On top of all the menopause symptoms we have to deal with, thinning hair and hair loss are among the most distressing. For many of us, our hair has been a large part of who we are and a dominant symbol of our identity. What are the changes to our hair that we can expect during menopause? What role does menopause play in these changes? This article will look at how menopause affects our hair and some of the ways we can deal with yet another menopausal reminder.
Hair loss trauma
Since our hair is such a prominent part of our physical being, any changes to our hair are very visible. While there has been a little progress made in accepting hair loss in men, the opposite is true for hair loss in women.
Short or long, hair signifies youth and vitality. When we lose our hair we are losing more than just a few extra strands. We lose yet another part of the body we have grown used to over the last few decades; our mirrors constantly remind of us of these changes.
Menopause and hair thinning
Menopause (and perimenopause) is a period of constantly fluctuating hormones. As our levels of estrogen decrease, the testosterone levels begin to affect us. One of the more annoying symptoms of increased testosterone levels is the change to hair growth. Even more alarming is the appearance of new hair growth exactly where we do not want it on places such as the face.
The estrogen that once contributed to the growth of hair follicles on the head has been reduced. As a result, the normal hair growth patterns that replaced our daily minimal hair loss are no longer sufficient. The average human loses about 50-100 strands of hair every day through normal washing and brushing. This number increases with additional styling, poor diet, or underlying health conditions. During menopause, we are not producing enough hair to compensate for our hair loss.
At the same time we are undergoing some of the most stressful years of our lives. The many demands of career and family can leave us exhausted. Add a poor diet and lack of exercise to the mix, and our potential for additional hair loss increases. With fewer hairs to replace the ones we have lost, our thinning hair becomes more noticeable.
Our hair texture changes at this point as well. Many of us will notice our hair is dry, coarse and more brittle than before. It is more difficult to maintain a full head of hair or to grow our hair. More often than not, hair seems to grow to a certain point where it appears to ‘stop’ and is more prone to damage.
Hair loss and hormones
To combat the effects of hair loss and other menopausal symptoms, some women elect to take hormone replacement therapy. These elevated estrogen levels come with many side effects that make hormone replacement therapy a less than ideal option for some women. A common misconception is that the additional estrogen will encourage hair growth and give us a full head of hair. With or without estrogen, hair growth slows during as we age. In reality, the hair loss process is slowed down slightly but not reversed.
Treating hair thinning and hair loss
You should check with your doctor to determine the severity and cause of your thinning hair. While menopause can and does play a role, there can be other underlying conditions such as poor diet and stress that are contributing to thinning hair. There are a few products on the market such as Rogaine that can help with the most severe cases of hair loss. Otherwise, you might need to make some minor lifestyle adjustments to help combat thinning hair and encourage a healthier if not fuller head of hair.
No one wants to look in the mirror and be reminded yet again that we are in menopause and there is no turning back. For women, thinning hair and hair loss are not life threatening but they are among the most visible signs of menopause. Dealing with the changes in our hair is not the most pleasant aspect of menopause, but we can refuse to let it dictate to us about who we are. We do not have to let thinning hair rob us of our vitality and strength.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You