Hair loss is a common occurrence in menopause, along with hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings. Over 50% of women in or after menopause will experience noticeable hair loss, and women tend to experience thinning rather than bald spots. Hair loss from the sides, front, or top of the head and hair falling out in clumps can happen, especially while brushing your hair or showering.
This hair loss results from a hormonal imbalance, specifically lowering estrogen and progesterone production. These two hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head longer, but as levels drop, the hair grows more slowly and becomes thinner. This hormonal drop also triggers an increase in androgens, which are male hormones that shrink hair follicles and exacerbate hair loss. An increase in androgen can also cause more facial hair growth, so women going through or post-menopause can start to notice ‘peach fuzz’ on their faces.
It is normal to shed about 50 to 100 hairs per day, but when hair loss starts exceeding this range and more falls out than it grows in, you will begin to notice hair loss.
There are three types of hair loss, including:
Besides the reasons discussed above, many other common factors contribute to hair loss. These include extreme stress, illness, or nutrient deficiency. A diagnostic blood test can help rule out these causes.
While there is a lot known about the reasons women lose hair, there are a lot of old wives tales and myths about hair loss. For example, the following statements are all untrue:
There are many non-medical steps you can take to avoid hair loss:
Stay away from heated tools such as hair dryers, heated rollers, curling irons, and styling methods that can weaken hair (like extensions). Dyes, perms, extreme-hold gels, and hair sprays can also affect the scalp and hair health. The bottom line: stay as natural as possible.
A balanced diet including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables helps maintain hair health. Make sure to eat mono-saturated fats from olive or sesame oil and fatty acids from salmon, tuna, flaxseed oil, almonds, or walnuts. Protein is discussed below and is also critical for good hair health. Your hair is primarily long-chain amino acids, peptide bonds, and protein, so your hair really is what you eat.
Reduced estrogen production can affect brain chemistry, causing anxiety, mood swings, or depression. Prolonged stress sends the body into survival mode, starving the hair of proper nutrients. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are especially helpful in fighting the symptoms of stress.
Exercise can help prevent mood swings, weight gain, and insomnia, typical results of menopause. It can also help maintain a healthy hormonal balance, which aids in hair growth.
Hydration allows the whole body to function properly. A general rule is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Don’t substitute water intake with juices, soda, and other drinks that provide sugars your body doesn’t need.
Lack of adequate protein can impact hair health because keratin, the building block of your hair, comprises amino acids that the body obtains from protein-rich foods. We need 2-3 servings of meat daily or 4-5 servings of dairy or beans. Good sources for protein are fish, beans, eggs, red meat, nuts, kale, asparagus, and cottage cheese.
Wear a hat when you’re outdoors to protect your hair and scalp from the sun. Vitamin E helps keep your hair, skin, and scalp protected, but a hat will ensure you don’t damage these body parts while outdoors.
Massaging your scalp while shampooing stimulates blood flow and removes dead skin cells. A fingertip massage is perfectly adequate, though brushes can serve this function too. Essential oils and serums can also be helpful, especially peppermint or lavender oils that promote growth. This small step can encourage hair follicle health and hair growth.
Many minerals and vitamins can contribute to healthy hair and scalp, including:
Niacin (also known as B3 or nicotinic acid)
Niacin helps the body convert food to energy and helps improve circulation and maintain the structure of blood cells. Improved blood circulation brings oxygen and other nutrients to hair follicles for increased hair growth. The recommended dosage for women is 14 mg (milligrams) per day. Foods rich in niacin are milk, tortillas, yeast, and cereal grains.
Biotin (also known as B7)
Biotin, combined with other B vitamins, supports healthy hair growth. Good sources for biotin are lentils, liver, and nuts with a recommended dosage of 5,000 mcg (micrograms) daily.
Vitamin C promotes healthy hair growth and stimulates regrowth after hair loss. When added to hair products such as shampoo, it can remove mineral build-up, improving the hair’s ability to absorb moisture. Vitamin C also acts as an anti-oxidant that remove free radicals and protects against structured damage to hair proteins. The recommended daily dose of vitamin C is 90 mg with an upper limit of 2,000 mg. Good food sources include an orange, a cup of strawberries, chopped red pepper, or broccoli.
Proper iron consumption contributes to increased blood flow to the scalp, improving hair follicle health. Iron-rich foods include beef liver, kidney beans, oysters, spinach, tofu, tuna, eggs, shrimp, lentils, and peanut butter. The daily recommended dose is 8 mg daily, taking care not to exceed 40 mg.
A zinc deficit leads to a breakdown of protein structures in the hair follicle, thus leading to hair loss. Good sources for zinc are oysters, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, spinach, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and other nuts. The recommended daily dose for zinc is 8 mg.
Evening primrose oil (EPO)
Rich in omega chain fatty acids, EPO is thought to encourage healthy cell growth, including hair. It has also been studied for reducing inflammation which fosters healthy hair. Arachidonic acid is in EPO and has been shown to promote new hair growth and help existing hair shafts grow longer. EPO can be used topically, better for inflammation or in supplement form, better for hormonal conditions.
Don’t confuse it with the essential oil of evening primrose, which is much stronger and typically used in aromatherapy. Recommended supplement dosage is 500 milligrams daily. EPO does not need to be diluted for topical use but should be patch tested. Rub a drop of the oil on the inside of your forearm and cover with a bandage. Observe the area for 24 hours. If no irritation occurs, you should be safe to use elsewhere. When using on your hair, you can slightly heat the oil, massaging it into the scalp and leaving for up to 30 minutes before rinsing.
Pantothenic acid (also known as B5)
B5 strengthens the cells in the hair follicles, thus encouraging hair growth. It also helps with dandruff and itchy skin. Good sources are beef, fish, brewer’s yeast, egg yolk, liver, pork, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Recommended dosage per day is 5 mg.
Vitamin B12 aids in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to hair follicles and other tissues. Good sources are eggs, dairy products, fish, and meat. Vegetarians and vegans should consider adding a B12 supplement to their diet to avoid becoming deficient. The Daily recommended dose is 2.4 micrograms.
Folates or Folic acid (synthetic form), also known as B9
Folates stimulate the rebuilding of follicle cells and, therefore, hair growth. They also help to prevent grey hair and improve blood flow. The recommended dosage of folates is 400 micrograms. Good sources are liver, cod, eggs, green peas, and white beans.
Vitamin A (also known as retinol or retinoic acid)
Vitamin A can increase the speed of cell regeneration and synthesis, and it is also key for moisturizing hair and preventing brittle hair. It is found in liver, dairy products, and spinach.
Foods rich in beta-carotene such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, and cantaloupe are also important because your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. The recommended dosage of vitamin A is 700 micrograms per day.
If you’ve tried everything and your hair still seems thinner than you’d like, here are some tips and tricks to try to make your hair look thicker and fuller.