Estrogen hair loss: Hair Loss and Menopause: How to Prevent It
Hair Loss and Menopause: How to Prevent It
There are steps you can take to treat hair loss and improve the quality of your hair during menopause. Follow these tips to keep your locks healthy and strong.
Menopause is a natural biological process that all women experience at some point in their lives. During this time, the body goes through numerous physical changes as it adjusts to fluctuating hormone levels. Many women have unpleasant symptoms during menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia. Hair loss is another common occurrence.
Hair loss tends to be subtler in women than it is in men. Most women experience overall hair thinning rather than noticeable bald spots. The thinning can occur on the front, sides, or top of the head. Hair may also fall out in large clumps during brushing and showering.
Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time. When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of 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 why some menopausal women develop facial “peach fuzz” and small sprouts of hair on the chin.
For women going through menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to hormonal changes. However, there are many other factors that can contribute to hair loss during menopause. These include extremely high levels of stress, illness, or a lack of certain nutrients. Diagnostic blood tests that can help rule out other causes of hair loss include thyroid tests, and/or a complete blood count.
Hair loss may make you feel self-conscious about your physical appearance, but the condition isn’t permanent.
It’s important to keep your stress levels in check to prevent a hormonal imbalance. Reduced estrogen production can affect your brain chemistry and cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression. However, doing yoga and other breathing relaxation methods are especially effective in fighting menopausal symptoms. Exercising regularly can also help reduce stress.
Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. You’ll feel stronger and happier once you incorporate exercise into your daily routine. It also helps prevent some of the other symptoms of menopause, including mood swings, weight gain, and insomnia. All of these factors are important for maintaining hormonal balance, which promotes healthy hair growth.
Choose a form of exercise that works for you. You may want to consider taking a walk with a friend, joining a gym, or going for a run.
Eating a balanced, low-fat diet is your best defense against hair loss. Make sure you include an adequate amount of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in every meal. It’s also important to incorporate mono-saturated oils, such as olive oil and sesame oil, into your diet. Drinking green tea and taking vitamin B6 and folic acid supplements may help restore hair growth as well. Essential fatty acids also play a crucial role in maintaining hair health. These fatty acids can be found in the following foods:
- flaxseed oil
Your body needs to be hydrated in order to function properly. Load up on h3O all day long and pass on juices, sodas, and other flavored drinks that contain more sugar than your body needs. The amount of water needed varies from person to person and depends on various factors, including overall health and exercise intensity. As a general rule, however, you should aim to have eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
In order to prevent drying and breakage, it’s best to stay away from heat tools, such as hair dryers and straightening irons. Extensions and other styling methods can also weaken your hair and cause early hair loss. If you must dye your hair, choose an all-natural hair color. Artificial chemicals found in dyes and perms can compromise your scalp and hair health. When you wash your hair, always use a nourishing conditioner to keep your scalp healthy and promote healthy hair growth.
If you swim, make sure to wear a swimming cap, as chlorine can contribute to hair breakage. When out in the sun or the wind for extended periods of time, it’s important to wear a hat to protect your hair from drying and breakage.
Some medications have side effects that include hair loss. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing significant hair loss and you think that your medication might be the cause. Your doctor might be able to switch you over to another type of medicine without any reported side effects. Don’t stop taking your medications until you’ve spoken with your doctor, as this could be dangerous for your health.
Oestrogen Levels & Hair Loss
You may have thought you were one up on men in the biological war but not only testosterone-strong males experience hair loss. In fact (and unfairly), up to 50% of women will experience some form of hair loss in their lifetime. You might have heard that pregnancy, the contraceptive pill and menopause are possible causes of hair loss, but are they really? Well, yes and no. An understanding of why female hair loss happens and what role estrogen plays in hair growth may help to make this answer clearer.
Oestrogen is the dominant female sex hormone and is essential in the development of female characteristics. It can be found in men as well but in smaller quantities. It is the opposite the primary male sex hormone testosterone, which is also found in women but again in smaller quantities.
What does oestrogen have to do with hair loss?
While testosterone converts to DHT to destroy the hair, estrogen promotes hair growth by counteracting the testosterone that leads to female pattern hair loss and lengthens the hair growth phase (anagen).
During pregnancy, high concentration of estrogen levels in women result in the development of thicker, stronger, longer and healthier looking hair. Following pregnancy however, women tend to fret and think that they’re losing their hair when in fact they’re merely shedding the excess hair that the excess oestrogen created. The hair that was in a prolonged anagen stage are now all shifting into telogen (resting phase) to make way for new hair growth. This type of hair loss is comes under the condition known as telogen effluvium but the good news is that when oestrogen levels have returned to normal, your hair will too.
During menopause however, your oestrogen levels might drop. This will result a hormonal imbalance which can pave the way for the male hormone DHT to flood the hair follicles. It’s important to note however that not all hormonal imbalances are related to oestrogen. Some can be caused by other conditions such as a thyroid problem.
Hormone replacement therapy, contraceptive pills and eating foods high in oestrogen (like chicken and eggs) can increase oestrogen levels but you should always seek specialist medical advice first. Research indicates excess oestrogen can promote various conditions such as breast cancer, gall bladder problems and heart disease.
Women using oestrogen supplementation or taking birth control pills will also experience hair loss when they cease supplying their body with extra oestrogen. These forms of hair loss may be temporary but this, however, does not mean that there is no link between oestrogen and permanent hair loss. Scientists have noted up to 30 hormones that could play a role in female pattern hair loss the genetic kind of hair loss and oestrogen, whilst poorly explored, may be one of them. It’s alright if the excess hairs are the ones that are lost but when normal hair falls out, there’s a problem.
What can be done?
If you’re losing more than 100 hairs a day it may be worth seeking the help of a hair loss professional. Oestrogen and hair loss may or may not be problematic but there is still the chance that your hair follicles may become damaged in the process. There is currently no concrete evidence that links an increase in oestrogen to the effective treatment of hair loss, but there are hair loss treatments that have FDA-approval for the specific purpose of regrowing hair. Topical products like minoxidil are proven to promote hair growth and there are also anti-androgen products that could help to deflect the creation of DHT. Early treatment is the key to successful hair restoration so if you’re concerned, contact the Belgravia Centre to ensure that you will keep your head of hair full, healthy, and strong.
Hair Loss in Women
Hair Loss Treatment
Proven vs. Non-Proven Hair Loss Treatments
Is Hair Loss Related to the Amount of Testosterone in the Body?
Iron Defficiency & Hair Loss
Do I have Female Pattern Hair Loss?
Women’s Hair Loss
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve.
causes of hair loss in women and how to deal with them
When hair begins to noticeably fall out, most often the problem is hormonal changes or an imbalance of vitamins. But these are not the only reasons – and our experts are ready to tell you everything you need!
Hair plays a huge role in our self-perception. Am I blonde or brunette? Do I have a perky pixie haircut or long mermaid curls? Even if we discard (and do it right!) stereotypes that hair affects a woman’s identity, it’s hard not to notice how the mood rises after a change of image, haircut or color.
Do not self-medicate! In our articles, we collect the latest scientific data and the opinions of authoritative health experts. But remember: only a doctor can diagnose and prescribe treatment.
It is not surprising that hair loss directly affects our self-esteem, mood and self-confidence. According to experts, in some cases, experiences are so strong that they lead to chronic stress, neurosis and even depression.
Science pays incomparably more attention to male pattern baldness than to female pattern baldness, although it is we who bear hair loss harder. However, we still have something to tell you.
Exploring the life cycle of hair
Healthy human hair follows roughly the same pattern. It all starts with the active growth phase (anagen), which lasts 3-5 years. This is followed by a transition period (catagen) lasting about ten days, and finally the final phase (telogen) when the hair falls out. After that, the follicle remains inactive for about three months, and then the cycle repeats again.
In some people, the hair passes to the third phase faster than usual, which is a reaction to a variety of stimuli. These can be nutritional deficiencies, illness, surgery, or thyroid hormone problems.
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In general, hair loss, hair thinning, deterioration in appearance, and split ends occur when the normal life cycle of the hair is disrupted. Some of the reasons for this are common to men and women, and some are unique to us. According to experts, it is normal for people to lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. If this number increases, and the appearance of the hair worsens, it’s time for you to contact a trichologist.
Hair loss due to hormonal imbalance, acute stress, malnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies is usually reversible. It is much more difficult to reverse the process if the cause of baldness is associated with a genetic predisposition or specific autoimmune processes. A trichologist usually starts by ordering blood tests to determine the cause of baldness and acting on the results.
Oh, those hormones, they can turn our skin, hair and nails into a nightmare. Or, on the contrary, make the mood delightful, make the skin shine and the hair shine.
Hair health is affected by the right balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Estrogen usually makes hair grow well and thickly, but too much of it upsets the balance: the body releases more testosterone in response. Paradoxically, high levels of estrogen cause male-type, testosterone-type hair loss. Hormonal imbalance is usually determined by a genetic predisposition, but various diseases can also be the cause.
Hormones during pregnancy
Freshly baked mothers are often frightened when they find a large amount of fallen hair on the comb. What is this, a seasonal molt? Will a baby and I become equally bald?
Don’t worry: hair loss after childbirth is due to the fact that during pregnancy you got a lush, shiny mane of fresh hair in the active growth phase. After the birth of a child, the level of hormone levels changed, which led to the loss of “beginners”. Sometimes they take the company and the hair that you carefully grew before pregnancy. Doctors attribute this to the physical stress of the body due to childbirth and hormonal changes.
Most often, prolapse begins three months after the birth of the baby and ends after another four. Eat properly and nutritiously, make sure you get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Soon the new hair will hatch into the light.
Hormones during menopause
As we have already said, estrogen and progesterone make our hair lively and thick, but it is these hormones that decrease sharply during menopause. Androgens (“male” hormones) are no longer compensated by estrogens, which leads to hair loss. Usually, replacement therapy and special drugs that suppress the activity of testosterone cope well with this problem.
The thyroid gland regulates our metabolism, so hair loss and weight gain are a reason for the doctor to check the level of hormones of this particular organ. With hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not work efficiently enough, which can lead to reversible alopecia and even eyebrow loss. But don’t worry, after hormone levels, all hair will grow back.
Iron deficiency, or anemia, is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women.
Lack of iron in the body directly affects the quality of the hair and its life cycle. Hair quickly enters the telogen phase, in which the hair follicle is released and falls into “hibernation”. Therefore, keep an eye on the level of iron in the blood, especially if you have heavy periods or a strict vegetarian (vegan) diet.
Iron is used not only in hair growth, but also in the production of red blood cells. Considering that their quantity and quality are much more important for the body than your hairstyle, in conditions of deficiency, it resolutely makes a choice in favor of new blood cells. However, this problem is quite easy to solve by taking iron supplements, both in the form of injections and in the form of tablets
This is an umbrella term that can refer to various conditions (anorexia, orthorexia, bulimia) in varying proportions. The body reacts to them in different ways, but always with physical stress, often including hair loss. The keratin that makes up the hair is not vital for our body, and in conditions of food shortage, they simply stop growing.
The body clearly prioritizes in extreme situations, and renewal of hair, nails and skin is at the very bottom of the list.
The good news is that when you return to a nutritious diet rich in vitamins and trace elements, the hair returns to normal growth after about six months.
Let’s not forget that even when overeating, people can be left without the necessary micro and macro elements. If a person eats sweets and fast food, his body “starves”, which can also affect the condition of the hair.
Hereditary alopecia is sometimes found among women. It usually looks like a more or less uniform decrease in the number of active follicles throughout the head (rather than clearly defined hairless areas).
This kind of baldness can start at almost any age, but is more often triggered by menopause because it is, among other things, related to androgen levels. Women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome may notice hair loss earlier as the condition is associated with an excess of “male” hormones.
Frontal fibrosing alopecia
This is a rather rare condition that occurs predominantly in postmenopausal women. With fibrosing alopecia (or, as it is also called, frontotemporal recession), hair is lost irreversibly, leaving bald areas in front and on the sides of the head. Doctors do not know exactly why this happens, but they suggest that autoimmune processes are to blame – a woman’s body attacks the hair follicles, leaving scar tissue instead. Unfortunately, this process is irreversible.
If a woman eats a lot of foods with a high glycemic index and leads a sedentary lifestyle, then her body responds with high levels of insulin. Which, in turn, disrupts ovulation and instructs the ovaries to produce more testosterone – with predictable results.
Fortunately, after the return of insulin and hormones to healthy limits, the quality of the hair is restored.
We know how destructive stress can be for the body. It starts the overproduction of cortisol, which gives the command to insulin, which, in turn (as we already know), provokes an overabundance of testosterone. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, there’s a pretty good chance your hair will fall out in two to four months. It will take them about six months to recover and “return to duty.”
Hormonal effects on hair at different stages of women’s life
In a previous article, we looked at the influence of various hormones on the development of hair follicles and hair growth.
And now let’s find out what effect hormones have on hair, depending on the life cycle of a woman.
During puberty, the main hormones are androgens.
Androgens such as testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and their prohormones dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and androstenedione are key factors in terminal hair growth.
They act on sex-specific areas of the body, transforming thin, straight and light vellus hair into thicker, curly and darker terminal hair.
The reproductive period in women can be affected by a number of hormonal disorders, such as hyperandrogenism, thyroid disease, hyperprolactinemia, hypercortisolism, and excessive secretion of growth hormone.
These endocrine disruptions can lead to hair growth disorders such as hirsutism, female pattern hair loss, and other forms of alopecia.
Hirsutism is a common endocrine disorder, usually due to androgen excess, that occurs in 5–10% of women of reproductive age and is defined as an excessive amount of terminal hair in women in a male pattern of distribution.
Approximately 70-80% of women with elevated androgen levels suffer from hirsutism, although excessive body hair often occurs without hyperandrogenemia.
Hirsutism appears in the interaction between plasma androgens and the apparent sensitivity of the hair follicles to them, depending on the levels of activity of 5-alpha reductase and subsequent binding to the androgen receptor.
A modified version of the Ferriman-Gallway visual score is used to assess the degree of hirsutism.
The scoring system covers nine areas of the body, which are scored from 0 (lack of hair) to 4 (significant hair growth), so the maximum total score is 36.
In healthy women, the final score is usually below 8 (adjusted for ethnicity).
An overwhelming cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which accounts for 3 out of every 4 cases. Other causes of androgen excess occur much less frequently.
Nonclassical congenital adrenal hyperplasia occurs in only 1.5–2.5% of women with hyperandrogenism, and androgen-secreting tumors occur in approximately 0.32% of cases.
Diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, acromegaly, and thyroid dysfunction should also be ruled out at the time of diagnosis.
Hirsutism must be distinguished from hypertrichosis, which is excessive hair growth in a generalized non-sexual pattern and is not caused by androgen excess, but often results from the use of certain drugs (eg, phenytoin, cyclosporine).
Treatment of hirsutism depends on the cause and severity of the condition, but is usually based on pharmacological therapy (combined estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives, antiandrogen drugs) and hair removal.
The second disorder associated with androgen excess in women of reproductive age is female pattern hair loss.
Such alopecia is characterized by a decrease in the density of hair in the central region of the scalp, with the exception of the front line of their growth.
Unfortunately, the relationship between hair loss and androgen excess is not yet clear. Most women with frontocentral hair loss have normal circulating androgen levels and do not show any other symptoms of hyperandrogenism such as hirsutism, irregular menses, or anovulation.
This type of hair loss has also been found in women who lack the androgen receptor, with post-pubertal androgenization deficiency, or total absence of androgens in the blood serum.
Therefore, dermatologists use the term “female pattern baldness” (FPHL) instead of androgenetic alopecia, so as not to imply a role for androgen excess in this type of baldness.
On the other hand, many women with hyperandrogenism also show and complain of hair loss on the scalp, which points to some role of androgens in the process described above.
Increased androgen action on the scalp may be due to increased 5-alpha reductase activity and higher DHT concentrations, or due to androgen binding to their receptors.
Female pattern hair loss may first appear even during adolescence or in peri- or postmenopausal age.
In androgen-excessive patients, FPHL usually develops at a young age, but in postmenopausal women, the causes are complex and may depend on estrogen deficiency.
There is also a role for genetic factors in the development of female pattern hair loss (i.e. polymorphisms in the aromatase gene) and low-grade chronic inflammation of the scalp.
Doctors recommend starting treatment for FPHL with minoxidil (5%), adding 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or antiandrogens for severe hair loss or hyperandrogenism.
The role of prolactin in patients with FPHL is still controversial and unclear. Futterweit et al. reported in their study that among 109 patients with female pattern baldness, 7.2% had hyperprolactinemia and 1.8% had prolactinoma.
After hypo- and hyperthyroidism, hyperprolactinemia is the next most common endocrine trigger for telogen effluvium.
In thyrotoxicosis, scalp hair is thin and soft, and diffuse scalp hair loss occurs in 20–40% of patients, although its intensity is not directly related to the severity of endocrine disorders.
With hyperthyroidism, there is focal alopecia, hair loss in the armpits, on the pubis, body and eyebrows.
Hair with hypothyroidism is dull, coarse and brittle due to reduced secretion of sebum, and diffuse alopecia is observed in almost 50% of cases.
Alopecia areata is usually associated with an autoimmune disease that causes thyroid dysfunction.
Effect of hormones on hair during pregnancy
During pregnancy, the teloptosis phase is delayed and the number of falling hairs decreases.
Moreover, during pregnancy, the diameter of the hair on the scalp increases, which is associated with the action of high levels of estrogen.
However, the complex changes seen during pregnancy (including increases in human chorionic gonadotropin, progesterone, prolactin, numerous growth factors, and cytokines) may themselves contribute to an increase in hair growth rate, hair diameter, and anagen to telogen ratio.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause terminal hair growth on the abdomen, lower back, and thighs.
Sudden and severe hirsutism during pregnancy may be a symptom of malignant diseases of the ovaries or adrenal glands, such as luteomas or Cushing’s syndrome.
In the postpartum period, many patients suffer from telogen poisoning 2-4 months after delivery.
Postpartum telogen effluvium is a commonly reported phenomenon that is explained by synchronous teloptosis and lasts for 6 to 24 weeks and, in rare cases, can persist for up to 15 months.
Effect of hormones on menopausal hair
It is no secret that the proportion of postmenopausal women in the general population is growing, and therefore more and more attention is required to their health and cosmetic problems.
It is noted that during the menopause, female-type hair loss and facial hirsutism most often occur.
Also in the perimenopausal period, there is a noticeable decrease in the density and diameter of the hair.
The cessation of estrogen production by the ovaries and complex interactions with other hormones, growth factors, and cytokines contribute to changes in hair growth characteristics during this period.
Estrogen levels drop dramatically, while androgen secretion declines gradually and persists into later life, as rising luteinizing hormone (LH) levels support ovarian androgen production.
Thus, in the absence of estrogen and with a tendency to accumulate visceral adipose tissue, there is a marked decrease in the concentration of sex hormone-binding globulin and a subsequent increase in the free androgen index.
Moreover, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, which usually increase after menopause, can exacerbate androgen secretion.
Although serum androgen levels do not exceed those found in premenopausal women, the described imbalance in estrogen and androgen production can lead to terminal facial hair and reduced body and scalp hair.
About half of women report excessive facial hair growth after menopause.
However, understanding the role of menopause in hair characteristics is difficult, as age-related changes can coexist and overlap with hormonal changes.
The table below shows the main hormones and their effect on hair growth:
|life stage||Main hormones involved||Effect|
|Puberty||Androgens||Turning vellus hair into terminal hair in the pubic and axillary regions|
|reproductive age||Androgen excess (eg, PCOS, nonclassical adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperprolactinemia)||hirsutism|
|Unknown/unexplained role of sex hormones||Female pattern hair loss|
|Pregnancy||High levels of estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and growth factors||Increased hair growth, hair diameter and anagen/telogen ratio|
|postpartum period||Decreased estrogen and progesterone||postpartum telogen wasting|
|Menopause||Depletion of estrogen|| Female pattern hair loss |
hirsutism on the face
Although much is already known about the effect of hormones on hair growth, it is obvious that further research is needed to understand all the processes of this effect and the possibility of its regulation.