I always thought the saying “Hair today, gone tomorrow” related to men. That’s not the case. It turns out that as we go through menopause, women can experience thinning of their follicles.
According to MedlinePlus, which is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, the average scalp has 100,000 hairs and each person loses approximately 100 hairs daily. Each hair grows an average of about half an inch a month and grows on average for 2-6 years. After a cycle of rest, the hair falls out and a new strand begins to grow in its place. Approximately 85% of your hair is in the growth phase, while the other 15% is in the resting phase.
So let's look at hair loss. “The main difference between male and female hair loss is that in women, hair follicles are rarely damaged, which means when the cause of the hair loss is addressed, hair can often regrow,” Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge write in their book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause.
You also may feel like your hair is thinning and less vigorous. “As we age, new hair growth contains less protein,” Procter & Gamble scientist Jeri Thomas was quoted as saying in the May 2011 issue of More. This results in thinning of hair strands. In addition, most scalps of menopausal women start producing less sebum, which is produced by sebaceous glands and which reduces water loss from the skin surface, thus serving a protective role for hair strands, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, Inc.
Seaman and Eldridge described several types of hair loss that menopausal women may experience. These include:
- Androgenetic alopement, which is caused by an excess of male hormones and causes a shorter growth cycle. Treatment is topical Rogaine.
- Telogen shedding, which is caused by dramatic hormonal shifts and results in the loss of a large quantity of hair in a short time. The good news is that most of this hair will grow back once your hormone levels are back in balance. This type of hair loss also may result from malnourishment or sickness.
Women also have a different balding pattern. “Some women age 30-60 may notice a thinning of the hair that affects the entire scalp,” MedLinePlus reported. “The hair loss may be heavier at first, and then gradually slow or stop. There is no known cause for this type of hair loss.” Seaman and Eldridge added, “Women also tend to lose hair all over the scalp, which makes it less noticeable than in men, who will have uniform recession or a patch in the back.”
MedLinePlus recommends contacting a doctor if you experience the following issues related to hair loss:
- You’re losing hair in an unusual pattern.
- You have any pain or itching related to the hair loss.
- Your scalp’s skin is red, scaly or otherwise abnormal.
- You have acne, facial hair, or an abnormal menstrual cycle.
- You have male pattern baldness.
- You have bald spots on your eyebrows.
- You’ve gained weight or have muscle weakness, intolerance to cold temperatures, or fatigue.
To diagnose female pattern baldness, doctors will rule out other causes of hair loss, look at the appearance and pattern of hair loss, and examine your medical history. In addition, the doctor will try to determine if you have too much male hormone, which can be seen through abnormal new hair growth such as follicles on the face, changes in menstrual periods, and new acne.