You take a shower.
Suddenly you notice a little clump of hair stuck on your hands after massaging your hair with shampoo. Then a little more. Then by the time you apply conditioning, you have clumps of hair that you’ve collected on the sides of your shower area.
You look at your brush and realize you just took a bunch of hair from it last week.
Last test: you gather your hair around one of your hands to see how thick your ponytail is, and… oh no... this can't be happening!
Hair thinning. Hair loss.
Both are common symptoms observed during and after perimenopause. There’s an estimate that up to 50% of postmenopausal women experience either one of those two.
Why is this happening?
Hormones are partially to blame since estrogen has a protective role and also helps hair growth. But other factors can contribute to hair thinning and hair loss as well.
Here are the most common factors for hair thinning and/or hair loss
Aging - with age, there’s not as much stimulus for new hair to be produced.
Genetics – family history of hair loss.
Menopause – the change in hormones may contribute to either hair thinning, hair loss, or both. During and after menopause, hair might become thinner because hair follicles shrink. Hair grows slower and falls out more quickly at this time.
Hairstyles - tight ponytails, braids, and corn rows can pull too much on the root of the hair and even damage hair follicles to cause permanent hair loss.
Vitamin or Nutrient Deficiency, including anemia - from poor quality diets, restrictive diets, or genetic predisposition.
Toxic chemicals - as in radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Thyroid issues – abnormal levels of thyroid can lead to hair loss.
Extreme Physical Stress – such as severe weight loss, having surgery, having a baby, anemia, and illnesses.
Extreme Emotional Stress – the death of a loved one, highly stressful situations, mental illnesses.
Medications – like blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antifungal drugs and acne medications (with high amounts of vitamin A), some anti-depressants, blood thinners, and others
When you notice more hair falling than usual, it’s time to start becoming aware of why this is happening. If this is the case with you right now, look at this previous list and identify what might apply to you. Make your own list.
If you’re worried, you can talk to your healthcare provider, who can perform a scalp examination or ask for blood tests to check thyroid and nutritional status.
Some tests that check for nutritional deficiencies associated with hair loss are:
Vitamin D test
Vitamin B-12 test
Iron levels (CBC count and Ferritin)
By consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian, you can assess your overall diet quality.
In many cases, the lack of enough protein and other vital nutrients can cause hair thinning and more tendency for hair loss.
Vegan diets need to be well planned and nutritionally balanced because of the potential lack of vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, and zinc. If you're a vegan woman and your hair is falling more than usual, see a nutritionist ASAP, so they can design a balanced meal to ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need.
Nutrition and Supplement Recommendations
The best way to determine if your hair loss has to do with nutritional deficiency is to either assess your overall nutrition quality with a nutritionist or check some values through specific nutritional status blood work with your primary care doctor, or both.
After that, there are a few recommendations that can be given (depending on the case):
In cases of anemia (low iron), you might be recommended 325 milligrams (mg) of ferrous sulfate from 1 to 3 times a day, or soflow-release once a day, but only if your doctor recommends or nutritionist. Also, the most common side effect is constipation, so make sure to include water, fiber, and exercise in your daily habits to minimize this condition.
In cases due to B-vitamin deficiencies – you might be recommended a B-complex or 3-5 milligrams of biotin daily. Again, this should be determined by a health professional.
Suppose your case is overall nutrition quality (as in not eating enough nutrients or following a restrictive diet). In that case, it is recommended to see a nutritionist who can create a balanced meal plan incorporating nutrient-dense foods so you can nourish your cells from the inside out. It will definitely contribute to your health, and your hair will reflect it.
In milder cases, some all-in-one supplements can help, such as high-quality skin-hair-nails nutritional blends combined with a good-quality collagen supplement. It is utterly essential to look for high-quality brands in these cases because there are many supplements in the market filled with fillers, sugars, and artificial ingredients.
It's important to know that it may take one to three months for your body to completely overcome a nutritional deficiency, depending on its severity. Be patient and try other things in the meantime that can help the health of your hair and its growth. Keep reading.
What can you do to prevent hair loss?
Here are some practical ways to improve hair thinning and hair loss:
Reduce the use of straighteners, hair dryers, and other heat-damaging tools (I know, this one is a hard one for some of us, but it's worth trying it)
Avoid using tight ponytails or hairstyles that pull from the root of your hair (purchase hair ties that don't get caught or break the hair, scrunchies are good options, or go for a loose bun)
Choose good quality hair-thickening shampoos and conditioners, and avoid those with sulfates in their formulation.
Massage your scalp to stimulate blood flow (during the shower and as you dry it with a towel, gently)
Exercise for stress reduction and increased overall blood flow, increasing the distribution of nutrients where they should go.
Improve your diet quality – get help from a nutritionist, not the internet; it's worth the investment.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you take a medication that may have hair loss as a side effect.
Try topical solutions that promote hair growth (like Rogaine). Ask your doctor or a pharmacist about the best options for you.
Laser therapy emits low-energy laser light that may stimulate hair growth to help fight thinning hair. An experienced hairdresser or cosmetologist should perform this.
Stress management or conventional mental health treatment such as therapy can help with hair loss caused by emotional stress, especially in extreme cases such as divorce, death of a loved one, etc.
Remember to be patient and try not to stress too much or worry about your hair loss. I know it can be frustrating and even embarrassing. However, if you start by trying to find the root cause of your hair thinning or loss and then create a plan on how to prevent it, you’ll be on a good path.
I hope this information can be helpful for those of you who are struggling with hair changes during the menopause transition.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or follow me on Instagram for more news and information on everything related to perimenopause and beyond!