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Menopause and hair loss – a wholesome overview

By June 1, 2019 October 29th, 2019 Biology, Hair health, Hair loss, Science of hair growth

An increasing trend of liberation which menopause brings to women, hair loss that can accompany this process is not something most women look forward to. While menopause of itself signifies a new stage of life which can be exciting – hair loss doesn’t have to.

The beauty of the menopause

Female body is a complex, beautiful organism with its rhythms, flows and changes it undergoes as we live. It fills us with uttermost fascination that we, women, can create a life and have an inherent capacity and instincts to care and nurture for this life. You might follow a scientific line of thinking and understand that your hormones are changing and your body rhythms becomes less focused on offspring-rearing abilities during menopause. Or, you might prefer a primordial, even tribal approach that looks back at the evolution and the wisdom that more mature women pass on to younger generation. Almost regardless, menopause can be an exciting, liberating and beautiful period of life.

In many ways, you left the worries of the youth behind you. You know who you are, what you want, what is you life, what works for you and what doesn’t. While still accommodating room for changes that might and will take place as a result of you entering the menopause – you are sure of yourself, as a human being. You probably have a somewhat established career or have a flourishing business: you are standing with both feet on the ground while yet, having so much more to look forward ahead of you.

Evolutionary view on fertility

There are adjustments that your body goes through to accommodate results of millennia of evolution. Contrary to popular belief that cave people lived only until 30, the archaeological evidence of that cannot support that. In fact, so much so, the hypothesis is that women were able to rear offspring in later ages – well into their 70s and 80s. It is male preference towards younger mates made this ability obsolete in older women, which drove the mutation and creation of the menopause. Like with any scientific models which describe the past: most models are wrong, but some are useful.

A modern age woman’s fertility peaks in the early and mid-20s, after which it starts to decline slowly. While many sources suggest a more dramatic drop at around 35, those studies are still citing research from nineteenth century and earlier. In this overview we work with the research we have found and hope that in the years to come, science will uncover more explanations and give us control over our fertility and hormonal cycles.

Hormonal menopausal imbalance and hair loss

The main focus on this article is, of course, hair loss. Having said that, hair loss is a result of changes in hormones – so all treatments for peri-menopausal hair loss needs to be considered in conjunction with overall body health and – hormones. The hormonal imbalance relating to menopause generally implies a reduction in production of oestrogen and progesterone – and simultaneous increased production of androgens. A combination of factors that contribute to hair thinning, stunted hair growth and subsequent hair loss.

Role of oestrogen

Higher oestrogen levels increases blood flow. In turn, this helps hair growth, so when the levels of oestrogen dips around menopause, hair loss becomes an indirect, as well as a direct result of this hormonal change. Without the need to support shiny and lustrous hair to signal fertility to a potential mate, female body slows down the processes relating to such signalling.

Androgens

In addition, increase in androgens is reportedly related to thinning hair and hair loss. Androgenic alopecia in men is known as “male pattern baldness” – instances of androgenic alopecia have also been reported in women, too. This does not always occur during menopause, but it is likely to occur during that time, since this is one of the most common instances of prevalence of androgenic hormones in females, other than medical conditions and illnesses.

Androgenic alopecia leads to reduction of the hair follicle size, and in some instances has been linked to follicle death. However in recent studies, thinning hair follicles during androgenic alopecia still produce hair, known as “vellus hair” – a very thin, often transparent hair that is prevalent in prepuberty and which develops into fully fledged hair upon reaching puberty in men and women. As long as hair follicles grow some hair – it isn’t dead and therefore hair growth can be improved and hair loss reversed.

Fundamental importance of scalp blood flow during menopause

What united most common treatments of androgenic alopecia, be it minoxidil, derma rolling or botulinum toxin – they all impact blood flow. So much so, minoxidil has first been discovered as an antihypertensive – blood-pressure lowering – agent, since it causes vasodilation – a widening of blood vessels. This, in turn, improves blood flow to scalp and helps hair growth.

When thinking about treatments to menopausal changes to your hair health it is helpful to consider treatments that, amongst other things, stimulate blood flow to scalp. All these need to be looked at as a whole, so having your hormone levels check is a good start. Ensuring that you feed your body with nutrient-rich wholesome foods with adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats is the second step. Thirdly – exercise, which not only impacts blood flow in the rest of your body, but also making you a happier person. Finally – take a closer look at your cortisol levels – high level of stress on its own can lead to hair loss – but also during menopause it is important to listen to your body even more carefully as it adjusts to evolutionary shifts transitioning you into a new, and exciting part of your life.

Sources:

A Pilot Study to Evaluate Effectiveness of Botulinum Toxin in Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in Males, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5782443/#ref3

Hormonal changes in menopause: do they contribute to a ‘midlife hair crisis’ in women? https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10629.x

Estrogen acutely increases peripheral blood flow in postmenopausal women: https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/7625415

Why women lose fertility, https://www.the-scientist.com/thought-experiment/why-women-lose-fertility-38776

Study speeds up biological clocks / Fertility rates dip after women hit 27, https://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Study-speeds-up-biological-clocks-Fertility-2843352.php

Androgens and hair growth, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2008.00214.x 

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