Your hair follicles need estrogen to function properly and for your hair to grow. As estrogen levels fall during menopause, you may find tat you have increasingly regular bad-hair days.
A gradual loss or thinning of the hair, or ironically the growth of unwanted facial hair, is common during menopause. In addition, it’s one of the menopausal symptoms that can get worse postmenopausally. Although to other people the difference is probably imperceptible, running your hands through your hair, you may find your hair feels generally thinner all over. Alternatively, your hair may visibly appear thinner at the front of your scalp. Other problems with hair include dullness, dryness, split ends, poor hair growth, and dandruff. You may find that your body hair, including our public hair, thins or disappears; some women also discover that their hair grows in unwanted places, such as on their face.
As you go through menopause, the levels of estrogen in your body fall. Although this means you’re not necessarily producing more male hormones, your body interprets that it has more male hormone (such as the androgen testosterone) in circulation. Actually, what has happened is that the counterbalance of the estrogen is no longer there. As androgens begin to dominate your system, you can experience symptoms that are more often associated with male characteristics, such as male pattern baldness, acne, and increased facial hair (particularly on your upper lip).
You may be genetically predisposed to hair loss. In a condition, called androgenic alopecia, you may have inherited – from your mother or father – a tendency towards imbalance in your hormones, particularly in later life. According to research, up to 13 percent of women have some degree of this sort of hair loss prior to menopause. After menopause, the condition becomes even more common, with one study showing that as many as 75 percent of women over the age of 65 are affected by it.
If you notice a considerable amount of hairs on your pillow in the morning, or if your hairdresser mentions to you that your hair has become thinner, you should see your doctor for a check up. Although the condition might simply be related to menopause, there can be other medical conditions that result in hair loss, including anemia (low iron in the blood) and thyroid problems. Stress, too, can cause you to lose your hair – at any age.
If you’ve entered menopause and your hair is thinning, your doctor is most likely to offer you HRT, or one of two other medical options.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) For most women, the thought of going bald, even partly bald is terrifying. Some women going on HRT just to stop hair loss in its tracks. Although HRT raises levels of estrogen in your system, it doesn’t always solve the problem. For some women it does make a difference, but, ironically, one of the listed side-effects of HRT is hair loss itself. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict how your body will respond until you try it.
Minoxidil First developed for treating high blood pressure, minoxidil has now been found to thicken the hair. Your doctor will offer the drug orally, as a pill, or as a lotion to apply directly to your hair and scalp. As with any drug, minoxidil has side effects, the most common one being an itchy scalp. Other side effects can include acne, headaches, very low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and blurred vision. Most importantly, though, this medication does not address the cause of the problem, and as soon as you stop using it, your hair loss will return.
Spironolactone This medication has mild diuretic properties and interferes with your body’s ability to bind male hormones to the receptors in the hair follicle, so preventing hair loss. It has been linked to an increased risk of bleeding from the stomach, as well as irregular periods, rashes, and drowsiness.
Your hair is a barometer of your overall health (along with your skin and nails, too). Think about a cat or dog – when an animal is unwell, a glossy, sleek fur coat becomes dull, limp, lifeless, and thinner. This gives you a key to how you might slow down the deterioration of your hair – namely, by taking care of your whole self by eating well and making sure you have your full quota of essential vitamins and minerals.
As well as making the choice to eat healthy foods, make sure you eat regularly throughout the day, including mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, and don’t’ skip meals. This will help keep your blood-sugar levels balanced and in turn manage your hormone levels, helping to prevent an excess of the male hormone testosterone in your system.
Protein Your hair follicles need good quality protein in different forms in order to grow. Stock up on legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish. In your body, protein is broken down into its constituent parts, known as amino acids. The most important amino acids for preventing hair loss are arginine, cysteine, lysine, and tyrosine, which are found in all protein-rich foods.
Essential fats If you have dry hair that breaks easily and lacks shine, you may lack the necessary levels of essential fatty acids. Boost your intake by eating plenty of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardine), nuts, and seeds.
Biotin Egg yolk, brown rice, lentils, oats, soy beans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and green peas are rich in biotin. This important vitamin helps metabolize essential fats and is crucial for healthy hair and for the overall health of your skin and nails.
Iron Eat plenty of iron rich foods, such as dark green vegetables, and stock up on vitamin – C rich foods, too, which will help your body absorb the iron better.
Vitamins and Supplements
• B-Complex This is essential for your nervous system, so if your hair loss is stress related, take this, too.
• Vitamin C with bioflavonoids This vitamin helps in the manufacture of collagen, which holds hair tissue together, preventing splitting. Vitamin C also aids iron absorption.
• Vitamin E This vitamin is thought to help reduce testosterone in women.
• Zinc Zinc deficiency can weaken hair, causing it to break and stopping it from growing back at its normal rate. Zinc helps the oily glands on the follicles to prevent hair from shedding.
• Omega-3 Fatty Acids
• Horsetail The outer skin of the stems of this herb contains large amounts of silica, a chemical compound that improves the formation of connective tissue in the body, and so improving the health of the hair (and of the skin and nails).
• Siberian Ginseng If stress is contributing to your hair loss, take Siberian ginseng to support your adrenal glands.
• Aromatherapy massage Massaging essential oils into your scalp can increase the circulation to your head and reduce stress (through the massage). You can also capitalize on some of the beneficial properties of certain oils for hair health. For example, rosemary essential oils is believed to stimulate the activity of the hair follicles. Dilute 3 to 6 drops of essential oil in 3 tsp. carrier oil, such as jojoba or grapeseed oil, and massage the blend into your scalp. Alternatively, use clove oil (in the same dilution), which contains eugenol, known to stimulate hair growth; or cedar of Lebanon oil. Aim to massage your scalp two to three times per week. If you can bear to, leave the diluted essential oil in your hair overnight and wash it out normally in the morning. (Cover your hair with a shower cap to protect your bed linen during the night).
Be gentle Use a soft rush and avoid blow drying, straightening, or curling your hair as much as possible. If you do use strengtheners or curling tongs, use a heat-resistant hair protector spray, too, made from natural products (also use natural shampoo and conditioner). To prevent breakages, comb your hair carefully when wet, testing out tangles rather than pulling.
Avoid Stress Stress can worsen hair loss, so keep your stress levels to a minimum. Find a relaxation routine that suits you, be it meditation, visualization, or a breathing exercise. The meditation is a good start. Make sure you spend at least part of each day, even if it’s just 30 minutes, doing something you enjoy for yourself – perhaps reading a book, or listening to your favorite pieces of music.