Hair loss and the menopause – two things most women prefer not to think about…
As if turning forty wasn’t traumatic enough, close on its heels, for some women, and winking at you from this side of fifty for many others, is the menopause and all it brings.
The first time a woman goes to the doctor after she turns the big 4-0 – for whatever minor yet troublesome ailment it might be – the doctor will glibly mention as if it were simply a fact of life and not an affront to one’s youth and identity, that she is now, officially, approaching The Menopause.
And as if that simple fact wasn’t awful enough, when it does finally creep in and take over your body, one of the little mentioned symptoms of the menopause is hair loss.
Yet for lots of women it is a thing. Hair comes out in handfuls when you are showering and washing your hair, and your brush quickly fills up with hair that you are shedding faster than it will grow. Even if you didn’t notice it falling out, you may be starting to question the size of your parting, or just style it differently because it doesn’t seem as thick as you have been used to.
Along with the menopause, which heralds the end of your fertile years of womanhood, hair loss will also impact your sense of identity, who you are, how you look, and how you feel about yourself.
What is the link between hair loss and the menopause?
There are lots of explanations for hair loss during the menopause. Most obvious, perhaps, is a change or fluctuation in hormone levels. A drop in oestrogen levels will lead to a slowing in the speed of hair growth, and a faster turnaround in the life-cycle of the follicle, leading to more frequent hair shedding phases. Testosterone levels will rise opportunistically as oestrogen levels fall, leading to androgenetic alopecia.
A by-product of testosterone is dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which forces hair follicles into the resting phase, and shrinks hair follicles, meaning that new hair grows in more finely, leading to thinner hair. Autoimmune disorders that affect the thyroid, leading to a drop in the hormones it produces can also lead to hair loss among a number of other symptoms.
For many women, the transition into menopause and beyond can be emotionally challenging. An end to fertility, erratic hormone levels, fluctuating weight, and changes to the skin will all affect how a woman feels about herself. Depression, anxiety, and emotional stress are all potential triggers for alopecia areata, and by treating these causes, normal hair growth may resume.
Diet changes and crash dieting can lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients that are crucial to healthy hair growth – hair follicles require lots of energy to grow hair and plenty vitamin B, iron, zinc, and vitamin C in the diet will ensure a well-nourished scalp. A diet too high in vitamin A can cause oily hair and hair loss.
Those super-healthy green smoothies made with kale, spinach, or chard? Too many of those and you’ll start to lose your hair. A lack of exercise and even your hair styling choices – hair extensions, repeated hair dying over several years, repeated use of heat for styling – can also lead to hair loss.
When these are the real causes for hair loss, the fact that they coincide with your menopause may be coincidental, and it may simply be time to change your lifelong lifestyle habits.