Treat menopause hair thinning, hair loss
Have you ever looked in your shower drain or hairbrush and wondered how you still have hair on your head? Does your scalp get sunburned easily or are you noticing thinning hair around your part? You may be suffering from female hair loss, a much more common problem than you might think.
Hair loss occurs with age
“About half of all women will have some element of hair loss by the age of 50, and by the age of 60, about 80 percent of women will experience hair loss,” says Glynis Ablon, MD, associate clinical professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and dermatologist at the Ablon Skin Institute and Research Center in California.
We all know that hair loss or baldness can happen to men in their 40s, but we don’t talk about it as much when it comes to women, she says. âIt usually has a different impact on women, especially their self-confidence. Someone like Bruce Willis can just shave their head, but it tends to be more important to women, âsays Dr. Ablon.
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The good news: There are a variety of treatments available to combat hair loss in postmenopausal women, according to Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, the director of the Center for Women’s Health at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the medical director of NAMS. âThere are simple solutions for hair loss in women, but we shouldn’t assume that’s always the reason for hair loss; sometimes there are underlying problems causing the disease, âsays Dr Faubion.
What is hair loss in women?
The most common type of hair loss in women is called androgenetic alopecia, or female hair loss (FPHL). The hair follicles shrink, which makes the hair thinner and thinner, with an overall decrease in the number of hairs. The hair growth phase also becomes shorter and less hair is in the active growth phase.
âUsually in hair loss in women, the frontal hairline remains roughly the same, but there may be part enlargement and central thinning of the hair,â explains Alison Bruce, MBChB, dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Bruce presented information on common causes of midlife hair loss and new treatment options at North American Medical Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, September 22-25, 2021.
It is important to find the “root” cause of hair loss
If you’re bothered by your thinning hair or hair loss, a visit to your primary care doctor is a great place to start, says Bruce. “It is likely that hair loss in women is probably the cause, but a physical examination can confirm it,” she says.
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If the hair loss does not follow the typical appearance of female hair loss, your doctor will likely run some tests to explore the potential causes.
- A blood count (CBC) test is used to assess overall health and can detect many conditions, including anemia, which can cause hair loss.
- Thyroid function tests may reveal thyroid problems which may be related to thinning hair.
- A dietary assessment, or a discussion about what you eat, can determine if you have a normal healthy diet and vitamin deficiency.
- Autoimmune inflammation Your doctor can investigate conditions related to scalp inflammation, including autoimmune diseases, which may be associated with hair loss, Bruce explains.
- A hormonal test can be performed, although a hormonal imbalance is rarely the culprit for hair loss, says Faubion.
Hair loss is often caused by genetics
âIt’s important for women to realize that most of the reasons they can experience hair loss are influenced by genetics and the aging process,â explains Bruce. A genetic cause doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something you inherited directly from your mother or father, she adds.
âThere are many different genes linked to hair loss, and it is a very complex interplay of many genes. You shouldn’t assume you’ve done anything to cause your hair loss, especially if you’re otherwise healthy, âsays Bruce.
High stress can cause hair loss
âExtreme stress can be a problem and cause hair loss,â says Faubion. The condition is called telogen effluvium, and luckily, the hair loss it causes is temporary, she says.
All hair follicles go through a cycle, and significant physical or emotional stress can grow more follicles than usual in a resting phase, which can lead to significant hair loss at the same time, explains Faubion. âIt may take a while after this stress for the cycle to return to normal,â she says.
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The pandemic appears to have increased stress levels and the resulting hair loss for many women, Ablon says. âI saw a lot of patients about hair loss before the pandemic, and I’m probably seeing about three times as much as a year ago,â she says.
Midlife hormonal changes may contribute to lighten hair
Hair loss could also be linked to a hormonal change, says Faubion. Androgens, a group of hormones that include testosterone and androstenedione, don’t increase during the menopause transition, but the ratio of estrogen to androgen changes, so you have less estrogen and relatively more estrogen. androgens, she explains.
DHT, a metabolite of testosterone, has been linked to male pattern baldness in research. âThere is a theory that changing ratios may be linked to hair loss in women,â says Faubion.
Prevent Hair Loss: Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs Can Help
The easiest solution is to start using 5 percent minoxidil, which is available without a prescription, explains Bruce. âThe trade name is Rogaine, but there are also generic versions available. This treatment is effective in about two in three people who use it, âshe says.
Compliance can be a problem because you have to use it every day to retain the benefits, she says. âThere are drugs marketed for both men and women, but women can use the men’s formulation and it is often cheaper. “
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Oral prescription medications have been shown to help fight hair loss in women. These drugs have been approved for use in other conditions, but are used by physicians “off-label” for FPHL, according to the. Association of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Spironolactone, a blood pressure medication that is a diuretic (a drug that increases urine output) can prevent worsening hair loss and restore hair growth, according to the AAD. Other drugs block the effects of circulating androgens or decrease androgen levels.
These oral medications should not be used by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, according to the AAD.
Non-pharmaceutical treatments for hair loss
While there is no “silver bullet,” explains Bruce, other options that can help with FPHL include:
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection is a procedure in which the patient’s blood is drawn and the blood is centrifuged in a centrifuge so that the platelets are concentrated; then they’re injected into the scalp, Bruce says. âThe theory is that platelets have growth factors and they will stimulate hair growth,â she says.
- Low level light lasers These laser combs, helmets and other devices can be used at home without a prescription. According to the AAD, laser light has been shown to stimulate hair growth in a few studies.
- Supplements Ablon recently completed a study of a nutraceutical supplement, Nutrafol Women’s Balance Capsules, which contain bioactive compounds derived from food sources including curcumin, ashwagandha, saw palmetto, and tocopherol. The six month the results were published in the January 2021 issue of Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, and 12-month results will be released shortly, Ablon says. The researchers compared the results at 6 months and 12 months of treatment and found that the average total number of hairs increased significantly and gradually. Global measurements of hair quality have improved dramatically, by 40 percent, with little to no side effects, as well as decreased hair loss, according to the authors. Ablon received a research grant and financial support from Nutraceutical Wellness Inc., the manufacturer of the supplement.
Discuss any treatment, drug or non-drug, with your doctor and assess any interactions or potential problems with the drugs, as well as the medical causes of your hair loss, before starting treatment. Do not assume that a procedure or treatment is covered by medical insurance.
Hair transplant may be an option for some women with hair loss
Women who are more anxious about their hair loss or have more hair loss may consider a hair transplant, says Bruce. âThis is an expensive and somewhat invasive procedure. You take hair from a donor site, usually at the back of the scalp, and then redistribute those hair follicles to areas where the hair is thinner, âshe says.
Lifestyle and home remedies for thinning hair
If you feel embarrassed about thinning hair, there are options beyond treatments and procedures that can make hair loss less noticeable, Bruce explains.
- Wear a wig, extension, or hairpiece. Some women find this to be an appropriate option.
- Style your hair differently. This can make an enlarged part less noticeable.
- Try hair powders. These contain tiny fibers; you sprinkle the powder into your hair and the fibers cling to the hair shaft, giving the appearance of fuller hair and hiding where the scalp is visible.
- Consult a hairdresser. Some stylists specialize in thinning hair.