Menopause and Hair Loss—A Parting of the Ways
Ever feel like pulling your hair out? Menopause can do that to you. Hot flashes, weight gain, crankiness—but wait—there’s more! Just when the mind reels from those menopausal symptoms, one day you notice your hair is not quite as thick and shiny as it used to be. In fact, there are some tiny patches where you can actually see scalp! What is going on?
Your hair has long been a critical ‘supporting character’ in your life story. That’s why when you first notice shedding on your brush, followed by hair going down the drain, it can be devastating.
The biggest irony of menopausal hair loss is that even as it thins and your hairline recedes, those ridiculously coarse ‘old man’ hairs on your chin and lips sprout to superhuman length. Suddenly, you spend more time plucking those in the magnifying mirror and less time trying to avoid a ‘bad hair day.’
Bad Hair Days
Dr. Nicole Rogers, prominent hair transplant surgeon and board-certified dermatologist says this menopausal hair loss can be traced back to the same thing that triggers many menopausal symptoms: fluctuating hormones.
“As estrogen levels drop, normal circulating levels of androgens might be unmasked. This can translate to unwanted facial and chin hairs, as well as hair thinning for some women,” explains Dr. Rogers.
“Female hair appears as a localized thinning the front portion of the scalp, or can occur diffusely over the entire scalp.”
This ‘diffuse generalized hair loss’ is present in 26% of post-menopausal women over the age of 45, according to the British Association of Dermatologists’ study. That includes hair not just on the top of your head, but also near what they term ‘androgen-sensitive sites,’ or the hair ‘down there.’ It thins out, too, even as facial hair gain takes root in most women: 40% attested to that in this particular study. So, in essence, thick hair where you don’t want it and thinning where you want the hair to stay put and grow.
Hormones and Diet Play a Part in Hair Loss
Normal aging is associated with hair loss and skin pigmentation changes, according to at least one study that also states that administering estrogen might delay skin aging. However, Dr. Rogers believes that relying on hormone replacement therapy or HRT to help reverse hair thinning is still not a proven antidote.
“Some patients have told me anecdotally that taking hormones seems to help; however, the use of HRT to treat hair loss has not been well-studied.”
Sluggish thyroids that control metabolism, body temperature and weight can also be to blame for hair loss. Many of the symptoms of menopause are similar to a thyroid condition and that can be confirmed with a thyroid blood test panel under a physician’s care.
Finally, diet and stress do play a role in hair loss, particularly your body’s levels of zinc and iron. Iron deficiency is being researched as a factor in hair loss and in one study, 22.7% of the tested premenopausal women low on iron had greater hair loss.
As the old saying goes, ‘if you want to know what a woman will look like when she’s older, look at her mother.’ Do genetics play a role in thinning hair, as well? According to Dr. Rogers, it does.
“If you have a relative who is bald, wears a wig, had a hair transplant or uses camouflage, then there is probably a gene for hair thinning that runs in the family.”
“If women are genetically programmed to develop female pattern hair loss, this can develop as early as the teen years or as late as the post-menopausal period.” says Dr. Rogers.
I Have to Do Something with My Hair!
If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of your reflection unexpectedly, it can reveal new things about your appearance. If that happens to be a receding hairline or patches of scalp, what can you do? Don’t panic.
“Right now, the only FDA approved medication, for hair loss is topical Minoxidil, which comes as a 2% solution for twice-daily use in women. The FDA did approve 5% Rogaine Foam for once-daily use in women, but it is not being sold in stores yet.Women may also use various low-level light therapy devices such as the HairMax Lasercomb, which has FDA clearance to treat hair loss,” according to Dr. Rogers.
In addition, she mentioned that there is always a hair transplant, which moves hair follicular units from other parts of your body to your head, but it is expensive.
We know how important our hair is to our overall self-esteem. Turns out, scientists even agree, having conducted studies on how thinning hair can cause depression.
Some things are harder to let go of than others. However, wisdom helps us nurture deeper feelings of self-esteem and a positive spirit. If you find that you are experiencing sudden hair loss, be sure to see your physician. In the meantime, get creative with a new fun style that can make your hair loss less noticeable. It is not exactly “modern medicine”, but today we have access to hair extensions, clip-ons, scalp camouflages, and oodles of accessories that can add the appearance of length and fullness without anyone knowing.
Hair you go!
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!