So, why do some women experience hair loss during perimenopause?
Menopause hair loss is not as well documented as some of the other symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. However, it causes one of the strongest reactions.
It is often a combination of factors which cause female hair loss. These days women are under increasing stress, high pressure jobs, stretched between their work and family life and with little or no time to consider their own health and wellbeing.
It has been reported that up to 50% of women are affected by female hair loss in the U.K. The loss of hair is called Chronic Telogen Effluvium.
Reacting strongly to menopause hair loss can be seen as vanity – but it most definitely is not. Menopause hair loss can lead to depression, anxiety and low self esteem, but don’t worry you are not alone! If you can take the time to think about what you eat and whether you are getting enough vitamins and minerals into your diet along with a few housekeeping rules, you can help to alleviate this symptom.
The good news is that if the hair loss is menopause related the effects are rarely permanent. Some women experience periods of noticeable hair loss at different stages of their menstrual cycle and sometimes seasonally. If this is the case with you, be assured that this is normal and will naturally resolve itself.
Although by default testosterone is found in women in small amounts, when the levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone fall due to lack of ovulation, the production of the adrenal cortical steroid (androstenedione) becomes more prevalent due to a shift in balance – this can affect the hair follicles causing hair to become thinner.
Androstenedione is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, in women (the ovaries) and in men (the testicles).
Androstenedione (testosterone) gives women some androgenic properties (male like) and in this case women start to experience male pattern hair loss.
On average, you lose between 50-100 hairs from your head daily and generally, one grows a half an inch or 1cm per month. An average head has about 100,000 hairs. Hair is made of Keratin, the same protein that makes up you outer layer of skin and nails.
Follicles grow in cycles (growing – resting – falling out). Therefore, not all follicles grow at the same time and they have periods of rest. During the rest period the hair may remain in the follicle for some time or it may fall out. This cycle repeats itself for the whole of your life. It takes 8-12 weeks for a hair to grow from the base of the follicle to the surface of the skin. This means that if you remove a hair, you may have to wait 8-12 weeks for it to grow again. Hairs you see growing a few days later in the same area are from different follicles.
Hair Loss Causes
There are many causes of hair loss in women apart from menopause hair loss related hormone deficiencies:-
Nutritional and/or poor hormone deficiencies
Low Progesterone levels in the body
Stress (If you obsess about your appearance your stress levels will escalate)
Birth control pills and other medications
Excessive Vitamin A levels
Certain medications for high blood pressure, gout, arthritis blood thinners (anticoagulants such as Warfarin)
Crash or yo yo diets
Crash/fast weight loss
Vegetarian and low protein diets
Yeast overgrowth or fungi
Diagnosed with something in the past few months
Traumatic experience i.e. divorce
Facts about Diet and Hair Loss
• Any form of dieting causes stress to the body
• Dieting affects iron levels
• Too little iron will affect the hair follicle resulting in finer hair
• Dieting and Vegetarianism can also bring about hair loss if they should cause you to have an iron deficiency. Zinc and Iron supplements should be taken if your diet is not providing enough of these.
One of the most common hair loss causes is low iron stores (levels), in other words, iron deficiency. You can request your healthcare professional to carry out a blood test called a Serum Ferritin which will test your store of iron – you may then be prescribed iron tablets if needed.
Another hair loss cause is low B12. Symptoms of low B12 include, lack of energy, bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, breathlessness, tingling in the hands and feet and palpitations.
1. Lack of Dietary B12 – this is commonly seen in vegetarians and vegans. B12 is found in animal produce. It will help if you increase your dietary intake and/or take a B12 supplement.
2. Autoimmune – Your healthcare professional can carry out a blood test to determine whether your hair loss is associated with dietary or autoimmune. Should it prove to be autoimmune you will be tested further to determine why this has developed. The treatment for this would be B12 injections for the rest of your life.
What Can You Do To Help Your Menopause Hair Loss?
Use only natural shampoos and conditioners
It has been reported that caffeinated shampoos relax scalp blood vessels to improve the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. When applied to the scalp it inhibits an enzyme-a-reductase, which is associated with female and male pattern hair loss.
Speak to your hairdresser about trying a different hairstyle
Avoid brushing your hair too regularly. Don’t use a hard comb; only a soft brush
Try not to rub you hair too hard with the towel after washing
A regular scalp massage will help blood circulation to the scalp
Relieve lifestyle stress by exercise, getting adequate sleep, breathing exercises, meditation techniques
Eat a protein-rich diet and moderate your intake of the simple carbohydrates. Fish, chicken, calf’s liver, low fat cheeses, eggs, almonds, yoghurt. Add tofu and soy milk to your diet as these are protein-rich but low in bad fats
Hair Healthy Vitamins – A, C, E, Biotin, Inositol, Niacin (B3), B6, B12, Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Hair Healthy Minerals – Silica, Iodine, Zinc, Iron, Copper and Magnesium
More information about menopause supplements
Once your hormones stabilise and are more balanced the effects of any menopause hair loss should start to disappear.
Symptoms – hair loss. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/yourhealth/symptoms/hairloss.aspx
Hair Loss. Retrieved from http://www.menopausecentre.com.au/Symptoms-Hairloss-menopause
Thorton, Y. MD. (Jan 2013) Your Menopause Might Cause Hair Loss. Retrieved from http://pagingdrthornton.com/2013/01/21/your-menopause-might-cause-hair-loss/
Physiological changes in scalp, facial and body hair after the menopause. (May 2011) Retrieved from http://www.imsociety.org/updates_view_open.php?menopauseliveID=1185