How to Reverse Thinning Hair After Menopause
3 minute read
Ever since menopause hit, your hair is thinning:
With each new day, you wake up to more loose strands on your pillowcase.
With every shower, you’re clearing more tangles of hair from the clogged drain.
With every morning, more hair ends up in your brush.
Nope, it’s not all in your head. If you're wondering, "Does menopause cause hair loss?," the answer is yes. More importantly, can you reverse thinning hair after menopause?
How to reverse menopause hair loss — or is it thinning hair?
Is your hair thinning, or are you actually losing hair? It’s a bit of both, and the terms are usually used interchangeably. An article in the Washington Post explains why: “The thinning usually registers as hair loss, which is why the term is widely used. But the hair is still there, it’s just “miniaturized” — thinner, shorter, unpigmented — to the point of being invisible to the naked eye. Eventually at least some of it stops growing.”
Ah, the cruel irony: the only part of our bodies getting thinner at menopause is sitting on the top of our heads.
Is menopausal hair loss permanent, or is there any chance of reversing our thinning hair after menopause? Because if there is, we’re all in.
The Hair Growth Cycle 101
It’s typical for healthy hair to grow about 6 inches per year (that works out to about .3 mm to .4 mm per day). This cycle is random rather than seasonal or cyclical (for instance, hair shedding for some mammals occurs in the summer). At any one time, hair will be in one of the three phases of growth and shedding.
Anagen This is the active phase of growth when the cells in the hair’s roots are busy dividing, forming new strands. These new hairs eventually push the old hairs — those that have stopped growing — out. This phase of growth is individual, with wide variations, which is why some people are able to grow their hair long while others can’t grow it beyond a certain length. (Our arm, leg, eyebrow, and eyelashes have short growth phases, which is why they are generally short.)
Catagen This is the transitional phase when growth stops, and the outer root sheath shrinks and attaches to the hair’s root. Roughly three percent of all hairs are in this phase at any one time, which lasts about three weeks. Hair, known as “club hair,” forms during this phase.
Telogen This is the resting phase, where six to eight percent of hairs are in. During this time, each hair follicle is dormant, and club hair is completely formed. Roughly 25 to 100 telogen hairs are shed daily.
Thin hair, hair loss, and menopause
If you’ve ruled out poor nutrition, genetics, stress, pregnancy, illness, thyroid or other medical conditions, and childbirth — all of which can cause your hair shedding or thinness — then go ahead, blame menopause. It deserves the bad rap. Menopause and hair loss go hand in hand because hormones and thick hair don’t mix. To make things really simple and not split hairs over the reasoning behind this menopausal symptom, hair begins to change when estrogen dips.
This type of hair loss falls under the umbrella term female pattern baldness. It’s the most common cause of hair loss, whose prevalence increases with age. It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs each day. But when hair loss speeds up, you can lose many more.
Also called androgenetic alopecia, this hair loss generally occurs around and after menopause. The good news? Women won’t go completely bald as men do. Male hair loss usually begins in the front of the head, receding to the back. Female hair loss happens in a different pattern and is more subtle and rarely resulting in that unmistakable shiny cue ball bullseye on the back of the head or a hairline that crawls backward.
Instead, most times, our hair will fall all over our head, gradually and not noticeably at first, starting where we part our hair. Over time, that part will become wider and wider as more hairs fall from our scalp. Another tell-tale sign of hair thinning? We’re no longer winding the elastic around our ponytail once or twice; we’re now winding it three, four, five times.
Why hair thins during menopause, or let’s get to the root of the problem
We get your concern. After all, once upon a time, your hair was thick and lustrous. And now? It’s thin and lackluster. Thin hair is more than just having a bad hair day. It’s having a bad hair lifetime.
Although there may be some comfort in knowing that less than 45 percent of us go through life with a full head of hair, thinning hair can surely put a crimp in your life, and many women report feeling less-than-attractive and troubled by this. Spencer Korbren, the American Hair Loss Association founder, called it “a disease of the spirit that eats away at a person’s self-esteem… with profound social ramifications.” And since society views male hair loss as much more expected than that of women, it’s not hard to understand, or empathize with, our isolated feelings about our hair loss, nor our desire to reverse our thinning hair after menopause.
How to reverse thinning hair after menopause
Can the genie be put back in the bottle?
Experts say thinning hair can’t actually be reversed. However, some things might be worth trying to stimulate new hair growth and preserve the hair you already have.
First, some easy fixes for thinning hair, which include masquerading it with hairstyles and treating it gently as well as:
Shampooing gently, and avoid tugging and over-scrubbing.
Using conditioner after washing.
Drying with a soft microfiber towel (blot, don’t rub).
Using a wide-tooth comb to detangle your hair gently.
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase to minimize breakage.
And if you wear your hair in a ponytail or braids, avoiding pulling tightly (which can pull out more hair).
In a quest to reverse thinning hair after menopause, some people try supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, and folic acid), hair loss shampoos, and stem cells (still in the experimental stages). They may also turn to laser caps, combs, or latisse (a prescription to grow thicker eyelashes).
Below are even more approaches, either through a healthcare professional or with at-home treatments, that may reverse thinning hair after menopause.
Minoxidil (Rogaine) The only FDA-approved drug to treat female pattern baldness or thinning hair. The over-the-counter foam or liquid won’t restore the hair you’ve lost, but it can foster new hair growth and give your hair an overall thicker appearance. But: It takes 6-12 months to see results, and if you stop using it, it stops working, and the results you gained will be reversed.
Finasteride (Propecia) A prescription medication (FDA-approved just for men), taken in pill form. It could take months for results to become apparent, and like Rogaine, if you stop taking it, your hair will cease to grow.
Medications like flutamide, dutasteride, or spironolactone (a diuretic) These haven’t received FDA-approval to treat thinning hair but are sometimes prescribed off-label.
Microneedling A device that uses hundreds of needles to stimulate your scalp. It might work better if combined with another hair loss treatment (like minoxidil) and can be bought without a prescription.
PRP (platelet rich plasma) After a small amount of your own blood is drawn, it’s spun in a centrifuge to extract the plasma. Sometimes various nutrients, like protein, are added to it before it’s injected into your scalp. It’s not covered by insurance and can be costly
When it comes to reversing hair loss during menopause, there is no one solution, but there are options to consider. Don’t wait: talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns and find a path that’s right for you.