Hair loss is a condition traditionally associated with men; however, it is a reality for an astonishing number of women as well. Particularly during menopause, when hormones are imbalanced, hair loss is an unfortunately common occurrence. Often, this is one of the first symptoms of menopause that a woman notices. Hair loss can be one of the more depressing times during menopause, as a woman’s hair is associated with her femininity, sexuality, and individual sense of style.
Fortunately, through learning more about how and why it occurs, it is possible to treat hair loss. Keep reading to find out more about hair loss as it occurs in menopause, why it happens, and how to treat it.
Hair loss during menopause
The average head contains approximately 100,000 hairs at any given time. Hair is formed from keratin, a protein that also forms the nails and outer layer of skin. Above the surface, the part that is brushed and styled, each strand of hair is actually dead tissue secreted by hair follicles, which exist below the scalp’s surface. This visible section is called the hair shaft.
Hair remains on the head for a length of time between 2 and 6 years, during which time it grows continually, this growing phase is known as anagen. By contrast, there is also a resting phase known as telogen, about three months in duration, in which the hair stops growing and falls out.
It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs each day. These are constantly regenerated by the hair follicles. However, it is possible for a far greater loss of hair occur, particularly in women undergoing the transition to menopause.
Not all hair loss is the same. As it can be caused by a variety of factors, there are a number of ways in which it might manifest itself. When imagining hair loss, many people automatically picture male pattern baldness, which is characterized by the receding hairline and bald patch on top of the head. In menopausal women, this hair loss tends to not be as noticeable, with an overall thinning in most cases rather than bald spots.
What causes hair loss during menopause?
Hair loss during menopause is usually a direct result of fluctuating hormone levels. Two main hormones are involved in hair growth: oestrogen and testosterone. In oestrogenic alopecia, the most common type of hair loss for menopausal women, hair loss is directly attributed to a fall in oestrogen levels. Oestrogen helps hair grow faster and stay on the head longer, leading to thicker, healthier hair.
Oestrogen is not the only hormone that comes into play menopausal hair loss. Androgens, or male hormones, increase as oestrogen levels decrease. This causes androgenic alopecia, another form of hair loss. An androgen known as dihydrotestosterone ( DHT), appears to bind to hair follicles and force them to go into their “resting” phases, or telogen, sooner than normal, causing the new hairs to grow ever thinner with each cycle of hair growth. Testosterone also shrinks hair follicles, causing hair loss on the head but a greater production of hair on the face.
It is not only hormones that can cause a decrease in hair production during menopause; there are a number of other causes that can lead to hair loss. Keep reading to learn more about other less common causes of hair loss.
For menopausal women, the cause of hair loss almost always is at least partially hormonal, there are many other factors that may also play a role in hair loss during menopause, including medical, psychological, or lifestyle triggers.