Is hair loss a sign of menopause?
Menopause – when you stop having periods – is a natural part of ageing. But as your hormones change and your levels of oestrogen drop, you’ll notice physical changes and symptoms.
Hair loss or thinning can be one of these symptoms, and is more common than you might think. Read on to learn why this can happen during the perimenopause and menopause, and what treatments are available for this type of hormonal hair loss.
Menopause and hair loss
For some people, menopause can cause hair loss. Your hair ages, just like your skin and other parts of your body. From your mid-40s, your hair follicles start to get smaller, so your hair becomes gradually finer. Your total number of follicles can also drop.
The hormone oestrogen can also help hair grow, which is why menopause causes some people to lose hair quite rapidly, as their oestrogen levels decline.
Another cause of hair loss in menopause is female pattern hair loss. This is when some hair follicles shrink until they’re very small, so your hairs become very fine and aren’t thick enough to cover your head.
Female pattern hair loss is often passed down from your parents (hereditary). But the drop in oestrogen levels during menopause can make it worse.
Read more about unusual menopause symptoms.
Other reasons for hair loss
Other possible causes of hair loss include:
- weight loss
- iron deficiency
- skin conditions
- certain hairstyles
- medications, such as treatments for cancer
- medical issues, such as thyroid problems or a severe infection
Read more about hair loss.
When to see a doctor about menopause hair loss
Hair loss or thinning during the menopause can be upsetting, but it isn’t usually an emergency or cause for concern. However, it’s a good idea to see a doctor, especially if you’re worried.
A doctor will ask about your medical history and lifestyle. They should be able to tell the cause of your hair loss by looking at your hair.
They can check for any other possible causes, such as an iron or vitamin deficiency (you may need a blood test). There can sometimes be several factors involved in hair loss.
You should see a doctor if you have hair loss and:
- your hair loss is sudden
- your head itches and burns
- you’re losing hair in clumps
- you have bald patches
- you’re losing weight
- you feel sensitive to heat and cold
- you feel tired
- you have hard poos (constipation) or loose poos (diarrhoea)
- you’re having mood changes
How to stop menopause hair loss, and treatment options
As well as checking in with your doctor, there are things you can do to help keep your hair healthy and stop menopause hair loss or thinning from getting worse. There are also medical treatments available.
How can reducing stress help with hair loss? Well, stress can be a cause of hair loss. And during menopause, those hormonal changes can cause mood swings and anxiety – which can be stressful. So it’s a good idea to try some techniques to lower your stress levels.
Everyone is different when it comes to how they relax and reduce stress, but certain things can help, including:
- calming breathing techniques
- keeping active with regular exercise
- making time for yourself, away from work
- connecting with other people
Discover more ways you can help manage stress.
Making sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet can help you manage your menopause symptoms, including hair loss or thinning.
Although more research is needed, it’s been suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could help to boost hair growth. These are found in foods such as oily fish, seafood, walnuts and flax, hemp and chia seeds.
Iron deficiency can also cause hair loss, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough – good sources include red meat, beans, nuts and fortified breakfast cereals.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folate can also cause anaemia and hair loss.
Hair thinning can also be a sign of a very low-calorie diet, so this is another reason to look at what you’re eating and see if you could make any improvements.
Even though hair loss or thinning during menopause is largely caused by your hormones, there are things you can do to help look after your hair, including:
- not brushing it too hard, especially when it’s wet (try a detangler or a wide-toothed comb)
- avoiding heated tools, such as hairdryers, curling irons and straighteners
- not using accessories that put too much tension on your hair, such as rubber bands or barrette clips
- avoiding artificial dyes
- protecting it from UV light, including sunlight
Styling and products
If your hair is thinning, you might want to try styling it a different way, or using specialist products such as sprays, dyes or mousses that can help cover your scalp. Hair extensions can be useful, but they can also pull on your existing hair, causing it to become weaker.
Wigs and hairpieces
If you have hair loss, a wig or a hairpiece can either be worn on top of your hair or woven into it. In some cases, you might be able to get help with the costs – speak to your doctor.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) replaces the oestrogen and progesterone your body loses during the menopause, and for some people this slows down or stops hair loss. HRT comes in tablets, skin patches, implants or a gel that can be rubbed into your skin.
It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about the benefits and disadvantages of HRT.
Minoxidil is a hair-loss solution you apply to your scalp, which you can get from a pharmacy. It doesn’t work for everyone, only works for as long as it’s used and can be expensive, so it’s best to do some research before trying it.
A hair transplant is when hair is moved from one area of your head to an area that’s bald or thinning. You can also get an artificial hair transplant, which involves surgery to implant artificial hairs.
Counselling and support groups
Losing your hair can be hard to cope with – many of us think of our hair as part of our identity.
If menopause hair loss or thinning is causing you distress, your doctor may be able to offer advice about counselling. You might also find it useful to join a support group, or share your story on online forums.
Outlook: is menopausal hair loss permanent?
Hair loss during menopause is common and can be upsetting, but there are things you can do to help protect your hair. Some of these will also help with other menopause symptoms, so they can help you feel generally better, too.
Whether your hair loss is permanent depends on the cause. If you’re worried, see a doctor, and they can investigate.
Your health questions answered
What vitamins are good for hair loss during menopause?
There isn’t much good-quality evidence about whether vitamins can help with hair loss during menopause. However, it’s been suggested that vitamins A, C, B5 and B7 may be helpful. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for advice about vitamins, and to learn more about supplements for menopause symptoms.
Can HRT cause hair loss?
HRT isn’t known to cause hair loss. It’s used to treat menopause symptoms, and for some people this includes hair loss or thinning. However, it does have some side effects, so speak to your doctor if you’re considering HRT.
- hair loss or thinning is common during the menopause
- ageing, low levels of the hormone oestrogen and female pattern hair loss can play a part
- lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, diet changes and taking care of your hair can help
- treatment options include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and products you apply to your scalp
- see a doctor about your hair loss if it’s sudden, you’re losing a lot of hair, your head itches or burns, or you have other symptoms or you’re worried