Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs in women as they age, typically between the ages of 45-55. During this time, hormonal changes take place in the body, causing a range of symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. One symptom that many women experience but may not be aware of is menopausal hair loss.
Hair loss during menopause can be distressing for many women. Thinning hair, bald spots, and receding hairlines are all common issues that women face during this time. It can be especially difficult for women who have always had thick, luscious hair to see it thinning out and losing its volume.
Causes of Menopausal Hair Loss:
There are several factors that can contribute to menopausal hair loss. The most common cause is hormonal changes. As women age, their oestrogen levels decline, leading to an increase in testosterone. This hormone can cause hair follicles to shrink, resulting in thinner hair.
Another factor is genetics. Women with a family history of hair loss may be more prone to experiencing it themselves. Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems or autoimmune disorders, can also contribute to hair loss.
Additionally, stress and poor nutrition can also impact hair health. During menopause, women may experience more stress due to hormonal changes and other life events, which can take a toll on their hair. A diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron and biotin, can also contribute to hair loss.
Hair growth is a natural process that occurs in four different stages. Each stage has its unique characteristics and plays an important role in the growth cycle.
The four stages of hair growth are:
The anagen phase is the first stage of hair growth, and it is also known as the active growth phase. During this stage, hair actively grows from the root, and it can last anywhere from two to seven years. This phase is characterized by the rapid division of cells in the hair follicle, which causes the hair to grow longer and thicker. Hair in the anagen phase is considered to be in its healthiest state, as it is supplied with essential nutrients from the blood vessels in the scalp.
The catagen phase is the second stage of hair growth, and it is also known as the transitional phase. During this stage, the hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the blood supply. This phase typically lasts for a few weeks and marks the end of active hair growth. The hair stops growing, and the hair follicle begins to break down. As the hair detaches from the blood supply, the hair follicle moves up toward the surface of the skin.
The telogen phase is the third stage of hair growth, and it is also known as the resting phase. During this stage, the hair follicle remains in a resting state for several months. The hair is fully formed, but it is not growing. The hair is attached to the hair follicle, but it is not receiving any nutrients from the blood supply. This phase typically lasts for three to four months.
The exogen phase is the final stage of hair growth, and it is also known as the shedding phase. During this stage, the hair is shed from the scalp, and new hair begins to grow from the same hair follicle. Shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle, and it is estimated that we lose between 50 to 100 hairs per day.
Stress and trauma
Any stressful or traumatic event may impact hair growth. Rapid drops in hormones may also trigger hair loss. Many women experience postpartum hair loss a few weeks after birth and this can last a few weeks. Similarly, rapid changes in hormones during menopause or withdrawal of steroidal or hormone therapy can have shedding effects. More than usual hair follicles go into the exogen phase. The shedding can last 3 months or more, but active growth of new hair can be seen. Therefore, you may be reassured that this shedding is temporary.
Assess your diet and any gut issues that may be affecting the absorption of nutrients. If you are experiencing heavy periods you may be low in iron which is associated with hair loss and thinning, so get this checked by your GP. You may also want to check your thyroid is working ok, as hypothyroidism may be an underlying cause of hair thinning. Sometimes the outer third of the eyebrow thins or is lost with hypothyroid.
Genetics – may drive testosterone to convert to the more potent form Di-hydroxy testosterone DHT which can result in male pattern baldness and thinning. We can support this by using supplements or prescribed medicines to inhibit this conversion. Female pattern baldness is a gradual loss of hair from the top of the hair and does not lead to complete baldness. It commonly occurs after menopause so there is thought to be a hormonal link but this has not been established in studies.