If menopause has you hating on your estrogen (or lack thereof), we hear you. As if hot flashes, a lazy metabolism and sleep troubles weren’t enough, changes in your hair can set you over the edge. As it would be, the drop in estrogen and progesterone can have a direct impact on the hair follicles, which may lead to slower growth, thinner strands and ultimately, hair loss.
Did you know that women experience hair loss almost as much as men (although it presents differently)? While men often experience a receding hair line or bald spot at the crown, women generally see a widening of their part or diffuse thinning over the entire head. Hair loss has become more socially acceptable for men, yet for women, it can have a more significant impact on confidence and self-esteem.
While women who experience hair loss over the age of 40 often point their fingers at menopause as the cause (and rightfully so), stress, diet and other environmental factors can play a role as well. The good news is, there are several ways to optimize hair follicle function—but the earlier the intervention the better. (And as always, it’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist if you experience any sudden or significant hair changes.)
A healthy, balanced diet is key for overall wellness, and how you feed your body can have a significant effect on the look and feel of the hair as well. Aside from the decline of hormone levels associated with menopause, nutritional deficiencies can make matters worse.
Iron: Iron deficiency is a major contributor to hair loss—but red meat isn’t the only way to get your daily dose. Vegetarian sources include cruciferous greens such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts (which deliver hefty helpings of magnesium, calcium and potassium as well). An adequate amount of iron ensures a healthy scalp environment and promotes the production of sebum that lubricates the follicles, in turn allowing them to produce strong, healthy hair.
Eggs and dairy: The hair is comprised mainly of a protein called keratin, and the body needs nutrients like vitamin B12 and omega-6 fatty acids to produce it. Eggs and dairy products are rich in both, making these foods important for a good hair day every day.
Nuts: Nuts are a wonderful snack that can benefit your body inside and out (just limit your intake as not to overload on calories). High in protein, biotin and magnesium, eat a handful here and there or sprinkle them on top of a salad to optimize scalp health and boost hair production.
Fat: “Good” fats like avocadoes, olive oil, chia seeds, oily fish (like salmon), eggs and nuts are among the best sources of the omega fatty acids our cells need to thrive. This type of fat is necessary for the production of a variety of hormones (other than estrogen and progesterone) that serve many different purposes—including hair growth.
Your beauty regimen
There are countless haircare products and supplements that claim to promote hair growth and stop hair loss. Unfortunately many are nothing more than hope in a bottle, but these easy options can help keep your scalp and hair on track.
Scalp exfoliation: Whether you opt for an in-shower scalp scrub or a manual tool like John Masters Organics’ Exfoliating Scalp Brush, the act of exfoliation removes impurities that can stand in the way of healthy hair growth and boosts circulation to make more oxygen and nutrients available to the hair follicles.
Shampoo: Suitable for daily use, Rene Furterer Forticea Stimulating Shampoo
features orange, lavender and rosemary essential oils to leave hair soft, silky and easy to detangle as it supplies the scalp with the energy it needs to produce strong hair—and massaging it in while washing helps increase microcirculation so hair follicles can perform their job.
Supplements: Drug-free and 100-percent natural, Nutrafol Women’s Balance is specifically formulated to address the hair changes that come along with menopause. Often recommended by dermatologists and hair-loss experts, users report visibly less shedding as well as improvement in hair growth, strength and thickness within three months (although ongoing use is recommended for optimal results).
Hormonal changes may be the driving force behind hair loss before and during menopause, but our everyday habits can either help or hurt. Among the main factors to consider:
Stress: Being overstressed can make mood swings, anxiety and depression worse, but meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and other stress-mediating activities just might be able help relieve menopause symptoms (including hair loss).
Exercise: Moving every day has myriad benefits that range from enhanced mood and physical strength to stabilizing weight and promoting the balance of many hormones (again, not estrogen or progesterone), including those involved in hair growth.
Care for your hair: Regardless of age, hair health can be compromised by heat styling, over-processing and exposure to the elements (such as sun, saltwater and chlorine). And if you’re experiencing any type or level of hair loss, it’s best to avoid putting extra tension on your strands, which means avoiding hairstyles such as tight ponytails, buns or braids.
The brain behind the beauty blog InsiderBeautyBuzz and the innovative self-tan remover, Bronze Buffer, Paige Herman-Axel has two decades of experience writing about beauty and skincare. The former editor of NewBeauty magazine, Paige is now a freelance writer and consultant for various publications and websites, skincare companies big and small, as well as internationally renowned dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
In the rare time spent away from her computer, Paige can be found on a Pilates reformer, shuttling her 11-year-old son to and from lacrosse practice or playing fetch with her Havanese, Nugget.