Bad hair days. We’ve all been there.
Some days, your hair just does not want to play ball. You can try everything from straightening it to curling it to putting mousse on it. But no matter what you try, your locks are not so much tamed as tousled! As silly as it may seem, that can turn your whole day upside down. I suppose that’s why they call them bad hair days! Feeling confident about your hair is important. I love that feeling of skipping out of the hairdressers with a spring in my step after having my hair done. Heard the slogan: “There’s more to life than hair…but it’s a good place to start?” Having nice hair can give you a much-needed boost of self-esteem.
So…what happens if your once shining and voluminous mane that would make the Pantene models green with envy starts to lose it lustre? Or worse still, what if your hair actually starts falling out? Believe it or not, hair loss is actually a fairly common symptom of the menopause.
You might recognise the following scenario: you’ve just finished washing your hair and you notice more hair than usual in the basin. You think nothing of it and start blow drying your hair. Once dry, you start brushing through your hair. Then you notice that the more you brush, the more hair seems to have caught on the bristles. It now worries you slightly but you put it to the back of your mind as there’s so much else to be getting on with. A couple of days later, you wash your hair again and notice more hair in the basin. You blow dry and brush your hair to find that there is yet more hair on the bristles. And this time, the hair loss seems to be a little worse. After a few weeks and months, your hair is visibly thinner and in some places your scalp is slightly visible. Combined with all the other symptoms of the menopause including anxiety, weight gain and foggy brain, you start to feel like you’re falling apart.
Losing hair can be a crushing blow to self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
In our society, there is still a huge stigma attached to female pattern hair loss (FPHL). A women’s hair is seen by many as her crown of beauty and anything that tarnishes that crown can be a blow to self-esteem. Our collective obsession with hair is odd in a way because in purely biological terms, we only need hair to keep us warm, protect from UV rays and from minor injuries. But of course, to the vast majority of us, our hair is so much more than that. It’s a huge part of how we look and for some of us, our hairstyles even come to define us or a period in our lives. Losing hair can be a crushing blow to self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
Wanting healthy, great-looking hair isn’t a conceit, nor is hair loss something you just have to put up with.
Now, I didn’t personally experience hair loss. Don’t hate me, but my hair actually GREW during the menopause. On the other hand though, I did have 32 of the 34 symptoms and so I wasn’t exactly spared! But I do have friends who did suffer with this and I really do empathise with them and the effect it had on their confidence. Wanting healthy, great-looking hair isn’t a conceit, nor is hair loss something you just have to put up with.
What Causes Hair Loss?
According to Women’s Health Concern (the patient arm of the British Menopause Society): “FPHL is very common and increases with age and varies across ethnic groups. Although it can happen at any age, the condition occurs most commonly following the menopause…Genetics are important too and you may notice a family link with both male and female hair loss. Occasionally times of acute stress on the body will influence hair growth, eg illness, emotional stresses and crash dieting. Some medications may have an influence too.”
Estrogen is directly responsible for the rate of hair growth and for helping hair to remain on the head for longer periods of time. At any one time, 90% of our hair is growing while 10% is in a resting phase. That 10% will eventually fall out over time and make way for new hair growth. That is a normal cycle and is considered ‘healthy hair loss’. Each day we actually shed around 50-100 hairs a day. As estrogen levels fluctuate, male hormones such as androgen and testosterone can cause the hair to go into the resting phase and so hair loss is increased while growth is minimised.
A good thing to remember is that most menopause related hair loss does slow down with time.
My Top Tips
Treating your hair with extra care is especially important. Avoid tugging and pulling at hair when brushing it out. Your tangles may be a nightmare but having patience with them is key to keeping hair strong.
Minimise use of straighteners
Try to reduce your use of straighteners and hair dryers as they can cause heat damage.
Use hair products wisely
Using gentle shampoos and conditioners, or shampoos and conditioners specifically targeted at hair growth and thickening is a super important step to maintaining healthy hair. Likewise, it’s best to avoid harsh chemicals like the ones found in some hair dyes to keep hair hydrated and strong.
Brush your hair with a wooden comb
Did you know that brushing your hair can actually increase the chance of damage and split ends? That’s because of the electrostatic you create when brushing. Using a wooden comb minimises that risk because wood is a poor electrical conductor.
Get a massage
Head and scalp massages are great for getting extra blood flow to your scalp, which can help stimulate hair growth and strength.
Up your protein and iron intake
Protein and iron isn’t just for your muscles, it’s great for your hair too! These nutrients can easily be found in red meats, but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of options to include them in your diet, such as lentils, beans, and whole grains. Of course, be sure to have plenty of fruits and vegetables too, since the vitamins in those will help absorb iron and protein.
Protect your scalp
If you are experiencing hair loss and thinning, be sure to offer your scalp extra protection from the sun (yes, even on cloudy days). Your hair’s function is to make sure your scalp is well protected to prevent any sunburn, but this may be less likely if you’re losing some hair.
In many women, hair loss doesn’t just affect the scalp, but can also affect your eyebrows. Thinning or loss of eyebrow hair is a lesser talked about kind of hair loss, but can have significant effects on self-esteem. If you feel self-conscious or unhappy with your eyebrow loss, there’s nothing wrong with pencilling them in to make them seem a bit more full and thick.
Replenish your body with vital hormones by using HRT. You can read more about HRT here.
Visit your GP
If you are a certain age (around 51) it’s likely that your hair loss is caused by the menopause. However, it’s always a good idea to visit your GP just in case there is something else at play. As a society, we don’t like going to the doctor because of the ‘fear of finding out’, in other words believing that a visit to the GP will confirm our worst fears that our symptoms might be linked to something really serious. For most people, it rarely is serious and if it is, at least a visit to the doctor means it can be caught and treated early.