Having our hair ‘done’ should make us feel good. Haircuts and styles give us choices about how we express ourselves. Hair also protects our scalp from sunburn, so it’s not surprising that we may feel anxious and alarmed if our hair starts to thin.
This month I consider whether hair thinning, or hair loss in women is due to menopause, or if it’s just part of the ageing process… and is there anything we can do about it anyway?
Did you know:
- Women often notice changes in their hair during perimenopause.
- Hair changes, as a result of hormone changes, are gradual and usually temporary.
- Sudden bald patches or hair loss could be due to an underlying health condition or side effect from medication or medical treatment.
- Facial hair can become coarser at menopause.
- It is normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day!
- Certain foods help to balance our hormones and may have a positive impact on our hair.
Is thinning hair a sign of perimenopause?
A woman can experience many symptoms during perimenopause, or none!
Oestrogen may stimulate hair growth, so hair could be affected as oestrogen levels decline. When we notice hair loss – more hair in our hairbrush or in the shower tray – this could be as a result of decreasing oestrogen levels, a hormonal imbalance, or other health conditions.
Some women notice that their hair feels drier or thinner during perimenopause. However, it is rare for women to go bald as many men do, unless it is a side effect of certain medications or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.
Changes to our hair can also be due to the natural ageing process. Just as our skin and other organs age, our hair often becomes thinner. Stress, crash dieting, dietary deficiencies or falling thyroid levels may also be the cause of hair thinning or loss, so speak to your GP to rule these out first, especially if you are losing hair in patches, if there is a sudden change, or if accompanied by itching or burning.
Hair growth is also affected by our genes, so if our parents had a thick head of hair, it often follows that we will, and vice versa!
How long does hair take to grow?
There are three parts to the hair growth cycle. The anagen phase – growing phase which lasts between two to six years, the catogen phase – short transition phase lasting between four and six weeks, and the telogen phase – shedding phase lasting two to three months.
Why does facial hair sometimes become coarser?
Male hormones can become more dominant as levels of oestrogen decrease during menopause. This can cause hair loss or thinning on the head or body, and increased growth or coarseness of facial hair. This is because our hair follicles on some areas of our body are more sensitive to the decline of oestrogen than other areas.
How can I remove unwanted facial hair?
Waxing, threading and plucking are all possible techniques, however, it is possible to damage the hair follicles over time, so having these done professionally is worth considering. Some women use a hair lightening product but consult a pharmacist about which products are safe and specifically formulated for hair lightening. Be aware of the side effects such as skin allergies and irritation and remember that lightened hair may also be more visible depending on skin colour. But whatever you do, don’t shave your face!
Does HRT help?
Some women find that HRT can stabilise hair growth and sometimes lead to hair regrowth and some find that a combination of HRT and supplements can help.
What supplements can help?
Once your GP has ruled out other health conditions, it may be worth talking to a hair expert, or nutrition therapist. Omega 3 can help as well as other vitamins, minerals and herbs. Speak to a nutrition consultant or herbalist about what’s right for you.
Are there specific anti-ageing foods that may help?
Marilyn Glenville’s top 10 Anti-ageing foods that may improve all-round health:
- Oily fish
- Brazil nuts
- Cruciferous vegetables, e.g. broccoli, cauliflower
- Green Tea
What else can help to improve the condition and appearance of thinning hair?
Avoid using heated hair tools, chlorine and hair dyes that contain harsh chemicals, and don’t brush your hair when it’s wet. Speak to a hairdresser about products that will give extra volume or improve the condition of your hair.
And finally …
If you are still concerned about hair loss or thinning after your GP has ruled out other possible health conditions, speak to your hairdresser, or a trichologist.
Here’s an old favourite recipe of mine that’s simply delicious and full of Omega 3: