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Hair loss and the menopause

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

The not-so-secret diary of a perimenopausal woman

7 August 2023 - hair loss and the menopause

How's your summer going?

I guess the location you're reading this from will have a significant impact on your answer to that question. My thoughts go out to those of you who have been impacted by the severe floods, wildfires and heatwave that have hit far too many places around the world.

Here in Brighton on the south coast of England we started in June with a heatwave (hot by UK standards!) and a drought and ever since we've had a fairly standard UK summer, with warm sunny days, rain and wind. I'm convinced it's been windier than normal, even for Brighton which is always windy, and the arrival of storm Antoni at the weekend is unprecedented even for the UK in August!

Why am I talking about the weather? Well, I'm British for a start, we always talk about the weather! Seriously though, it's the wind that's been causing me grief. Not least because I’m growing tomatoes and sunflowers and I keep having to run out in the rain to carry out emergency repairs to the stakes as they bend and bow in the rain.

The thing that really gets to me though is having long hair in the wind. It gets in your face, you can’t see where you’re going and it tangles, oh it tangles. First world problems I know, but it really is quite unpleasant and at times stressful. The lovely Perdita in my local shop says she finds it psychologically disturbing.

Hair loss and the menopause

Where am I going with this? Well, I want to talk to you about another one of those sneaky perimenopause symptoms that hardly anyone talks about and that has come onto my radar in the last couple of months - hair loss.

I’m in denial because anyone who knows me knows that my hair is a big part of my identity. It’s curly and pretty untameable. There’s a lot of it and I’m often told that people recognise me from behind because of my hair.

I spent years straightening it (OK, I also admit to lots of crimping back in the early 80s!) as I hated the curls. It took me a long time to embrace the curls but embrace them I did – not because of the damage I was doing to my hair with the excessive heat, but because the moment I went outside in the wind and the rain I was back to square one!

It’s been a multitude of colours over the years, mainly because I started going grey at 18. More recently I’ve decided to go grey gracefully. That’s not easy as it isn’t the social norm for women to go grey naturally.

What’s even harder to accept is the increase in the amount of hair that seems to be falling out every day now. Admittedly my hair is longer than it’s been in a long time, but I’m always picking it off my clothes and the furniture. The sink and the shower get clogged up quicker. When I wash it, I get the usual handful of hair as I comb the conditioner through, another handful when I comb it once I’m out of the shower (one of the perils of curly hair is that it tangles as quickly as you detangle it!), and another handful when I run my fingers through it to apply hair product.

I notice the thinning when I tie it up. I only tie it up for the gym or for yoga so it’s not about looking glamorous, well not for me anyway! I’m also noting a slightly wider parting than normal which means I have to wear a hat in the sun or get a sun burnt parting – painful believe me.

How common is hair loss in women?

I’ve never really thought about hair loss in women before. We accept that some men get receding hairlines or go bald and when you Google hair loss the majority of posts on the first page are all about men. When I think about it though, my nan’s hair was very fine, and you could see her scalp. I guess I just accepted that older women’s hair might thin, but I didn’t consider it as something that would happen to me at 53. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, 1 in 3 women in the UK claim to experience hair loss, although that’s not necessarily menopause related - it is often linked to stress or diet. Balance by Newson Health states that up to 40% of women will experience hair loss as a result of the menopause.

What happens to your hair during perimenopause and post-menopause?

As we’ve found out, those pesky oestrogen and progesterone hormones get everywhere. We don’t realise this, or even notice, until the levels of both start to fluctuate during perimenopause.

As for our hair, the drop in oestrogen and progesterone can shrink hair follicles which can mean that individual hair strands get thinner. The drop in hormones can also affect the health of the hair follicle leading to hair loss. In addition to this, the change in the ratio between male and female sex hormones at perimenopause may trigger thinning of the hair on top of the scalp and aggravate female pattern hair loss (the most common form of alopecia).

Is hair loss and thinning during perimenopause and post-menopause permanent?

I let out a huge sigh of relief when I found out the answer to this is NO! I can do something about it.

I going to talk to the nurse practitioner about my HRT dosage just in case it’s not quite right. Symptoms are the key indicator for getting the HRT dose right and I’ve been noticing a few things recently which have snuck back in. The oestrogen gels and patches are easy to adjust, but do it with your health care practitioner, not alone.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key for this as it is for menopause overall. Eating well, staying hydrated, exercising, managing stress and regulating hormones can all help improve hair quality. There's a little bit about healthy lifestyle in each of my blogs.....

I’ve been feeling more anxious again recently, perhaps that is impacting on my hair. It will spur me on to meditate more often.

This article from Balance Menopause is a helpful source of more information about hair loss.

Enjoyed reading this?

If you'd like to read more of 'the not-so-secret diary of a menopausal woman', check out the rest of my posts here. Sign up and you'll receive each post direct to your inbox when they're published. I'd love to hear what you think and find out about your experiences, so please feel free to leave me a comment.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and I'll be back in September.



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