If scientists ever find a cure for menopause, our big problem will suddenly become global cooling.
Many women experience a variety of symptoms as a result of the hormonal changes associated with the transition to menopause. It’s that time when your days start backwards, waking up tired and going to bed fully awake.
We read articles about how menopause can be a time of reflection and insight, prompting you to embrace the new stage in your life; how it is a bit like being a teenager again, only with a full tank of gas and one’s own car keys.
The reality is that as we age, we experience changes in our skin and hair, and our waists change from an hourglass shaped to an apple shaped one 🙁
Menopause is nobody’s friend, except maybe the moisturizing and cosmetic surgery industry.
Now that I put you in a good mood :-), lets see how menopause affects the hair.
Menopause can affect hair
On average, the age of onset of the menopause is 50 years, but it may vary among women, ranging from 45 up to 56 years of age (1). This period manifests as a reduction in estrogen hormones and increase in the androgen concentration. These hormonal changes affect some hair characteristics and are responsible for hair thinning. Almost 20-60% of women before reaching the age of 60 suffer from hair thinning. (4).
The hair strand diameter also can decrease, especially in the frontal and parietal areas. Studies showsa decrease in copper and calcium concentrations in hair. Age related decrease in hair copper and calcium concentration is observed in perimenopausal women (5,6), which makes the hair brittle.
As the hair thinning wouldn’t have been enough, facial hair tends to increase after menopause even in the elderly (9). Cute moustache anyone? The prevalence of facial hair growth has not been fully documented, but it is supposed that about 50-70% of women report excessive facial hair growth after menopause, even though there is no hormonal replacement therapy (9).
Now, it is well worth it to note that a lot of drugs used to treat different types of conditions can affect hair. Some drugs can lead to increased hair loss while others, can stimulate hair growth or even change their shape or color. Usually these are temporary and elimination of the drug and good nutrition will facilitate hair regrowth. For example, anticoagulants cause hair thinning in 50% of the patients, which occurs 1-12 weeks after the last dose is administered. Drugs used in neurology are also responsible for drug induced alopecia, like Carbamazepine or Valproic acid (7).
What shall we do? Good nutrition is critical.
During this period of time, apart from the hair products that give us a cosmetic fix and some topical treatments, it’s actually very important to eat a balanced diet that can prevent the deficiencies of vitamins, proteins and minerals taking parts in hair building process.
I am not a fan of supplements, and believe that many people take them unnecessarily and actually sometimes you get the opposite effects. For example, if you take to much Zinc, this can lead to copper and calcium deficiency, drowsiness and headaches, and makes hair brittle. Also zinc decreases the iron uptake, so if you have same amount of zinc and iron on your bottle, you’ll basically absorb no iron (10).
Good sources for a balanced diet for women that influence hair health
Proteins: cottage cheese, yoghurt, fish, meat (veal, beef), poultry (turkey, chicken), legume seeds (soya, lentils, beans, peas, broad beans), seeds (pumpkin and unflower seeds, sesame), nuts (pistachio, peanuts), grain products (buckwheat, barley groats, hulled barley, brown rice, rye whole-meal bread and graham bread), eggs.
Fats: fish, flax seeds, walnuts, wheat sprouts, poultry, eggs, olive oil and rapeseed oil.
Carbohydrates: full grain breads, grits, rice, whole meal pasta, vegetables and fruit with low glycemic load.
Vitamin C: vegetables (green parsley leaves, kale, horseradish, peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and savoy) and fruit (black currants, strawberries, wild strawberries, kiwi, red currants and citrus fruit).
Vitamin D: fat fish (marcel, salmon, sardines), whale or tuna liver oil, and also products containing lower amounts such as meat, poultry, eggs and full fat diary, mushrooms.
Folates: kale, brussels sprouts, green peas, dry peas, white beans, asparagus, beets, kohlrabi halibut, cod but also in small amounts consumed eggs and poultry liver.
Vitamin B5: mushrooms, cauliflower, liver, soya, hen eggs, and baking yeast, whole grains, beans, milk and green leafy vegetables.
Biotin: meat, liver, egg yolk, yeast and some nuts.
Niacin: meat, whole wheat grains, legume vegetables, seeds, milk, green leafy vegetables, fish, peanuts, shellfish and yeast.
Vitamin B12: meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products and seafood.
Minerals that influence hair growth are: Zinc, Iron, Copper, Selenium, Silicon, Magnesium and Calcium: beef and pork, poultry, pork and lamb liver, fish) milk/dairy, soya, white beans, pistachio nuts, green parsley leaves, dried apricots, figs, garlic, chives (for silicon), cacao (for magnesium).
Antioxidants (flavonoids): despite the fact that the highest number of flavonoids can be found in bitter chocolate (> 70% of cocoa), the main source of flavonoids in women diet should be vegetables (onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli) and fruit (apples, berries, black currant, citrus fruits and grapes). Flavonoids also can be found in some grains, seeds of lentils, spices and red wine (yes!), green tea, coffee, tea and cocoa.
à votre santé, Ladies!
- Słopień R, Warenik-Szymankiewicz A: Przekwitanie. [W:] Bręborowicz GH (red.): Położnictwo i ginekologia. Wyd. I, Wydawnictwo Lekarskie PZWL, Warszawa 2010: 716-725.
- Herskovitz I, Tosti A. Female pattern hair loss. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2013;11:e9860.
- Imko-Walczuk B, Cegielska A, Głombiowska M. Changes in hair distribution in postmenopausal women. Przegl Derm. 2012;99:62–67.
- Shapiro J. Clinical practice: Hair loss in women. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:1620–1630
- Wlaźlak E, Dunicz-Sokolowska A, Radomska K et al.: Analysis of hair copper concentration in perimenopausal women. Prz Menopauz 2007; 6: 303-305.
- Wlaźlak E, Surkont G, Dunicz-Sokołowska A et al.: Analysis of calcium concentration in perimenopausal women hair. Prz Menopauz 2007; 6: 51-54.
- Burrows NP, Grant JW, Crisp AJ, Roberts SO: Scarring alopecia following gold therapy. Acta Derm Venereol 1994; 74: 486.
- Bartosz Miziołek1 , Ligia Brzezińska-Wcisło2 , Dominika Wcisło-Dziadecka3 , Martyna Zbiciak-Nylec1 , Anna Michalska-Bańkowska, Thricological Problems related to menopause, Postępy Nauk Medycznych, t. XXVIII, nr 3, 2015
- Piérard-Franchimont C, Piérard GE: Alterations in Hair Follicle Dynamics in Women. BioMed Research International, vol. 2013, Article ID 957432, 5 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/957432.
- Zuzanna Sabina Goluch-Koniuszy, Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause, Menopause Rev 2016; 15(1): 56-61
*Image from Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology,26(8):953-63 · July 2011.