scalp and the front of your hairline
- A thinner ponytail
How Can I Prevent Hair Loss During Menopause?
Hair loss is a common symptom of menopause. But thankfully, it’s not usually permanent. In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to improve the quality of your hair and prevent further hair loss as you journey through menopause.
Maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet improves every aspect of your health, including the health of your hair. What you eat also has a big impact on your hormones, which are the driving force behind menopausal hair loss.
According to research, many women don’t get the right nutrition during this transitional time. This makes thinning hair much worse.
So, be sure to eat a diet rich in the following hair growth-supporting nutrients:
- Protein: Protein supports keratin hair protein synthesis, strengthening the hair shaft and follicles.
- Healthy fats: Fats play a vital role in steroid hormone synthesis. A diet rich in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids boosts the quality of your hair and your skin. Plus, it can help to alleviate several other hormone-related symptoms of menopause too.
- Vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C and group B and A vitamins are all vital to maintaining hair quality. The same goes for minerals such as magnesium, copper, iron, and selenium.
Researchers also recommend eating a low glycemic index (GI) diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Low GI foods take longer to raise blood sugar levels. This plays an important role in the balance of our hormones. A low GI diet also keeps your energy levels stable and helps to stave off menopause-related weight gain.
Women going through perimenopause and menopause are already predisposed to higher levels of stress. But stress can play havoc on your hormones and make hair loss much worse.
So, if you’ve noticed your hair is thinning, it’s important to manage stress to keep your locks as strong and healthy as possible.
Exercise is a particularly fantastic stress buster. Research shows that regular physical activity increases the production of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins are the antidote to stress and the reason for what is commonly termed as ‘runners high.’
Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices are also particularly powerful stress relievers. They help you feel more grounded and present, allowing you to navigate menopause (and hair loss!) with a greater sense of ease.
Be Gentle With Your Hair
The way you care for your hair can have a big impact on how much hair loss you experience.
Practices such as blow drying, bleaching, tinting, and using straightening and curling irons all take their toll.
So, try to limit or cut out heated styling tools and harsh chemicals. Instead, consider taking it back to basics. Let your true color show, and your hair dry naturally.
If you do decide to dye your hair, opt for an all-natural product without harsh chemicals such as peroxide and ammonia.
If you can, avoid brushing your hair every day, and tie your hair back with soft-coated elastic hair bands that don’t promote breakage.
Keeping your hair hydrated and nourished is also key during menopause. So, use a moisture-rich conditioner each time you wash, and treat your locks to a regular deep conditioning mask that will strengthen and care for your strands.
Rogaine, which contains the active ingredient minoxidil, is an over-the-counter hair loss treatment designed to treat male pattern baldness. But research suggests that it can help menopause-related female pattern baldness too.
If Rogaine alone doesn’t help, prescription medications such as spironolactone and finasteride have also been shown to be effective.
Finasteride has been shown to help regrow hair after menopause-related hair loss. Spironolactone can’t regrow hair that has already been lost, but it can help to strengthen the existing hair and prevent further damage and loss.
It’s important to note that these over-the-counter and prescription medications all come with potentially serious side effects, including birth defects, miscarriage, hormone disruption, and even heart failure. So, they should be used as a last resort, under the close supervision of your health care provider.
Alongside lifestyle modification and medication, several treatments can minimize hair loss. In some cases, it can even reverse it.
Micro-needling is a technique often used for treating wrinkles and scars. But it can also be used to promote hair growth.
The process involves using a roller or micro-needling pen to create tiny microscopic holes in the skin. As the skin heals from this controlled injury, the hair can grow back denser and thicker than it did before.
Other, more invasive treatments include laser therapy, also known as light therapy. This can boost the number of hair follicles on the scalp and increase the strength of your hair. And in severe cases of menopausal hair loss, a hair transplant can be a pricey but permanent solution.
Nobody wants thinning hair and bald patches. But the good news is that unlike hair loss commonly experienced in men, most menopause-related hair loss isn’t permanent.
That’s because the root cause of hair loss is hormonal rather than genetic. Once the hormonal imbalance is addressed and your body adjusts, the hair will begin to grow back by itself.
Hair loss during menopause can be challenging. After all, for many of us, hair is part of our identity. But thankfully, in most cases, menopausal hair loss isn’t permanent.
As you journey through menopause, it’s important to be kind to yourself and practice self-love. For many women, hair loss is a normal and natural part of the menopause process. It’s also an opportunity to explore and embrace the wisdom and self-acceptance that comes with age.
If you’re struggling with menopause-related hair loss, talk to your doctor or consult with a dermatologist. They can confirm the underlying cause and suggest a treatment plan that works for you.
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- Low-glycemic foods: Best options and dietary tips (medicalnewstoday.com)
- How to Use Exercise as a Stress Reliever (healthline.com)
- Meditation: Basics, Types, Benefits, & More (verywellhealth.com)
- Efficacy and Safety of Once-Daily Minoxidil Foam 5% Versus Twice-Daily Minoxidil Solution 2% in Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Phase III, Randomized, Investigator-Blinded Study – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Topical Finasteride for Hair Loss: How Well Does It Work? (healthline.com)
- Spironolactone for Hair Loss: Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects (healthline.com)
- Micro needling: A novel therapeutic approach for androgenetic alopecia, A Review of Literature – Ocampo‐Garza – 2020 – Dermatologic Therapy – Wiley Online Library