Menopause - Female Hair Loss Guide

The menopause is that time in every woman’s life when her reproductive capacities come to an end. It is more commonly known as ‘the change of life’. It is also a stage in life in which levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone fall which gives rise to the symptoms of menopause.

Some people view it as a disease or a health problem but it is a natural part of the female lifespan which all women have to go through. Having said that some women find the journey easier than others!

Symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, reduced libido, mood swings and hair loss. In fact, hair loss as a result of menopause accounts for nearly half of all women.

The good news is that the symptoms of the menopause pass over time which also applies to hair loss. Hair loss is usually temporary and there are a few things you can do to reduce its effects.

First of all, what causes this hair loss?

Causes of menopause related hair loss

The menopause isn’t the only time in your life when you will experience hair loss. Hair loss also occurs during puberty and pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes taking place in your body.

We are all too familiar with these changes in our teenage years when hormone levels fluctuate, and often wildly. And this happens again during pregnancy. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone rise or fall which impacts upon other processes in the body.

Men also experience hormonal changes albeit at less extreme levels than women. However, they experience hair loss as a result of one such change in which testosterone converts to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which damages the hair follicles and so disrupts the hair growth cycle. This results in male pattern baldness.

Women too experience this affect as their bodies contain small amounts of testosterone which are usually controlled by oestrogen. The pre-menopausal woman will have higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone which keep the small amount of testosterone at its minimal level.

But during the menopause, oestrogen levels fall and the body starts to produce another type of hormone called 5-alpha reductase which acts on the small amount of testosterone that women have by converting that to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the same way as it does in men. And this leads to form of baldness which is very similar to that in men. The hair does thin around the temples and over the top of the scalp but doesn’t usually result in bald patches.

Stress can also result in hair loss. This is a problem for both sexes but male hair loss and stress is discussed in more detail in the Lifestyle and External Factors section.

Female hair loss and stress as related to the menopause is often a result of mood swings, depression and/or anxiety experienced at this time. This is not to say that every woman will experience this and you may find that you have very mild symptoms of the menopause. But some women have a difficult time throughout.

The problem is that if you become stressed during the menopause because of your hair loss then this actually makes things worse. It is easy to say but try not to become overly stressed and look at ways of dealing with this.

There are ways of treating the menopause which include hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This has proved to be very effective at relieving the symptoms of the menopause as well as protecting against osteoporosis. However, there has been some debate about this therapy whose use is said to cause a slight increase in breast and ovarian cancer.

Doctors are recommending that women use HRT for a short period of time only. HRT can help with hair loss but it’s a good idea to speak to your GP to see if this is right for you. Your GP is familiar with you and your medical history and will be able to discuss the benefits and the risks of this treatment.

If you don’t want to have HRT then there are alternatives such as herbal remedies, plant hormones called Phytoestrogens and vitamin supplements. Sometimes making a few changes to your lifestyle such as eating healthily and taking more exercise can help.

HRT works by introducing oestrogen into your body which then restores this hormone to its pre-menopause level. But be aware that this isn’t designed to ‘cure’ the menopause rather it just treats the symptoms. It will prevent further hair loss but if you stop taking it then hair loss will resume.

You can ask your GP for a lower dosage which will minimise hair loss and can be easily managed by yourself.

Treating menopause related hair loss

As we have already mentioned you can switch to a reduced dosage HRT which will lessen the impact of your hair loss. But if you don’t want to take HRT then look at a plant based hormone (e.g. soya) which produces its own type of oestrogen and so works in a similar way to HRT.

Menopause related hair loss is not usually that bad so you will find that your hair will look different rather than you ending up going bald. In fact, this change to your hair may encourage you to go for a different hair style and a new look altogether which can be a confidence boost at this time.

One thing to mention is that your skin does become thinner during menopause which includes your scalp. The scalp can also become quite fragile so avoid any harsh shampoos and use a gentle conditioner every time you wash your hair.

And follow a healthy diet, rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and essential nutrients which will boost your hair health.

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