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Hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain. Menopause is no walk in the park. And there’s one symptom that’s often overlooked: menopause hair loss.
That’s right. Just when you’re not feeling your best, Mother Nature hits you with a one-two punch.
Hair loss during menopause is a natural — although unwanted — symptom. But there are treatments out there to help.
Read on to find out why menopause causes hair loss and what you can do about it.
Menopause is when your periods have permanently ended for at least 12 months. This usually happens around 50 years old.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
The lead-up to menopause is called perimenopause. This can start several years before your periods stop altogether, and it can come with similar symptoms.
You can blame your hormones for these symptoms.
During perimenopause, your ovaries start producing less estrogen and progesterone. It’s the decline in these hormone levels that can lead to the symptoms many women experience.
You might have already guessed it, but hormones are to blame yet again. Hormones play a key role in hair growth. Progesterone and estrogen — or a lack of them — are a primary cause of hair loss during menopause.
Here’s a look at how hormonal changes can cause hair loss in women.
Progesterone decreases the conversion of testosterone into the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). With lower progesterone, you may have higher levels of DHT.
And that’s not good news for your hair. DHT can weaken hair follicles and cause hair to fall out.
Estradiol — the main form of estrogen made in the body — can impact hair follicle growth and cycle. The hormone can affect the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which might protect you from female pattern hair loss.
Aromatase converts androgen hormones (male hormones) into estrogen, so there’s less testosterone around to be converted into DHT. With low estrogen, you may experience hair loss as a side effect.
More research is needed, but estrogen may also stimulate hair growth.
In the run-up to menopause, estrogen levels go down and androgen hormones go up. This hormonal imbalance may cause female pattern hair loss.
You can’t stop the march of time, but you can stop it from taking such a toll on your hair. That’s right — menopause hair loss isn’t permanent.
Hair loss treatments range from oral and topical medications to lifestyle changes that can minimize hair loss and promote hair regrowth.
Hair loss treatments include:
Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray (for postmenopausal women)
Here’s what to know.
Minoxidil (generic for brand-name Rogaine®) is FDA-approved for female pattern hair loss. It works by increasing the growth phase of the hair cycle, resulting in more hair.
As you can see, this drug comes in many forms, with drops, foam and oral versions to choose from.
Oral minoxidil is used off-label. But it’s been shown to be an effective treatment for many types of hair loss, including female pattern hair loss, chemotherapy-induced hair loss, telogen effluvium (hair loss caused by stress or illness) and traction alopecia (hair loss caused by styles like a tight ponytail — ouch).
You can learn more about this in our guide to minoxidil for female hair loss.
Finasteride is FDA-approved for male pattern baldness and is sometimes prescribed off-label for female pattern hair loss. This medication can stop testosterone from converting into that hair-hating hormone DHT.
A 2018 systematic review looked at seven studies on topical finasteride and androgenetic alopecia (the scientific name for male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss) in men and women. All studies showed that topical finasteride decreased the rate of hair loss and increased hair growth.
But wait, there’s more. A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found that the combo of finasteride and topical minoxidil can work better than just one of the medications alone. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Finasteride can cause feminization of male fetuses, so it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. But it can be a treatment option for postmenopausal women or those using hormonal contraception (like birth control pills).
Finally, spironolactone can help prevent further hair loss and increase hair thickness in those with female pattern hair loss. It works by decreasing testosterone, which can have the domino effect of decreasing DHT.
Make sure anything you’re putting on your hair is helping — not hurting — your hair growth. Over-the-counter products can help here.
Minimize heat, avoid styling your hair too much and steer clear of hairstyles that tug on your scalp.
You can also take hair supplements. Our fave? Biotin.
Biotin deficiency may lead to hair loss. Try our biotin gummies to give your hair everything it needs to look and feel stronger.
Menopause hair thinning and loss primarily come down to hormone fluctuations. But that may not be the only thing messing with your hair — daily life and poor health habits can take a toll on your tresses, too.
Here’s what to do to make sure nothing else causes hair loss.
Stress hair loss is a thing. You may not be literally pulling your hair out in a rage, but high stress levels can contribute to female pattern hair loss. It’s a cruel twist of fate, considering hair loss doesn’t exactly do your stress levels any favors.
And unfortunately, stress is common during menopause. Aging parents, trouble-making teens, taking on more responsibility than ever in your career, worrying about retirement. It all adds up. Then there are the stress-inducing menopause symptoms on top of it all.
Try keeping stress levels in check by:
Getting out in nature
Spending time with friends and family
Scheduling me-time to practice a hobby or self-care
Asking for support, either at work or with caretaking duties
Considering online therapy (especially if menopause mood swings are getting you down)
You can also explore our range of mental health services.
You might not feel like hitting the gym after a night of tossing and turning with night sweats. But exercise can help in a few ways.
Working out can lower your stress levels, keep you physically fit and potentially improve menopause symptoms.
It’s not clear whether exercise can directly help your hair, though. We’ve covered the complicated relationship between exercise and hair growth in our blog.
Try to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Make sure you’re eating enough nutrients, including iron, vitamins, protein and fatty acids. Deficiencies can lead to hair weakness or hair loss — not what you want when your hair is already thinning.
And don’t forget the H2O. Not only is drinking water good for your overall health, but it contains minerals that can boost hair health.
What should you add to your grocery list, exactly? We rounded up the best foods for healthy hair.
You’re entering your golden years! The kids are moving out, you’re at the peak of your career (or looking forward to retirement), and nothing can get you down. Buuuut, here comes menopause hair loss to burst your bubble.
Here’s the TL;DR on hair loss and menopause:
Menopause hair loss is primarily caused by hormones. Declining levels of progesterone and estrogen can cause female pattern hair loss. Consider speaking to a dermatologist or healthcare provider to determine if menopause is the root cause of your hair loss.
You don’t have to say goodbye to your periods and your hair. Whether it’s a receding hairline, widening center part, breakage or more hair shedding than usual, hair loss treatments can help.
Throw in a few lifestyle changes for good measure. Make sure nothing else is adding to our hair loss by eating a healthy diet and stressing less (easy, right?).
Just starting to notice symptoms of the big change? Learn everything you need to know in our guide to perimenopause hair loss.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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