Menopause is frequently associated with hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and sleep problems. However, one of the less talked about occurrences (albeit incredibly common) is menopausal hair loss. Thankfully, there are treatment options that can help slow down hair loss and even promote the regrowth of new hair.
What causes menopausal hair loss?
A recent study shatters the misperception that losing hair in midlife is something only men need to worry about. This study found that more than 50% of women after 50 have visible female pattern hair loss (FPHL) that negatively impacts their self-image well being.
It is believed that the hormonal fluctuation that happens during perimenopause and menopause is why women experience hair loss. During perimenopause and menopause, the change in hormone levels – specifically the decreased production of estrogen and progesterone – leads to thinning hair. That is because these hormones help keep hair in the growing phase (AKA the anagen phase), meaning these hairs stay on the head for longer.
The effects of androgens (male hormones) also increase during this time. These hormones shrink hair follicles, leading to thinner hair, and are responsible for unwanted hair growth in other body areas (like "peach fuzz" around the chin), which many women experience during menopause. With this type of female pattern hair loss, it is unlikely to experience bald spots or complete baldness. Instead, they'll usually see general thinning throughout the hair.
What are the effects of aging on our hair?
Aging affects hair density, hair diameter, hair strength, hair elasticity, and color. 50% of men and 40% of women will experience hair loss before 50. The reduction of hair diameter adds to the effects of hair loss. One large study has shown that the diameter of hair for females reach their peak around the age of forty and then gradually decrease. Another study in men demonstrated that the diameter of hair shafts decreased with age beginning at age 25.
The most effective medication to sow hair loss and hair aging is minoxidil. Its ability to increase blood circulation in the scalp was proven to reduce hair loss, help regrow hair, and increase hair diameter in both women and men. Alternatives to minoxidil are plant-based scalp serums specifically formulated to help with scalp health and provide the hair follicles with the needed micronutrients for continued hair regrowth. Taking hair supplements and collagen peptides can help restore the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are depleted as we age.
The use of sulfate-free shampoos that include ingredients like salicylic and lactic acid tea tree oil, green tea caffeine, niacinamide, panthenol can maintain Malassezia spp. and oxidative stress under control. Certain conditioners containing keratin and plant-based proteins provide a protective layer to the hair and help maintain hair strength, elasticity, and shine.
A natural herb, Polygonum multiflorum aka Ho Shou Wu or Fo-Ti, has been adopted from oriental medicine to help reduce hair graying. Meaning "Mr. Ho's hair is black." the story refers to a 58-year-old man named Ho, whose gray hair changed to black after using the herb. According to the story, he lived to become 160, retaining his black hair.
What treatments are available for hair loss during menopause?
It's important to note that, while hair loss around mid-life is generally menopause-related, there are a wide variety of additional factors that can lead to hair loss; stress, poor diet, thyroid disorders, and certain medications (to name a few) can all be triggered. Here are the treatments that can minimize and prevent further hair loss during menopause.
Minoxidil is a frequently used medication that the FDA has approved to treat male and female pattern hair loss. Minoxidil is applied topically to the scalp, increasing blood flow to this area, preventing further hair loss, and supporting hair regrowth. Generally, with consistent use, you'll begin to see hair loss slow down after about two months and new growth around the four-month mark. There are some side effects to be aware of, including dryness, irritation, and itching of the scalp.
One thing to keep in mind is that consistency and long-term commitment are key with minoxidil. You need to continue its use to maintain hair growth, so this is not a short-term treatment option. While you can get minoxidil products over-the-counter, it's a good idea to talk to a medical professional about whether it's a suitable option for you and decide which strength is best for your needs.
Collagen supplements can help your body produce collagen and elastin naturally. These proteins are responsible for the strength and elasticity of your hair and skin. To gain the optimal benefit from your collagen supplements, look for collagen powders that contain Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.
How do collagen supplements improve hair quality?
Starting at age 18, we begin losing 1% of our collagen each year. In menopause, there are sudden and steep drops in our hormone levels, notably estrogen and progesterone. When people reach menopause, the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone causes an additional 30% drop in collagen production in the skin and hair.
Estrogen is vital for the normal functioning of the skin and blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands, and melanocytes (pigment-producing cells). Estrogen also has an essential role in collagen and elastin. Reduced estrogen levels can lead to thinner hair, dull-looking hair and skin complexion, skin sagging, wrinkles, and more prominent age spots.
Collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen peptides that the body can absorb. Once absorbed, these encourage fibroblasts in the skin and hair follicles to enhance their natural collagen production. MDhair's Collagen supplements contain other actives, like vitamin C, that neutralize free radical damage, combat oxidative stress, and help hair look thicker and more healthy. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which can help enhance hair and skin hydration, combating the hair and skin dryness typical of menopause.
Phytoestrogens: Benefits for women with menopause-related hair loss
Post-menopausal women have lower estrogen levels. The lower estrogen levels slow the renewal of many organs, including hair follicles. Phytoestrogens ("Phyto" is a Greek word meaning "plant") are plant source extracts that mimic the effects of estrogen on hair follicles and support normal hair regrowth. Phytoestrogens can be found in some scalp treatment serums and oral hair supplements. The MDhair hair treatment serums and shampoos contain phytoestrogens, including Quercetin (from Sophora japonica) and pumpkin seed oil. An excellent example of total supplements that contain phytoestrogens is the MDhair regrowth supplement that contains multiple phytoestrogens, including Quercetin, broccoli whole plant powder, green tea, and pumpkin seed powder.
Other things to do to support healthy hair during menopause
Essential proteins, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D, and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids are just some of the necessities for a diet that supports hair health. Women need to be as gentle as possible with their hair during this time to prevent further damage and loss. The use of hot tools should be limited, as they can weaken and damage the hair. Try to avoid hairstyles that pull on the hair too tightly, as this can cause additional hair loss.
- Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts
- Prevalence of female pattern hair loss in post-menopausal women
a cross-sectional study
- Interventions for female pattern hair loss
- Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss
- Nutrition of women with hair loss problems during the period of menopause