Understanding Hair Loss During Menopause

Menopause marks a significant transition in a woman’s journey. Alongside the cessation of menstrual periods, menopause can bring about a myriad of changes, including those affecting the health and appearance of the hair. Hair loss is a common concern among menopausal women, impacting their self-esteem and quality of life. Understanding the causes, treatments, and coping strategies for hair loss during this phase can help women navigate this aspect of their menopausal journey with confidence and empowerment.

Understanding Hair Loss During Menopause

About Hair Loss

Hair loss, medically known as alopecia, is a condition characterized by the absence or loss of hair in body parts where it is normally found, such as the head.

It is estimated that around 40-50% of women experience noticeable hair thinning by the time they reach menopause, with the onset often starting during perimenopause.

During the menopausal transition, women may experience various types of hair loss, including:

  1. Androgenetic alopecia. Also known as female pattern baldness, this is the most common type of hair loss in women. It typically manifests as a widening part or thinning at the crown of the scalp.
  2. Telogen effluvium. This condition occurs when there is a disruption in the hair growth cycle, leading to brittle hair and excessive shedding.
  3. Alopecia areata. While less common, alopecia areata can occur during menopause. It presents as patches of hair loss on the scalp or other parts of the body and is thought to have autoimmune roots.
  4. Anagen effluvium. This is rapid hair loss resulting from damage to the hair follicles during the growth phase. While it’s less common during menopause, hormonal changes can sometimes make hair more susceptible to damage and exacerbate underlying conditions leading to this type of hair loss.
  5. Trichorrhexis nodosa. This condition involves the formation of weak points or nodules along the hair shaft, leading to breakage and fragility. Menopausal hormonal changes may result in drier, more brittle hair, making it more susceptible to damage and worsening trichorrhexis nodosa.

Causes of Hair Loss in Menopause

Hair loss during menopause is primarily attributed to hormonal changes, particularly the decrease in estrogen. Estrogen plays a role in promoting hair growth and maintaining the hair’s thickness and strength. It helps keep hair in the growth phase, so when its levels drop, more hair may enter the resting phase, resulting in increased shedding and thinning.

Additionally, androgen hormones, such as testosterone, can become relatively more dominant after menopause. This hormonal shift can cause the hair follicles to shrink, resulting in hair loss.

Other potential causes of hair loss in women going through the midlife transition include genetics, nutritional deficiencies, and stressful life events, among others.

Treatments for Menopausal Hair Loss

The severity of hair loss can vary greatly among individuals, and not all women will experience significant hair thinning or loss during menopause. However, for those who do, there are treatments and strategies available to help manage and sometimes reverse the effects.

Improving Lifestyle

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and managing stress can support overall health, including the health of the hair.
  • Gentle hair care practices. Use mild, sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, avoid excessive heat styling, and be gentle when brushing or combing to minimize hair breakage.
  • Hairstyling techniques. Experiment with hairstyles that add volume or camouflage thinning areas, such as layered cuts, strategic parting, or hair accessories like scarves or headbands.
  • Seek support. Talking to friends, family, or a support group about hair loss can provide emotional support and help reduce feelings of isolation or self-consciousness.

Taking Supplements

  • Nutritional supplements. Supplements such as biotin, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids may support hair health and growth, especially in cases of existing nutritional deficiencies.
  • Hormone-balancing supplements. By gently working on the endocrine glands to ease the effects of hormonal imbalances on the body, supplements such as Macafem can help relieve hair loss and many other menopausal ailments.

Considering Pharmaceutical Options

  • Topical treatments. Over-the-counter or prescription topical treatments containing minoxidil, a medication that promotes hair growth, may be effective in treating androgenetic alopecia in menopausal women.
  • Prescription medications. Some medications, such as finasteride, may be prescribed off-label for women with androgenetic alopecia. However, the safety and efficacy of these medications in women, especially those of menopausal age, require careful consideration.
  • Low-light therapy. Also known as red light therapy or laser therapy, it involves the use of light-emitting devices to stimulate hair growth. This treatment can be effective for some individuals with androgenetic alopecia by improving cellular activity in hair follicles.

Hair loss during menopause can be distressing but understanding its causes and available treatments can empower you to address this aspect of your health with confidence. By adopting healthy lifestyle practices, exploring treatment options, and seeking support when needed, you can effectively manage hair loss and embrace this new phase of life with grace and resilience.

Biomedicines. (2023). The Menopausal Transition: IS the Hair Follicle “Going through Menopause? Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38002043/
Breast Cancer. (2024). Menopausal Hair Changes. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment-side-effects/menopause/hair-changes
Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Hair Loss in Women. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16921-hair-loss-in-women
International Journal of Trichology. (2018). Comments on the Science of Hair Aging. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369639/
Maturitas. (2013). Managing hair loss in midlife women. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378512212003684
Medline Plus. (2022). Aging changes in hair and nails. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004005.htm
Menopause Review. (2016). Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828511/
The Journal of The Menopause Society. (2022). Prevalence of female pattern hair loss in postmenopausal women: a cross-sectional study. Retrieved May 9, 2024, from https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/abstract/2022/04000/prevalence_of_female_pattern_hair_loss_in.7.aspx