The menopause and hair loss
Reviewed by our clinical team
Menopause is a natural process that happens to all women later in life. It can cause multiple changes to the body, from night sweats to insomnia. But can the menopause cause hair loss?
Hair loss in women can sometimes be a natural part of ageing. For example it’s thought that 40% (or by some estimates as many as 70%) of women aged 70+ experience female pattern baldness. This is the most common type of hair loss and it’s thought that you inherit this from your family.
But if you experience hair loss around the time you’re going through the perimenopause, menopause or post the menopause, you might be wondering if the changes your body has been going through, are the cause.
In this article we’re going to share information on the menopause and its symptoms, any potential links between hair loss and the menopause, ways to treat hair loss in women.
What is menopause?
Menopause happens when your periods stop permanently, and you can no longer get pregnant. This is due to a reduction of hormone levels and typically occurs naturally between the ages of 45 and 55.
Sometimes menopause can happen earlier, either due to medical reasons such as having a hysterectomy or cancer treatment including chemotherapy, or because of genetics.
Menopause happens in various stages. The first is perimenopause, this is time before your periods stop. You may begin to have symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes, brain fog, anxiety and irregular menstrual cycles.
It can take years before your periods stop completely, at which point you will enter the menopause stage. Find out more about what happens to your body during the menopause.
Menopause can be physically and mentally challenging but thankfully there are lots of things you can do to help with long term symptoms. Make sure to speak to your GP about the menopause to find out about treatments and medicines.
Does menopause cause hair loss?
There hasn’t been lots of research done into the link between hair loss and the menopause. However there have been lots of reports of women finding that their hair changes during the menopause, including hair thinning and the hair falling out in the shower or when it’s brushed.
Hair loss around the menopause is likely to be caused by changing hormone levels – and your body producing less oestrogen and progesterone. These two hormones keep your hair healthy, making it grow faster and helping it stay on your head longer. So, when these two hormones drop, the hair can start to grow much slower and for some women it will be much thinner.
Other causes of hair loss for women during the menopause
It’s important to remember that there can be lots of factors that can contribute to hair loss in women. You might experience hair loss as you’re going through the menopause, but it might be actually down to something else.
Other causes of hair loss for women include:
- Genetics - that’s the female pattern baldness we mentioned earlier, which is a natural part of ageing for some women.
- Other hormonal changes – this could be post pregnancy, childbirth or thyroid problems.
- Medical conditions – some viruses can trigger hair loss (this is known as telogen effluvium), as can problems with your immune system, or infections on the scalp like ringworm.
- Medication and radiation – treatments for cancer, depression, arthritis and many other conditions can cause hair loss.
- Stress – sometimes people going through a very stressful experience find their hair falls out months later.
- Hairstyles – tight hair styles like ponytails or braids can pull on your hair follicles causing a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia.
You can find out more about other types of hair loss in women here.
Where might hair loss in the menopause occur?
Where hair loss occurs, depends on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing. But if you’re experiencing thinning hair, which could be down to menopause hormone changes, the thinning can occur on the front, sides and sometimes the top of the head.
Hair loss treatment for women going through the menopause
If you experience any kind of hair loss, at any time in your life, especially if it’s sudden, it’s important to speak to a GP about it. They will be able to advise you best on what can do, especially if you’re already taking other medical treatments. For example, if you’re going through the menopause, it’s likely you might be on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Some treatments/lifestyle changes your GP might suggest to treat hair loss in women include:
1. Hair loss medication
For women, the main proven treatment is a hair lotion or shampoo containing minoxidil (the main brand in the UK being Regaine). You can buy Regaine online or from your local LloydsPharmacy without a prescription.
2. Reduce stress
Anxiety and extreme shock/stress can sometimes cause hair loss. Try to keep your stress in check by adding various relaxation methods to your daily routine. This can include doing yoga, meditation or breathing exercises.
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise isn’t a proven treatment for the menopause yet, but we all know that regular exercise can help you reduce stress and stay a healthy weight. Keeping yourself as healthy and relaxed as possible, won’t harm your hair!
4. Eat a healthy diet
Diet plays a role in every part of our body, including the health of our hair. It’s important to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet where you can get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs with every meal. Good things to keep your hair healthy include foods rich in iron, fatty acids, vitamin D and folic acid such as oily fish, red meat and beans.
You can find out more about the nutrients and hair loss here.
Various symptoms are synonymous with the menopause including hot flushes, insomnia and mood swings, and for some women hair loss might also be something they experience at this time.
As we’ve said, it’s always good to speak to your GP about any menopause symptoms or hair loss symptoms that might be worrying you.
You can find out more about hair loss treatments for women here.