At some time in their lives; about one-third of women experience hair loss (alopecia), and amongst postmenopausal women, as many as two-thirds experience hair thinning or bald spots. In this post, we’ll take a look at the science behind this phenomenon, and inform women what they might expect in the way of menopausal hair loss. We’ll also share some potential treatments —some ways to minimize the effects of menopausal hair loss.
Hormones, Hair Loss and Menopause
Menopause is caused by the suspension of estrogen production by the ovaries, the average age of menopause is about fifty. This decrease in the levels of circulating estrogen essentially affects the entire body. Besides the influence of estrogen on reproduction and sexual behavior, estrogen impacts other parts of the body, including blood vessels, heart, bone, breasts, uterus, urinary system, brain, and more specifically various components of the skin, and hair growth.
Women’s hair growth is regulated by hormones, and physiologically, in the months or years leading up to menopause changes start to occur. When the level of estrogen in the blood drops, some women see an increase in aging skin, pigmentation, decreased hair growth and sebum production. As time goes on, postmenopausal women encounter further dermatologic problems including atrophy, dryness, pruritus, loss of resilience and pliability, easily traumatized skin, dry hair, and alopecia.
The hair loss pattern in women usually resembles a blanket thinning of hair mainly in the central and forehead part. You might notice hair coming out in the shower, and hair brushes soon fill up. Some women will encounter further severe hair loss, with thinning of the crown, the sides, or added general hair thinning all over the head. Also common? The volume and condition of the hair appear to get worse.
More postmenopausal women are also showing signs pointing towards male pattern hair loss due to low estrogen levels. So, it’s not just that female hormones decrease during menopause, it’s also that androgens—that is, male hormones—can increase. Increased androgens simply make hair follicles fail. Rather than maintaining a normal, healthy pattern of growth and rest, hair follicles undergo miniaturization and ultimately hair follicles are permanently lost. Some skin and hair diseases during the menopause period might also be tied to the excess production of androgens by adrenal gland or ovaries and/or tissue. Miniaturization of hair follicles increases leading to more loss of hair density.
Not Just a Matter of Hormones
Even though we just discussed how estrogen appears to be a primary culprit in postmenopausal hair loss, other circumstances may be compounding the problem. Age itself is a factor, and even with the myriad of cosmetic options available, how hair responds to the aging process is not always something we can control. Underlying genetics (think male and female family hair loss) can cause thinning and loss of hair. There may also be other lifestyle and physiologic issues influencing hair growth. Nutritional factors, like crash dieting, may come into play. There could be abnormal thyroid functioning as well as added stress or anxiety. Some medications have an influence too.
Can menopausal hair loss be prevented?
In short, the answer is no.
We know that keeping postmenopausal women on estrogen is not a good option because of increasing risks of heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. So, what can be done? Rule #1: Don’t wait.
Once a hair follicle is gone, it is gone. We cannot bring it back with any medical therapy presently available. There must be viable hair follicles that have not already miniaturized past the point of “no return” to be responsive to medical treatments.
What Menopausal Hair Loss Treatment Looks Like
From scientific studies, we know that there is synergy in doing more than one treatment at the same time. At HT&RC we incorporate one such strategy, Triple Therapy for women’s hair loss.
- Low Level Laser Therapy
- Formula 82M, a pharmacy compounded solution of minoxidil
- Help Hair vitamins specifically formulated for hair growth.
Finasteride is well tolerated and has been shown to be beneficial in postmenopausal women. (It is contraindicated in premenopausal women.)
A hair transplant may also be an option for women who either do not respond adequately to medical treatment or do not wish to continue medical treatment.
CNC Hair System
If the amount of hair loss is already advanced such that medical and surgical treatments may not provide a good solution, at HT&RC we offer the CNC hair system by Cesare Ragazzi. This system is kept in place with an adhesive and allows the patient to live an active lifestyle including swimming and active sports without the fear of the system shifting or coming off.
Psychological Effects of Menopausal Hair Loss
The psychological effects of permanent female hair loss can be devastating, for many women, hair is something controllable; you cut it, style it and choose how to wear it. It is an expression of yourself, your personality and your image. If you lose a lot of hair, you may feel less feminine, less in control and it can affect self-esteem, so we emphasize again to seek help early.
The best way to start treatment is to contact HT&RC for a one-on-one consultation.