Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/24/2021
The years when you're 45 to 55 should be the golden era of your life.
Perhaps you’re hitting the peak of your career, or if you're toward the latter end of that timeframe, considering what you might do with your retirement account.
These years also coincide with the time when most women experience menopause, plus all the changes this development can bring.
While hot flashes and night sweats might get the most complaints, menopause can also cause hair loss.
Read on to learn more about menopause-related hair loss, and what you can do to manage it.
Menopause refers to the time in life when you stop menstruating. Typically, menopause is reached when you're of age and you haven't seen your period for about 12 consecutive months.
The space of time leading up to those months is usually referred to as 'perimenopause' or 'menopausal transition'.
While you're out celebrating freedom from pads, tampons, menstrual cups and other devices in the lead up to menopause, your body is going through a number of changes that cause the typical symptoms associated with this process.
These changes are usually thanks to the drop in the production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which help regulate the menstrual cycle as well as female sexual and reproductive development.
When the ovaries begin to produce less and less of these hormones, you may notice menopausal signs such as the hot flashes and night sweats.
Other symptoms can include:
Moodiness and irritability
Loss of interest in sex
The link between hair loss and menopause largely boils down to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, or more accurately, their depletion during this process.
To understand why these hormones are so important for hair health, it’s helpful to examine their impact on hair growth.
This hormone helps improve hair length and density. Progesterone is also able to prevent the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
For more on this, check out this guide to female pattern hair loss. DHT is one of the leading causes of hair loss in women.
Progesterone can stop the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) which stimulates ovulation, yet also encourages the production of androgens like testosterone and DHT. These promote what’s called androgenetic hair loss.
This hormone can elongate the growing or anagen phase of hair growth.
This healthy-hair feature is a major reason why women experience rapid hair growth during pregnancy.
Like progesterone, estrogen can also impact the amount of DHT in the body, helping to regulate its effects on hair loss.
Estrogen also has a leading role in managing actors that encourage hair growth such as cytokines—which are proteins that help cells communicate.
When women experience menopause, they face a hormonal imbalance that causes the supply of estrogen and progesterone to drop.
When this happens, male hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone increase in the blood—which can then lead to the loss and thinning of hair.
There are tell-tale signs to identify androgenetic hair loss in menopausal women.
If you fall within the typical age group and notice your hair is starting to thin around the front, back or center of your scalp, you may be experiencing menopause-related hair loss.
Menopausal hair loss typically affects twenty to sixty percent of women before the age of 60, and can understandably cause considerable distress. Thankfully, there are trusted ways to get hair loss under control.
There are a number of options to choose from when managing menopause hair loss, including:
As the only FDA-approved hair loss treatment for women, minoxidil is popularly recommended for improving balding or thinning hair.
Since menopause-related hair loss is caused by androgens, it would follow that any treatment might directly target these hormones.
However, when it comes to menopause hair loss, minoxidil works a little differently.
This topical treatment which is available as a foaming agent or liquid solution doesn’t stop hormonal hair loss.
Instead, it helps existing follicles grow hair faster and better, by providing them with the nutrients, oxygen and blood needed for hair to grow.
Minoxidil is available in 2% and 5% formulations. You can learn more about how the treatment improves hair growth in this guide on minoxidil for female hair loss.
This treatment is thought to target androgens—and manage hair loss by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
By helping to limit the amount of DHT present on the scalp, saw palmetto is thought to help regulate the hormone’s ability to cause hair to thin and fall out.
It’s important to note that there is still minimal scientific evidence regarding the supplement’s efficacy, so more research is needed.
This treatment is another anti-androgen that can help to manage hair loss during menopause by lowering levels of testosterone in the body.
This usually has the domino effect of lowering DHT levels in the scalp.
However, spironolactone isn’t just any medication you can pop into your local pharmacy to purchase. It requires a prescription from a healthcare provider.
Menopause comes with enough changes, so adding hair loss to the mix isn’t fun. In fact, the symptoms could become overwhelming.
Fortunately, though, menopause hair loss treatments like minoxidil, spironolactone and saw palmetto are easy to obtain and can provide you with options to help you retain your youthful locks.
For best results, consult a healthcare provider to see if menopause is in fact the cause, and what measures might be right for you.
If you’re not yet of age and are experiencing some thinning, check out this guide on hair loss during perimenopause. You’ll be fully prepared and ready for whatever nature might bring.