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Does the menopause affect my hair?

  

This post was written by Peony Lane

As a younger woman, I think I was prepared for greying hair and wrinkles in later life.  But nobody told me that the consistency of my hair would change so much.  I remember looking at ‘old ladies’ on the bus and in the arrogance of my youth, wondering why they had such horrible ‘bowl’ cuts.  Why didn’t they go to the hairdresser and get it done nicely?

I now realise that a lot of them had just given up with it.  They had fought a losing battle and given in.

Fortunately, we’re a bit luckier these days because there are many more things we can do about it.

But first, let’s look at the ‘science bit’…

We normally shed between 100 and 150 hairs from our head a day, and this hair grows at a rate of about 1.25cm to 1.5cm a month.  Each hair lasts about 7 years before finally falling out.  Hair growth is influenced by our hormones (particularly oestrogen) and other chemicals in our body.

When the menopause starts and our hormones fluctuate, so does our hair growth.  Oestrogen is the hormone that keeps our hair in its growing phase…so if we suffer from reduced oestrogen, our hair stops growing ­ or indeed, doesn’t grow as long as it used to.

Reduced oestrogen also shortens the hair cycle, which means that hair is shed earlier than before.

And as our hair thins gradually over time, it means that new hair growth is finer.

The resultant effect is that our hair falls out quicker than it used to and doesn’t grow back a thick or a long.  The volume on your head just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be.  And of course, as it grows in, it’s increasingly grey!

The double whammy of this is that the stress of losing our hair can actually make it fall out even more!

It would appear that our sole recourse is thickening shampoos and conditioners.  There’s not much else we can turn to.  There’s no wonder cure I’m afraid.  And sadly, the colourings that we turn to in order to cover up the grey only serve to exacerbate the shedding and thinning.

Added to this, whilst we’re losing hair on our head, the increased levels of androgens in our body (testosterone hormone) during menopause means that we can start growing unwanted abnormal hair elsewhere ­ particularly on the face and body, with up to 75% increased facial hair for some of  us.

Clearly this is an extreme image which I hope none of us suffer ­ but you’ll get the point.

And I’m hoping that most of us will know that there are many cosmetic treatments we can turn to ­ shaving, waxing, plucking, bleaching, depilatory creams, electrolysis and laser therapy being the most popular.  If it’s particularly distressing, your GP can also prescribe a cream that prevents hair growth ­ but this is a long term commitment because stopping using the cream will mean the hair will grow back.

Apparently, losing weight can also help reduce unwanted hair growth and weight reduction reduces the production of androgens in our body.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news today as I normally like to find a silver lining in our tale…but there really isn’t one on this subject.

I’m off to the hairdresser’s today to enjoy it whilst I’ve got it!

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