Menopause and Hair loss
Hormones play a key role in affecting your hair’s growth cycle. Ergo, menopause and hair loss are definitely related because menopause accelerates extreme hormonal imbalances. The fluctuating hormone levels are often accompanied by unpleasant symptoms – one among which is hair loss. Even though not all women experience changes in the volume or length of their hair, mid-life hair crisis due to menopause is real.
Be it premenopausal or postmenopausal hair loss, keep reading to clearly understand why this happens. Read how you can manage the situation and get answers to all related queries.
Menopause and hair loss – How are they linked?
All women experience menopause as a natural biological process. It usually sets off by the age of 51, during which the body has to adjust to fluctuating hormone levels. In the months or years that lead up to it or during menopause itself, many women notice changes in their hair patterns. Hair loss is related to hormones, and in this section, we’ll learn exactly how hair loss during menopause occurs.
Hormones that help hair growth –
Estrogen and progesterone are the female hormones aiding faster hair growth. They also help hair stay in the anagen or growth phase for longer periods of time, giving your mane a fuller appearance. However, once the estrogen and progesterone levels start to drop, the hair growth cycle slows down, and follicles produce finer hair (more prone to breakage).
Hormones that don’t help-
In response to the loss of these hormones, the body experiences increased levels of androgen (a group of male hormones) production. Hair thinning during menopause is all the more striking if your hair follicles are sensitive to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). A high androgen ratio tends to shrink hair follicles, leading to scalp hair loss.
Note: In some cases, hair disorders during menopause may also present with UFH (unwanted facial hair). If you are menopausal and suddenly notice tiny hair sprouts on the chin, this is probably why.
As for the hormonal point of view, the relation between menopause and hair loss is not restricted to hormones alone. It is indeed a combination of multiple factors. Here are a few other factors that may also contribute to hair fall out during this time:
● FPHL or female pattern hair loss which occurs due to genetics and hormonal changes. This form of alopecia, especially if it’s pre-existing, can aggravate during or after menopause.
● Lack of specific nutrients
● Acute stress
Menopause, Mental Health & Hair Loss
In this section, I’ll emphasize a little more how stress plays the role of a catalyst between menopause and hair loss.
Apart from struggling with low self-esteem, the fluctuating levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone during menopause can actually wreak havoc on a woman’s mental health. Let’s see how –
The imbalance of increased chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol; lower chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin can often lead to high levels of stress and feelings of irritability and anxiousness.
Endorphins can take the edge off of pain and discomfort and simultaneously boost feelings of pleasure and well-being. The neurotransmitter (signal carrier between nerve cells) serotonin is associated with mood regulation. On the flip side, both adrenaline and cortisol are related to our stress response. The effect of estrogen and progesterone, which could’ve mitigated these stress hormones’ impact on the body, tends to weaken when their levels drop during the transition into the menopausal phase.
Alongside, the psychological impact of all the stress hormones can worsen the frequency of hair fall out during and after menopause.
Signs for menopausal hair loss
How do you know that you are losing hair due to menopause? You cannot know for sure unless you consult a medical specialist. Meanwhile, the following can act as indicators to seek proper diagnosis:
● Thinner ponytail
● Excessive hair accumulation in the shower, on the floor & pillow covers (hair fall in clumps)
● Hair parting becoming wider as a result of hair thinning
● Itching or burning sensation accompanied by hair loss
● Rashes or bumps on the hairline
Is postmenopausal hair loss permanent?
Hair loss can be upsetting, especially when your body goes through a wide range of physiological changes during menopause. Menopause also leads to insomnia, hot flashes, & mood swings, besides hair loss. The answer to whether menopausal hair loss is reversible or not depends on what’s causing it in the first place.
As mentioned earlier, emotional upheavals that come as a common side effect of menopause can also deteriorate hair texture. It is stress that increases the rate of hair loss. So, once the stress passes, hair tends to grow back in most cases.
However, hormonal changes causing hair loss can, at times, be permanent. Thus, it is important to speak to your doctor because maybe you are unaware of an underlying condition causing rampant shedding. Misdiagnosis can potentially drag a reversible hair loss condition to permanency. In order to identify the reason behind your hair loss, a medical professional may suggest tests for hormone levels, thyroid function, iron levels, or even basic blood count and more.
What can you do about it?
How do you get through this massive period of change and yet keep your crowning glory intact? Rectifying the hormonal imbalance will automatically promote healthy hair growth. In this section, we’ll thus address the preventive tactics and the best treatment for thinning hair during menopause.
1. Get rid of stress
You can minimize the effects of hormonal imbalances by keeping your stress levels in check. Try yoga and other techniques like deep breathing or tai chi to fight symptoms that affect your brain chemistry. Incorporating exercise into your daily lifestyle is essential. It can help you feel stronger and keep related menopausal symptoms like mood swings, bloating, sleep disturbances, and weight gain at bay.
2. Eat healthily and well (Hydrate too!)
When it comes to health, eating well-balanced meals is imperative, and the same goes for hair health. As hormones shift with age, so do our body’s nutritional needs. Once the estrogen drops, eating well can often work as a natural shield. The body becomes more vulnerable to conditions like anemia, fractures, constipation, and more.
Here are a few things you might consider adding to your diet (in controlled portions) during the transition to menopause or even after:
● Plenty of fiber
● Iron-rich food like leafy vegetables, meat, eggs, and fish
● Whole grains, foods rich in calcium (yogurt, cheese, milk), and fresh seasonal fruits
● Dry fruits, blueberries, grapes, flaxseed, and soy products may help boost estrogen levels
You can also opt for dietary supplements. However, they only work if your body actually has a specific deficit. Moreover, if you plan on taking them, be sure to consult your doctor, who will get tests done to identify the deficiency and prescribe the correct dose of the supplement. Overdose of nutrients or vitamins can also lead to hair loss.
Try to avoid alcohol, spicy food, and caffeine, as some sources suggest that they might trigger menopausal symptoms. Also, you would want to cut back on refined sugar and fatty foods.
3. Stay away from hair styling.
Since your hair is already in a fragile state during this time, it is best to keep a safe distance from styling methods like straighteners, dryers, extensions, and chemical dyes. If you want to color your hair, go for an all-natural option and make sure you apply a nourishing conditioner while washing the hair after dyeing.
Those were the preventive measures to minimize the effects of menopause on hair. Now, let’s look at the medical treatment for hair loss.
Medical treatment for hair loss
1. Topical & systemic medicine
Doctors often prescribe Minoxidil (goes by the name of Rogaine) to treat female hair loss. Apparently, it is the only clinically proven and approved topical treatment for female-pattern hair loss. This medicine works as a vasodilator, meaning it widens your blood vessels to allow increased blood flow to the scalp and follicles. However, there are a few downsides to minoxidil:
● It might not be effective for all women
● Time-consuming treatment – visible results only after four months of use
● It would be best to keep using it, or else the results start to fade.
Systemic medication like Spironolactone is often used to treat hair loss symptoms in women with hormonal irregularities. Doctors usually prescribe this anti-androgen drug in conjunction with minoxidil. It is believed that women who don’t benefit from minoxidil might respond to spironolactone treatment.
All said and done; both these treatments come with serious side effects that can cause more harm than good. On the one hand, minoxidil can cause skin irritation to lead to excessive hair growth in unwanted places. On the other, Aldactone (spironolactone) can have side effects like depression, fatigue, weight gain, and loss of libido.
2. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT)
Also known as red light therapy is an alternative treatment that has gained huge popularity among users and is not without reason. The at-home laser devices come with the convenience of not having to spare time for clinic hours. Also, there are no recorded adverse effects of using them.
Red light laser device targets the biochemical processes of the scalp by stimulating and renewing the dormant cells at the follicular level. Simply put, your hair follicles can receive more nutrients and dispose of more waste when the blood circulation increases in the scalp. As a result, this treatment reverses the natural breakdown of cells (commonly known as apoptosis).
You don’t even need a doctor’s prescription to avail this treatment. How then do you know if LLLT is a legitimate and effective option to proceed with? Experts of The Cleveland Clinic recommend Theradome laser helmets for female hair loss treatment. Moreover, recent clinical trials support the validity of these widely accessible laser combs, bands, caps, etc. The clinical trial of 2020 tested the efficacy of a helmet-type laser device on a group of people suffering from androgenetic alopecia. By the sixteenth week of use, a significant increase was noticed in the thickness and density of their hair without any documented side effects.
All of these devices are clinically tested and use medical-grade lasers. Even though the daily treatment time is not more than 10 minutes, to see visible hair regrowth you will have to wait at least 6 months (with consistent usage).
3. HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
This treatment is known to relieve a wide range of menopausal symptoms, including hair thinning. As the name suggests, it re-introduces the hormones that the body lacks during menopause. Boosting your estrogen levels helps restore your normal hair growth cycle. HRT is available in varied forms such as skin patches, gel or implants, and tablets.
However, please be warned while some hormone replacement therapies slow down hair loss, a few others may even worsen hair thinning. Again, not all HRT works for everyone. So, it would be wise to consult your doctor to find the best HRT treatment for you.
Hair loss in premenopausal as well as postmenopausal women certainly has a detrimental impact on their quality of life. However, the changes in your hair’s appearance during this time are primarily hormonal, and, in most cases, it will be reversible. Hair regrowth post-menopause may not happen naturally or may happen slowly. The aforementioned treatment options can actually help speed up the regrowth process.