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Hair loss in women is more common than most people think. Over their lifetime, about half of all women experience a noticeable thinning of hair, enough to cause around half of them to seek women’s hair loss solutions at the local hair loss clinic. The reasons range from use of important medications (including and especially chemotherapy), pregnancy and post-partum, over-styling of hair (use of chemicals or habitually wearing tight ponytails or braiding), and simply being over the age of 40.
But one of the most common causes of hair loss in women is menopause. It is referred to as Female Pattern Hair Loss, or FPHL. This is largely due to the decline in estrogen, leading to an overall thinning throughout the scalp. However, genetics can also play a role, as might poor nutrition.
Unlike male pattern baldness (MPB) – which is also largely driven by genetics and increases with age – the loss does not come with a pattern. Men experience horseshow shape of hair that remains, the rise of the hairless areas of the forehead, and the thinning at the crown. Women almost always simply have less dense hair over the full scalp.
So if menopause is inevitable, does that mean a thinning of hair is inevitable as well?
Not exactly. Again, genetics play a role here too. Some women are lucky to have thick hair their entire lives, others less so. And it is possible to grow some or all of the hair back. Here are things they can do about preventing post-menopausal hair loss:
Wash hair with a mild shampoo. Overall, treat it gently while combing (especially when wet), minimize use of hot dryers, and cut back on chemical use (including coloring).
Improve your diet. The matter of nutrition is similar to what you’ve no doubt been told over the years: Iron-rich foods such as meat, fish (e.g., salmon), eggs, leafy vegetables are important. Protein in general helps, as hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein that also comprises fingernails. The many nutrients in fruits and vegetables of all kinds are always beneficial for healthy skin and hair. The same can be said for whole grains (those that are not processed into white flour and white bread), as well as moderate amounts of dairy, which is richer in calcium.
Specific nutrients, by food or supplements. The healthy, pre-menopausal woman should be able to get all her nutrients from her healthy diet. But some research indicates that green tea (which has flavonoids), B6 vitamins (in tuna, salmon, chickpeas, poultry, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe), and foods high in folic acid (spinach, broccoli, legumes, sunflower seeds, fresh fruit, liver, seafood) are most beneficial for healthier hair.
Exercise for circulation and stress reduction. Instead of thinking about exercise as merely a weight management tool or a way to achieve “tone,” consider it a hair-health move. Improving circulation through movement naturally brings more nutrients to hair roots, but perhaps just as important, it can reduce stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and increase endorphin production, which can minimize depression and stress.
If the hair loss is not generalized – for example, patchy – it may be cause for a doctor visit. Hair sometimes is an indicator of other things going on in the body.