Beginning the menopause is a daunting time in any woman’s life, with a series of physical and hormonal changes taking place. Some of the physical effects, such as hot flushes, are well known, but a relatively common, and little discussed side effect is hair loss in menopausal women.
What causes hair loss in menopause?
The most common reason for menopausal hair loss is hormonal. The menopause is a time of massive hormonal changes and imbalance which affect the entire body, including hair growth. During a woman’s childbearing years, her body produces high levels of estrogen, the ‘female hormone’; when the body reaches menopause, the production rate of this hormone is slowed down dramatically.
As a result testosterone in the bloodstream is more easily converted into the potent dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which is the key catalyst in female pattern hair loss. DHT clings to hair follicles, causing them to shrink and ultimately stop growing. In women, this manifests as a general thinning of the hair across the crown of the head.
The hormonal process which can cause female hair loss begins in perimenopause, the pre-menopausal stage. This can begin as early as the late thirties, although the early forties are more common. Consequently, it is not uncommon to experience some thinning of the hair, even before the end of your life’s menstrual cycle and the official onset of menopause.
It has been noted that menopausal women are also more likely to be subject to external stress factors which may further increase the risk of hair loss, such as the death of a parent. In some cases, the menopause can also mask hair loss caused by a thyroid condition. The symptoms of menopause and thyroid are remarkably similar and those concerned should seek medical advice from their GP to ensure they are receiving the correct treatment for the right condition.
How can menopausal hair loss be treated?
There are several ways female hair loss can be treated in the menopause. Some treatments, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, focus on treating the menopause itself. Other treatments deal specifically with the symptoms of hair loss.
HRT is one of the most popular ways to offset the side effects of menopause, which are caused by hormonal imbalance. There are several options for administering HRT, including via patch, tablet and injection. The aim is to artificially change the balance of hormones in the body, usually by raising oestrogen levels. The adjusted hormone levels are more akin to those experienced before the onset of menopause and alleviate many of the discomforting symptoms women experience.
As HRT works by raising the oestrogen levels, it can help reduce or prevent hair loss as testosterone is prevented from converting to DHT by the raised levels.
However, HRT is not suitable for every woman and there is thought to be a small but significantly increased risk of developing major health problems, such as heart attack and stroke. For this reason, many women prefer not to use this treatment.
An alternative is soy isoflavones, a derivative of soybeans. These contain phytoestrogens, a natural ingredient that mimics the effect of oestrogen in the body. However, isoflavones only mask the symptoms; they do not address the underlying cause of hair loss.
Which treatments focus specifically on hair loss in menopause?
Hair loss treatments can have a dramatic effect in reducing hair loss during menopause and encouraging re-growth. The Belgravia Centre runs a highly effective course of combination treatment, which complements proven medical treatments with hair growth boosters, tailored to the individual needs of each client.
We use a preparation of Minoxidil, the only hair loss treatment for women licensed by the MHRA and approved by its US counterpart the FDA for genetic hair loss, which is created in our specialist in-house pharmacy and includes a booster ingredient of Medroxyprogesterone or Azelaic Acid. Minoxidil works by increasing blood supply and opening up potsssium channels at the areas of application. This in turn prevents hair loss.
Several hair growth boosters are also included to ensure that hair grows back at its healthiest. Belgravia has developed its own hair supplement, Hair Vitalics, which contains essential nutrients to help keep hair healthy and acts as a complement to an ongoing course of treatment.
Belgravia also offers a free laser comb with almost every treatment course. The comb delivers a low-level laser emission directly to the scalp to help encourage hair growth. Similarly to the Hair Vitalics, this is a hair growth booster, designed to complement, not replace, the core treatment. A selection of specially formulated shampoos and conditioners are also available.