Women Have More Options for Hair Loss During Menopause
Hair loss during menopause is common among women, but may be due to other factors besides just changing hormones, according to dermatologist Theodore J. Daly MD FAAD, director of Garden City Dermatology. With a proper diagnosis, women today have more options for treating female pattern (alopecia), the most common form of hair loss during menopause.
Many Factors Contribute To Female Pattern Hair Loss
Hair loss that occurs due to the most common, reasons, such as genetics, aging and hormone changes, usually develops gradually. Each of the about 100,000 hairs on the scale survives for an average of 4 ½ years during which time it grows about ½ inch a month. Around the 5th year, the hair falls out (about 100-150 each day) and is replaced within 6 months by a new one.
Female pattern hair loss affects approximately one in three women during menopause. Alterations in both estrogen and testosterone hormone levels have an effect on hair loss. The drop in estrogen, which protects women from hair loss, allows testosterone to combine with an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase which creates DHT, a compound responsible for the decrease in both hair thickness and quantity.
The loss of hair during menopause is usually a different pattern than men in that women rarely get bald spots. The hair loss is usually more diffuse, having and overall thinning effect, usually starting at the crown. Although hair loss related to aging and heredity is often permanent, other factors, such as medications, stress, or nutrient deficits are often treatable and can lead to hair regrowth.
Low thyroid hormones are also a common cause of hair loss as hypothyroidism is common in women at the age of menopause. Once hormone levels are stabilized, hair often slowly returns to normal.
Stress levels, both emotional and physical, are another common cause of hair loss. You may notice hair loss one to three months after a particularly stressful situation or an illness such as major surgery. Infections and auto-immune disorders are other causes of hair loss in women.
Nutrient deficits can also be a factor in female hair loss. Iron deficiency, for example, is linked to hair loss in premenopausal women, particularly those with heavy menstrual periods. A diet high in refined carbohydrates is also thought to affect hair quantity due to increased insulin production which leads to the increased production of male hormones.
The important message for women experiencing hair loss is to get an appropriate diagnosis. “Without (a) lab test, (doctors) can miss up to 15% of women who have abnormal hormone levels,” says Dr. Daly. “Getting the diagnosis right can lead you to a successful solution.”
Because hair loss can make a woman feel less feminine, and lead feelings of self-consciousness, anxiety and depression, WebMD offers these hair care tips for women experiencing hair loss:
• Cut hair in short layers which add fullness and body. Coloring products may help create volume by swelling the cuticle of the hair. A combination of highlights and low lights can create the illusion of texture.
• Use soft brushes instead of combs and do not tug at the hair when grooming. Using a good mousse or soft gel after washing which can give your hair additional body without harming the hair.
• Look for shampoos and conditioners that build hair volume, but avoid products with a lot of moisture. Concentrate conditioner on the ends of the hair instead of the roots.
• Avoid heavy use of heated styling appliances. Let hair dry naturally after washing or dry it just briefly on medium heat, drying hair in the opposite direction of how you normally part the hair which can give the appearance of more volume. Use curling irons or flat irons on the lowest heat possible, which can help reduce breakage.
• Cosmetic enhancements that are available include a keratin fiber powder matched to one’s hair color that is sprinkled onto the hair and builds volume. Scalp concealers are also available, which are also matched-color powders that reduces the visibility of skin under thinning hair.