If Rapunzel was in perimenopause, she wouldn’t have enough hair to make a climbing rope for the Prince.
One of the less talked about aspects of menopause is the shock of hair loss and hair thinning… ugh.
I’ve been through it, and tried out ways to reduce the loss, so keep reading if this is you.
Why menopause affects your hair
Hair has a 3 stage growth cycle of growing and resting.
The active Anagen growth phase lasts 2-7 years, followed by the transition Catagen phase of a fortnight where it detaches from the blood supply. The third phase, Telogen, is one of rest and the hair leaves the scalp making room for a new hair to grow.
Why does hair change/ fall out at menopause? One word : Hormones! The previous time we faced such a cascade of chemicals was during teendom or pregnancy.
Oestrogen and progesterone help hair grow faster and help the hair we have to stay attached to our scalp for longer periods of time.
When our oestrogen and progesterone levels drop during menopause, hair grows more slowly as well as becoming thinner and more fragile, so breaks more.
Perimenopausal hair loss
Hair loss (androgenic alopecia) is a normal part of the ageing process.
But some unlucky people have more 5-alpha reductase. 5-alpha reductase. is the hormones that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT shrinks the hair follicles, so that hair grows out thinner each growth cycle. So the more DHT you have, the finer and more fragile your hair.
But estrogen though, prevents DHT from shrinking hair follicles.
And during menopause our estrogen levels drop, this explains why our hair starts thinning.
What happens to hair during menopause?
Fifty is the average age for menopause, but changes to our hair can begin in our forties…
And two of the ways I noticed changes to may hair were that my ponytail was getting ‘smaller’ and that the vacuum was clogging up faster from my hair.
Here are some of the other not-so-pleasant things that happen:
- our hair becomes finer/thinner, which explains why ponytails become meagre as they loose volume. (ick)
- our hair loses length – ponytails are shorter (aw) no Rapunzel rope with this kind of hair!
- hair is more fragile so starts breaking more easily
- hair looks limp and is more difficult to style (no surprise there)
- hair becomes more sensitive to hairdryers and styling equipment
- if you part your hair, your hair parting is wider (see the Ludwig scale)
- for some, it’s really bad, they see their scalp through their hair
- there’s more hair on your pillow and hairbrush
- and you spot shiny grey or white hairs sprouting like alien antenna!
- even your eyebrows become thinner and eyelashes shorten (ugh)
- plus your hair and skin are both drier (esp on the cheeks)
- and you may find dark hairs around your mouth or on your chin (gee, how nice)
When to see your doctor
The NHS advises consulting a GP if you have sudden hair loss, develop bald patches, lose hair in clumps or experience itching or burning sensations on the scalp.
A receeding hairline indicates a different hormonal condition eg PCOS
Loosing hair in the eyebrow area is a thyroid issue.
However there are plenty of ways we can tackle both the physical and emotional symptoms that don’t involve hormone treatment or hair transplants.
Hair loss patterns in women
The Ludwig Classification categorizes women’s hair loss into three types:
The mildest is Type I, where hair styling can camouflage your hair loss. Type II has decreased volume and a wider hair parting. So here you can use scalp cosmetics to hide your parting. The most severe is Type III where the hair is so fine that you see the scalp through the hairs. This is where wigs are useful and counselling is essential.
Menopause facial hair
Oh the irony – to be thinning where you want hair, and then growing a Charlie Chaplin over your lips… Yes, it’s one of the little-old-lady looks that I’m not keen on either. I havent found a way to reduce this growth.
How can we treat hair loss and hair thinning?
Quick aesthetic fixes
Hats are the quickest way to hide thinning – beanies in winter for walks and sun hats in summer. And for events of course milliners will make you look a million bucks. Now you have the prefect reason/excuse foir a stylish hat.
Another easy way to camouflage thinning hair is a hair restyle. (After lockdown of course) A shorter haircut like a bob, pixie or something layered that adds volume. Layers can also hide problem spots.
I went from long hair to a shorter style with layers and it automatically gave me extra volume. Especially noticeable the first day after shampooing.
If your parting has widened to a freeway width, then try a scalp cosmetic like Colour Wow’s Root Cover Up. It’s water-resitant and hides the pale skin of your scalp.
More costly are wigs or hair extensions. And some go for hair implants (ouchy)
One study found that the four most common reactions to hair loss are: not prepared, shocked, embarrassed and a loss of sense of self.
For many women, hair is intrinsically linked to self-esteem. In fact, studies show that 55% of women experiencing hair-loss display symptoms of depression. Women with thinning hair are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, grief, lower self-esteem, poorer quality of life and poorer body image.
I went for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) twice during perimenopause to help with my depression. We covered topics like mindfulness, meditation, and looked at our thought patterns. CBT is about learning to stop negative thinking patterns. It’s used for depression, anxiety and other issues.
You may also need to make some small or big lifestyle adjustments and seek help and support from other people – friends or professionals. Having a support group or a counsellor can help you feel better.
You may also fidn support/relief/entertainment in my podcast, Aspie in Menopause
Stress is on the rise… it’s linked to dis-ease and unhappiness. The phrase’ tearing your hair out’ comes to mind when you feel you are going to explode with anger or frustration.
Stress affects digestion which in turn affects absorption of nutrients, which leads to poor health, poor hair and skin, sleep issues, gaining weight and low mood. So it’s extra important to find ways to destress during menopause. Stress really does cause hair loss.
How do you unwind?
Swimming, meditating, communing with nature, reading or listening to music?
Going for an aromatherapy massage or gua sha facial is excellent – you get your tense muscles relaxed, plus a supportive ear, and you sleep better afterwards… an hour to yourself being pampered.. yes please.
During lockdown I find tapestry and dressmaking very soothing. They’re both indoors, creative and keep my hands busy with a project that will be beautiful and useful at the end.
Can you knit or crochet? Maybe you play the guitar or piano, paint, draw, sing or dance. Find something you can do regardless of weather, lockdown etc.
And sometimes the best way to reduce stress, is reducing your exposure to stressful situations and people. You may need to limit the time you spend with people and circumstances that raise your blood pressure. Learn how to simply walk away and breathe.
Stress also uses up your B vitamins so you may need a supplement every few days.
An excellent way to reduce stress is through EFT Tapping
Best shampoo for hair loss uk
Be wary of shampoos that promise increased hair growth. Minoxidil is currently the only ingredient that has been clinically approved for the treatment of hair loss.
I recommend you use a gentle sulphate free shampoo to avoid harsh ingredients such as SLS that cause itchy scalp and dry skin.
My favourite shampoo for fine hair are: Aubreys Caluguala, it helps my extra fine hair feel clean and unweighted.
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Sodium Cocoamphoacelate (for Coconut Oil), Sodium Cocoylisethionate, Glycerin*, Glyceryl Caprylate (from Vegetable Oils), Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Polypodium Leucotomos (calagula) Leaf extract, Pinus Strobus (White Pine) Bark Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil*, Quillaja Saponaria (Soap Bark) Root Extract, Yucca Gllaja Saponaria Bark (Soap Bark), Citrus Aurantifola (Lime) Oil*, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sodium PCA, Sodium Methyl Cocoyltrurate, Glyceryl Undecylenate (from Vegetable Oils), Sodium Phytate, Xanthan Gum, Natural Fragrance ‡ ‡, .
AlsoChristophe Robin Delicate Volumizing Shampoo which smells like a walk in a rose garden and contains leaves from my favourite African tree (the baobab)
Ingredients: AQUA (WATER), SODIUM LAUROYL SARCOSINATE, COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE, GLYCERIN, ACRYLATES COPOLYMER, DISODIUM COCOAMPHODIACETATE, HYDROLYZED ADANSONIA DIGITATA EXTRACT, ROSA CENTIFOLIA WATER EXTRACT, ROSA MOSCHATA SEED OIL, ROSA GALLICA EXTRACT, POLYQUATERNIUM-16, XANTHAN GUM, PEG-150 DISTEARATE, GUAR HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE, DECETH-7, PEG-40 HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL, CITRIC ACID, PARFUM (FRAGRANCE), PPG-26-BUTETH-26, SODIUM HYDROXIDE, SODIUM CHLORIDE, DISODIUM EDTA, PHENOXYETHANOL, CITRONELLOL, GERANIOL, CARBOMER, POTASSIUM SORBATE, SODIUM BENZOATE, BENZYL ALCOHOL.
Many women notice that both their skin and hair become drier and thinner after age 40. Skin on the neck starts to look “crepey” . Dry skin is helped with night creams like Heart of Eternity Hot flashes can be a sign of dehyration or ovarian issues. Water also flushes out toxins and reduces brain fog.
Listen to my podcast: Menopause Hair Loss:
Change your pillowcase
Switch to a silk or bamboo pillowcase because cotton fibres can snag your hair. Silk and bamboo stops hair getting tangled, frizzy and reduces your bedhead. It stops hair from drying out as it doesn’t absorb moisture from hair and skin in the same way that cotton does. Bamboo and silk are naturally thermo-regulating and don’t heat up like cotton.
Our hair becomes finer and thinner in the menopause so you need to treat it extra gently. Don’t comb or brush your hair when it’s wet. Use your fingers to detangle. Ponytails and buns can add stress to hair. Use a natural hairbrush made with wooden bristles which reduces static and gives your scalp a massage. Let your hair dry naturally as much as possible. Switch to natural hair dyes or let your grey grow out. Beware of heat from styling tools and dryers. If you swim in chlorinated pools, use conditioner after you swim and be sure to rinse out the chlorine.
Exercise improves your health and wellbeing by decreasing chances of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It improves circulation and muscle tone and can better maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also improve symptoms associated with perimenopause, including bloating, mood swings, stress, and sleep disturbances.
Get more sleep
Sleep is when our body heals and repairs itself. Have a calming bed-time routine such as a chamomile or lavender bath and relaxing herbal tea. You can combine a face mask while reading a book in the bath, for instance as a calming ritual. Switch off your smartphone 1-2 hours before bed and sleep in a darkened room. Use blockout lining on your curtains and wear an eye mask and ear plugs. Healthy sleep will help to rebalance hormones and nourish the adrenal glands which are the glands that produce stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is very ageing on your skin and body. There are audios you can listen to that help you calm down and sleep better.
What vitamins are good for hair loss during menopause?
Certain nutrients are vital to hormone balance and hair health: B Vitamins, Zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, Biotin, Vitamin C, D, A and E, iodine and silica. I used a Natural Hair.If you’re a vegetarian, have a history of anemia, or have heavy menstrual bleeding you may have low iron.
Eat Well – Nutrition
Hair loss in the menopause can be caused by low iron, low thyroid function, low vitamin D or B12 so eating nutritious foods is essential. As estrogen levels decrease, women become more susceptible to conditions such as fractures, constipation, anemia, and weight gain. A healthy diet during menopause should contain fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods (like milk, cheese, and yogurt), iron-rich foods (like red meat, fish, eggs, and leafy green vegetables) and good sources of fiber. Watch your portions and cut back on fatty foods, refined sugar, and sodium. Some sources suggest avoiding foods and drinks that can trigger menopausal symptoms, such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
There are many foods that have been shown to increase estrogen naturally. This is an option for women who want to naturally reduce the symptoms of menopause. Some of these include red wine (in moderate amounts), grapes, blueberries, nuts, soy products, dried fruits, and flaxseed. These can help provide a natural source of estrogen and possibly prevent the need for hormone replacement therapy.
The good news? Most menopause related hair loss does slow down with time.