Menopause and Hair Loss—A Parting of the Ways

By  |  34 Comments

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.

Heir Apparent

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.

Hair Play

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!

Download my free eBook MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Perimenopause and Menopause.

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Apolo

    This is very helpful information indeed, thanks.

    I am 58 but I till get hot flashes. When will this end?

    I have not lost my hair but I have very painful left shoulder joint, left elbow, left hip and left knee. Wajt should I do?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Apolo, sounds like you need a good menopause specialist. Muscle aches are def sypmtoms of perimenopause and menopause. Check out this Dear Ellen for some tips on how to find one!

      • Laurie

        Ellen: Thank you for putting your “Menopause Directory” back out there!! I recently moved and have been trying to find the right physician, it hasn’t been easy! I never read “comments” and found myself doing it this time …it was meant to be!!

        Apolo: I hear you!

        • Ellen Dolgen

          Laurie, I am so glad that you found my Menopause Doctor Directory.. All of these doctors have been recommended by the sisterhood! Download my Menopause Symptoms Chart. Start charting your symptoms each night. This chart will help you communicate, “how you feel” to your specialist — quickly and accurately. Good Luck!

  • I am still seeking the miracle cure!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Antionette, maybe someday there will be one! If there is, trust me, I shall let you know asap! In the meantime, I hope some of these tips were helpful!

  • Hair loss is one of those “I never thought it would happen to me” menopausal moments. I feel lucky that I still have relatively thick hair on my head, so my hairdresser tells me, but I can see pink scalp where I never could before. The up side is that I don’t have to shave my legs as often, but the facial hair, oye! Thanks for letting me vent!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I hear ya, Melanie! The facial hair…………really????? Who invented this for women??????????

  • Marlen

    The single most devastating aspect of this menopause,hair thinning. It has totally assassinated my self esteem and it has afflicted me with depression and anxiety . It’s one day at a time

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Marlen, I totally understand. You are not alone! I hope this blog had some tips that could help ease your devastation. Please contact me at: ellendolgen@ellendolgen.com if you want to chat further.

  • Mine has definitely thinned, but I am absolutely not willing to take drugs for it, or for any of the relatively minor issues that I’ve experienced. Although I do know men who have had great experience with hair drugs. Still, I don’t like putting more stuff into my body if I don’t have to. I’d like better hair, but my self-image doesn’t depend on it.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      As long as your thyroid levels are good…no worries!

  • So much good information here. Luckily, my hair has not thinned but it has certainly developed a mind of its own. It’s totally different from the texture it once was.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Yes, that can happen. But, again, as long as your thyroid levels are good….you can deal with a little different texture!

  • My hair hasn’t thinned but it’s more coarse and that drives me crazy. Not too bad, cause I’d rather have that problem. It’s difficult for a woman to have thinning hair. Great post, again, Ellen!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Yes, agreed. Perhaps find a more moisturizing shampoo with less tradtional chemicals in it. I sure NoPoo by Devachan.

  • Well I still have enough hair for 5 people according to my hair-cutter. But the facial hair? UGH. If you have a cure for that one, outside of wax, tweezers and lasers, I will race toward it immediately! As always great info.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      You can go to a facialist who does dermaplaning. I think it works great. I do this once a month.

  • Oh my receding hairline is so tied to hormones! I lost my first batch of my thick, beautiful hair when I was pregnant and the next after my hysterectomy….I am still thinning and, you are right, it does seem to worse when I am stressed. It does change how I feel about myself. Thank you for, as usual, bringing great solutions and suggestions Ellen. I will definitely check some out!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Be sure to check your thyroid levels, too.

  • Mine has thinned, but I’m grateful I had really thick hair to begin with. I’ve also cleaned up my eating lately, and I will say it has made a difference. Great information here!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks, Mary. I think eating a clean diet helps everything!

  • That fact that thinning hair might cause depression comes as no surprise to me. If my hair starts to thin out, I’m going to be blue. And I’m going to wear hats and caps more often. 🙂

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Hopefully, you will not experience this. But, if you do….be sure to check out your thyroid levels.

  • Thankfully I still have a lot of hair, but I’m noticing other things slipping and fally. Ugh.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I hear ya sister!

  • This post is so on time for me. I just made a doctor appointment becacause my hair is falling out in alarming amounts.
    I have always had trouble keeping my iron levels up and I am post menopause. After reading this I am a bit less panicked.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Yes, no need to panic. Be sure to check to have your doctor to a thyroid panel and a hormone panel!

  • What an informative piece! I’m at the age where I’m starting to notice a change in hair texture and am telling myself that my bangs aren’t thinning, but they are. Eek. More than anything it’s good to know that so many women deal with it. Your articles let us know we’re not alone.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I am so happy to know that the blog was helpful. Many women email me about this problem so I wanted to reach out to an expert to get some answers.

  • as always, you provide excellent info on important topics affecting women and health, Ellen.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks, Estelle. Hope your holidays are healthy and joyful.

  • Sarah Vespermann

    Thank you, Ellen, for this great post; it is nice to know there are others who are experiencing the same (irritating!) things. I’ve had to deal with hair issues since my 20’s after having my thyroid removed, it is NOT fun having chunks of hair come out in the shower! My thyroid (I replace with desiccated pig thyroid – much better for me than synthetic) levels are fine, but I will look into my iron levels.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      So happy that you found the blog helpful Sarah. If your hair is still falling out, please have your thyroid numbers checked to see if you are on the proper replacement dose. Good Luck!