Menopause is a time of extreme hormonal changes in a woman’s life, usually occuring between the late 40s and 50s. While we are all familiar with the most common symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia, many people do not realise that menopause affects our hair too. The onset of menopause and its hormonal changes are usually accompanied by hair thinning and a weakening of the scalp’s protective barriers. For many women, hair is intrinsically linked to self-esteem. So, what are the treatment options available that may help alleviate this physiological and psychological adjustment?
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural biological process that all women experience at some point in their adulthood. According to our resident general practitioner, Dr. Simmy Kaur, menopause refers to the lack of a period for a course of 12 months, that usually occurs around the age of 51. The scientific community considers going through menopause before the age of 45 as ‘early menopause’.
During this time, the body undergoes numerous physical changes in response to fluctuating hormones. As women age, their ovaries gradually produce fewer follicles, which are essentially responsible for producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. This subsequent reduction in hormones accounts for various symptoms, from hot flushes to hair thinning.
How Menopause Affects the Hair
New research suggests that over 52% of women will experience some form of hair loss by the age of 50, and by the age of 60, approximately 80% will undergo changes in their hair density.
Research suggests that hair thinning during menopause is a direct result of hormonal fluctuations, specifically a declining production of oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones support the growth of hair strands in the following ways:
- Oestrogen aids hair growth by extending the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
- Progesterone decreases the conversion of testosterone to DHT by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme called 5-alpha reductase.
A decrease in oestrogen and progesterone levels also leads to an imbalanced ratio of a group of male hormones called androgens in the body. So, what happens when these hormonal balancing scales are tipped?
Androgens are primary regulators of the normal hair growth cycle. Sebaceous glands attached at the base of the follicles, the hair follicles themselves and skin cells express androgen hormones and the enzyme 5-alpha reductase that converts testosterone to its more potent form, DHT. Androgen hormones affect the hair strands by:
- Shortening the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
- Lengthening the time between the telogen (resting) and new anagen (growth) phase.
- Shrinking the hair follicle (follicular miniaturisation), producing a shorter and thinner hair shaft.
During follicular miniaturisation, hair follicles that were once producing healthy hairs start to generate thinner hairs with more fragile shafts. As women reach menopausal age, many will experience increased shedding, delayed new hair growth and finer, thinner hair. Over time, hair becomes more brittle, fragile and thin. As well as more sparse in density. In women, gradual thinning usually begins at the part line and sides, followed by increasing diffuse hair thinning radiating down from the top of the head.
For women going through menopause, the cause of hair thinning is almost always linked to these hormonal fluctuations. However, there are other factors that can influence their hair and scalp during menopause, including high stress levels, nutrient deficiencies or thyroid conditions.
Read more about the causes of hair loss and thinning here.
How Menopause Affects the Scalp
For many women, menopause also affects the health of their skin and scalp, leading to increased scalp irritation, dryness, eczema and dandruff. Due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause, the scalp skin becomes thinner, weakening the skin’s natural protective barriers. This can provide the perfect environment for the overproduction of the dandruff-producing yeast called Malassezia on the scalp.
The decrease in oestrogen and progesterone levels and increased sensitivity to dryness during menopause can often aggravate scalps that are already prone to conditions such as psoriasis and dry scalp. Overall, dryer skin, a compromised skin-barrier on the scalp and a reduction in moisture retention can lead to flaking, itching and irritation on the scalp, all of which can exacerbate the hair thinning that is symptomatic of menopause.
The Psychological Impact of Menopausal Hair Thinning
According to MONPURE’s resident general practitioner, an aspect of hair thinning that should be emphasised is its psychological impact. In fact, research has found that 60% of women who experience hair thinning also report having low self-esteem.
Many women report a significant effect on their mental health, including feelings of anxiety, hindrances to self-esteem and even depression. Dr. Kaur offers viable actions women can take pre-menopause to quell its associated symptoms, highlighting that although menopause is a natural occurrence that comes with age, a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise, sleep and stress-reduction are integral buffers to the onset of acute menopausal symptoms.
Treating Menopausal Hair Thinning
According to expert Dr. Kaur, the MONPURE range is brimming with products that cultivate the best possible environment for a thriving scalp, even under fluctuating conditions, as they are expertly formulated with scientific grounding and clean, active ingredients.
She particularly sings the praises of the best-selling Follicle Boost Hair Density Serum, in which pumpkin seed extract works to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme activity that converts testosterone to DHT, a known hair-loss culprit. Skincare acids retinol and lactic acid work together to exfoliate the scalp for improved absorption of other hair boosting and nourishing ingredients, as well as decongesting follicles to ensure bouncier and healthier hair. Rosemary oil and coffee extract stimulate hair growth by delivering nutrients and boosting circulation.
Dr. Kaur also spotlights the Nourish and Stimulate Scalp Mask, which is infused with the hero ingredient Camellia Tea Oil that delivers a hit of nourishment to the hair and scalp, ultimately optimising the scalp and hair-growth environment, while leaving your mane silky to the touch.
Echoing our ethos here at MONPURE, Dr. Simmy also reiterates that the scalp should be treated as an extension of the skin, and should thus be considered and nurtured accordingly. In terms of treating scalp irritation that may arise during menopause, she recommends the Clarifying Scalp Scrub, which supports the scalp’s microbiome and keeps it flake-free, refreshed and hydrated. It uses biodegradable jojoba beads to gently slough away build-up, sebum and flakes from the surface of the scalp while also polishing and refining the scalp’s texture. Argan oil and shea butter work to regulate moisture on the scalp and regenerate the surface to boost overall scalp health.
Hormonal hair thinning is an experience many women will face as they undergo menopause, which can significantly affect their self-esteem and sense of identity. Alongside implementing healthy lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, sleep and stress-reduction, the MONPURE range offers scientifically-grounded solutions that target hair thinning at the source. By focusing on the scalp and cultivating the hair growth environment, the products deliver the fullest and healthiest hair possible, even under fluctuating conditions.
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