I admit that I’ve been spoiled. I was born with thick wavy hair that is basically wash and go. I don’t have to blow dry or curl it to have it look good. However because of the natural wave, my hair has a mind of its own so I’ve always found it important to get a good haircut. And once I find someone who does a good job cutting my wavy hair, I stick with that person.
So yesterday, I had an appointment with my long-time hairdresser, Pam. "Your hair has gotten long, but it looks great" she exclaimed. "I cut it slightly different last time. Did you like it? So what do you want me to do this time?" I told her that I had actually been waiting to set an appointment. I had noticed my hair had seemed to be thinning during the past year or so. I wasn’t sure if it was the new haircut or my hair, but it seemed like my follicles were becoming a bit sturdier.
It turns out that what I’ve experienced as far as thinning hair is common. In fact, many women often experience hair loss as well as hair thickness as we age. Menopause may be to blame in many cases due to the changing hormonal levels of androgen and estrogen. And if you’re experiencing hair loss due to menopause, there’s even good news - this hair loss often ends within two years, if not sooner from when your first notice it.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that there are also a number of health and lifestyle reasons that may be the underlying cause of a middle-age woman’s hair loss. These reasons include:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Some infectious diseases
- Hormonal changes
- Thyroid diseases
- Tumors of the ovary or adrenal glands
- Medications for conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol
- Excessive shampooing and blow-drying
- Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Therefore, you should consult a doctor if you’re losing hair in an unusual pattern (including male pattern baldness), very rapidly, or have pain or itching on the scalp. Additionally, if you have a red, scaly or otherwise abnormal scalp, check with your doctor.
The menopausal transition also is a time to focus on your hair’s health. The North American Menopause Society offers several recommendations to keep your tresses glorious, including eating a healthy diet, taking a daily multivitamin, avoiding harsh chemicals and staying out of the sun, since this exposure can dry out the hair follicles.
More.com’s Genevieve Monsma offers a great blueprint for taking care hair over the various decades (which I’d encourage you to read the story in full since it offers a lot more detail by decade). A big recommendation is realizing that when you reach middle age, you’re undergoing hormonal changes that will change your hair’s texture, fullness and color through the upcoming decades. Therefore, the experts encourage using moisturizing treatments and getting haircuts that work with your hair’s current condition. In addition, eating a healthy diet that includes protein, iron and biotin is important in maintaining hair health. Getting regular exercise also is recommended since physical activity lowers stress levels that, in turn, can lead to hair loss.
Interestingly, the experts also encourage women to consider lightening their hair as they age or going with their natural gray color since the lighter color will help keep them looking fresh. As you can tell by my picture, I’ve already embraced this concept, starting in my 20s when I first went gray (or white, as my friends like to tell me). I frankly didn’t want to spend a lot of time (and money) getting my hair dyed and knew that I’d have to go back to the salon (or the dye bottle) quite often since my hair grows fairly fast. My mother also told me that keeping my natural color would help me look younger as I aged. Her advice seems to have worked! I’d encourage you to try it!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
MedlinePlus. (2011). Hair loss.
Monsma, G. (2013). Get your best hair at 30, 40, 50, 60. More.com.
The North American Menopause Society. (ND). FAQs: Body changes & symptoms.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.