Menopause Mythbusters: Menopause and Hair Loss
Menopause symptoms on their own are enough to make you want to rip your hair out. From hot flashes to sleeplessness to vaginal dryness, it’s a lot to deal with at once. And there’s yet another menopause symptom that many women shy away from talking about: hair loss.
It’s not that hair loss during menopause is uncommon: up to two-thirds of women experience hair loss after menopause, with many women experiencing it between 50 and 60. (And it’s not abnormal to experience hair loss even younger than that – 1 in 8 women under 35 struggle with it).
So why aren’t more women talking about hair loss? For one, it can be embarrassing. While hair loss is practically a coming-of-age rite for men, women are expected to have a full head of hair at any age.
When Sex and the City star Kristen Davis spoke out about her thinning hair, even she admitted that she tried to push the thought out of her mind. “I hadn’t been worrying about it — I have my daughter — but when I tried to do something or had to go somewhere I was like, ‘where is my hair?’ “ she said.
And if we’re not talking about it with our friends, you can bet that many women are not talking about hair loss with their doctor. There is a ton of misinformation out there, so let’s take a look at some of the most popular myths about menopause and hair loss.
Is hair loss genetic?
Hair loss during menopause can happen as a result of a combination of things, especially as you age: genetics, stress, side effects from a new medication, diet, and the simple fact that our hair can get finer as we get older. Your doctor can help you rule out other potential causes, like hyperthyroidism.
Female pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia is the most common pattern of hair loss in women. Androgenetic alopecia happens as the result of a genetically predetermined shorter growth phase. So after you shed hair naturally (it’s perfectly normal to shed 50-100 hairs every day, by the way), alopecia simply slows down your hair’s regrowth. The hair follicles shrink, resulting in thinning hair.
Will I lose all of my hair during menopause?
Women don’t experience hair loss as men do. Instead of a receding hairline and pronounced bald spots, most women experience thinning hair, particularly at the scalp. You won’t suddenly wake up bald, but that doesn’t make hair loss any easier to deal with.
Should I see a doctor about hair loss during menopause?
Absolutely. Some women aren’t vocal about hair loss because it isn’t life-threatening, and they don’t want to appear superficial, especially if they’re comparing it to other menopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleeplessness that impact their daily lives.
But the truth is, hair loss does impact your daily life. Hair loss can make you feel self-conscious, leading to anxiety and depression. What’s more, hair loss is a very real and common menopause symptom that your doctor should know about. You have every right to an open discussion with your doctor about treatments for your hair loss. You’ll find some of those options below.
Are there treatments for hair loss during menopause?
First, see your doctor to help rule out any causes of hair loss that aren’t purely genetic. They may recommend one of the following treatments for female pattern hair loss:
- Minoxidil is one of the most popular hair loss treatments (Rogaine is the best-known brand of minoxidil) and 60% of women have reported regrowth while using it. It’s applied directly to the scalp on a regular basis. One of the complaints about minoxidil is that it takes a long time to work – at least two months or more. And unfortunately, minoxidil doesn’t fully restore your hair’s original thickness.
- Oral medications like spironolactone are sometimes used for women who haven’t been successful with minoxidil. They can block the androgen hormones that often cause hair loss in women. They do come with a few side effects, including weight gain, loss of sex drive, depression, and fatigue.
- Iron supplements are sometimes recommended to women with an iron deficiency who experience hair loss. However, while iron supplements work well for combatting an iron deficiency, there is no evidence that they can help women with hair loss during menopause.
- Hair transplant surgery is an option when you have hair loss at the top of your head. During surgery, you dermatologist or surgeon would remove tiny patches of skin from the back or sides of your scalp and implant them into the bald sections. The downsides? It can be very expensive and painful.
- Laser therapy is another option that was recently approved by the FDA for hereditary hair loss that can improve hair density.
Are there natural vitamins or supplements I can take for hair loss?
There are dozens of trendy supplements out there that claim to support hair growth, like these ridiculous gummies endorsed by the Kardashians. Hair growth supplements typically contain a mixture of vitamin C, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and biotin. While these vitamins may not be necessarily harmful, they’ll do little to regrow hair or help thicken thinning hair.
What’s more, a healthy diet will provide all of those vitamins naturally. If you’re already getting the nutrients you need, you don’t need to take supplements.
Are there any styling tips for women with thinning hair?
Yes, and that’s especially true if you have Type 1 female pattern hair loss, which includes minimal hair thinning. Type 2 includes a widening of the hair part and Type 3 results in a see-through appearance of the scalp.
Parting your hair on a different side, getting a shorter haircut, getting layers added to your hair, and embracing different hair accessories can make your hair feel fuller and thicker. Talk to your hair stylist about your options for keeping your hair healthy and full – they’re bound to have lots of ideas!
Talk to your doctor about hair loss during menopause
There is an abundance of misinformation out there are about menopause and hair loss, including countless miracle cures for hair loss in women. Do your research, talk to your doctor, and get the facts on which options are right for you.