Losing or thinning hair around the time of menopause can be beyond distressing. So many changes are happening to your body, and the last thing you need to worry about is losing hair. When our hair starts falling out it can be very scary. It understandably makes us self-conscious about our physical appearance. The good news is that there are underlying reasons why this happens at midlife, but the condition isn’t permanent if properly addressed with a midlife refuel. There are many steps you can take to treat hair loss and improve the quality of your hair.
Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for more extended periods. When the levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in androgens or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head. In some cases, however, these hormones can cause more hair to grow on the face. This is the reason why some menopausal women develop facial “peach fuzz” and tiny sprouts of hair on the chin – haven’t you always wondered how that happened!
Some women find their hair thins all over, while others get what’s known as alopecia areata, which results in patches of complete hair loss. Generalized, often mild, scalp hair loss can also accompany diseases of the scalp, such as psoriasis and eczema.
A large proportion of women reporting hair loss have low ferritin levels, a blood protein that contains iron. This issue is common among women who have heavy periods or experience flooding during perimenopause, which causes a gradual depletion of iron stores. Vegetarians are more likely to have low serum ferritin levels than meat-eaters.
For women going through menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to hormonal changes. However, many other factors can contribute to hair loss during menopause. These include extremely high levels of stress, illness, or a lack of certain nutrients.
Ways to reduce hair loss
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Eat iron-rich foods such as liver, beef, lamb, almonds, lentils, Brazil nuts, eggs, spinach, muesli, fortified cereals, and whole grains. Many of these foods are also rich in vitamin B7 (biotin), essential for healthy hair.
Brazil nuts are also one of the best sources of the trace mineral selenium, which is needed to produce thyroid hormones. Zinc, found in beef, lamb, Brazil nuts, peanuts, turkey, whole grain bread, cheddar cheese, prawns, and oysters, is also important. Salmon, sprats, sardines, chickpeas, chicken, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, red meat, and quinoa contain a range of essential nutrients, including zinc, essential fats and iron, which can help promote hair growth. Soy-based foods and drinks provide a rich source of iron and a great source of naturally occurring oestrogen.
Avoid black tea, as it contains tannin, which binds with iron and inhibits its absorption.
Take an iron supplement if you are anaemic or your haemoglobin level is toward the low end of normal (11.0–12.5 mg/dL). Don’t overdo it, as iron can be harmful in excessive doses. A small supplement, such as one tablet of ferrous sulphate taken daily with fruit juice, is safe and should correct any mild deficiency. You will need to take it for six months, as recovery is slow.
Vitamin C works synergistically with iron, enhancing its absorption. Take a supplement of at least 1,000 mg a day.
It’s helpful to take supplements including omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), and biotin. Specialized products like Florisene and Nourkrin have been shown to help prevent hair shedding.
Use Appropriate Hair-Care Products
Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, including sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), parabens, triclosan, and polyethylene glycol (aka PEG). Examples include SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil shampoo, which contains shea butter, peppermint, and apple cider vinegar and claims to strengthen and restore hair; and SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Conditioner with coconut milk and acacia senegal, known for its fibre-repairing and hydration qualities. Both products are sulphate-free and safe for coloured hair.
The Biokera range of hair products is claimed to help calm an irritated scalp and thicken hair. Biokera Scalp Therapy Intensive Serum contains components that claim to stimulate cellular metabolism and promote hair growth.
So, don’t despair. Try out the above suggestions. It's all part of your midlife refuel and wait for the results. However, don’t expect an overnight miracle; recovery will take time – remember how slow your hair grows!
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