For all women, menopause is a time of major transition. Once you hit the age of around 50, you are likely to begin experiencing a range of changes that might be stressful or difficult to navigate. In addition to things like a reduced libido, hot flashes and other bodily changes, another change you are likely to experience is increased hair loss.
While you may lose around 100 hairs per day, on average, before menopause, this number might increase once you’ve entered menopause. Many women don’t expect their healthy hair to change during this time, and the results can be shocking to some. It’s important to understand that this change is normal and find ways to cope with it as best as you can.
What causes menopausal hair loss?
Menopausal hair loss in women often differs from age-related hair loss in men. While men may develop bald spots or overall balding, women generally experience widespread hair thinning. This is largely due to changes in hormones that have direct effects on hair.
During menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly, and other hormone fluctuations occur. Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that help hair grow quickly and healthily. This is why pregnant women often experience dramatic improvements in their hair—their estrogen levels are much higher.
When estrogen and progesterone are present in much lower levels during menopause, it can cause the hair follicles to shrink slowly, resulting in the eventual appearance and feeling of thinner hair. Your hair may also begin to grow more slowly, meaning it takes longer to replace hair that has been shed.
In addition to reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone, many menopausal women experience an increase of the effects of androgens, or male hormones. Androgens cause follicles to shrink even faster.
High levels of androgens are responsible for a more severe form of hair loss called female pattern hair loss or female androgenic alopecia. This condition is not solely limited to menopausal women, although that is when it is most common.
The hair loss caused by female androgenic alopecia generally manifests as significant thinning around the crown of the head. It is believed that female pattern hair loss is genetically determined, so women with a family history of hair loss may experience more severe loss than others during menopause.
Although hair loss can be alarming, it’s important to remember that hair loss during menopause is very normal and not anything to be concerned about medically. If really severe hair loss occurs, such as the formation of bald spots, you should speak with your doctor to see if another underlying problem is worsening the hair loss. Stress, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid problems and other health issues can cause more hair loss than usual.
Can you slow or reverse hair loss?
Unfortunately, hair loss related to menopause has no cure—it is simply a side effect of the changes your body is enduring. However, there are a few ways you can attempt to slow the hair loss or mask its appearance and improve your self-esteem.
- Styling safely: Avoid using excessive heat or pulling on hair while styling it to prevent damage. Taking good care of your hair will help it stay healthy and strong in your hair follicles rather than break off or fall out prematurely.
- Stimulate growth: You may attempt to stimulate growth through the use of head massages or hair masks that stimulate blood flow to the scalp. Some women see faster hair growth by using these methods.
- Take supplements: Try taking nutritional supplements that supply your hair follicles with nutrients to improve growth and that help normalize hormone levels in the follicles to stall thinning or loss.
- Change up your style: Style your hair differently than you used to in order to mask thinning areas. For example, change the way your hair is parted, cut it shorter to make it appear fuller and use stylish accessories like scarves and headbands to cover apparent areas of hair loss. Wigs are another option, if your hair loss has drastically affected your appearance.
- Practice good nutrition: Pay attention to your diet and water intake. Hair needs lots of vitamins and minerals to grow, and if you’re not adequately fueling your body, your hair’s texture, appearance and strength will suffer. Eating nutritious meals and drinking lots of water will strengthen the hair you have so it is less likely to break or fall out.
If your hair loss is severe, you may also have options for regrowth by using topical medications or hormone therapy.
Overall, women approaching menopause should prepare themselves for the changes their bodies will eventually experience and know how to manage them into the future, including hair loss.