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Diseases & Conditions > Menopause

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Menopause & Hair Loss

Sheryl Kraft

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HRT: Hair Loss and Menopause

If there is one thing you can count on, it's that your scalp will shed between 50 and 100 hairs each day.

But come menopause, you might be seeing lots more than that—on your floor and your pillow and clogging your shower drain and hairbrush. Lately it seems that hair is everywhere. Or, that is, everywhere except where you want it to be: on your head.

Indeed, for many women, hair loss around menopause is almost as common as the other symptoms that come with it like hot flashes, mood swings, sleep troubles and weight gain. About two-thirds of post-menopausal women deal with thinning hair or even bald spots, according to experts at Harvard Medical School.

Hair loss or thinning hair may seem like no big deal, but hair is important to most women. A 1993 survey by Glamour magazine found that half the women surveyed said, "If my hair looks good, I look attractive no matter what I'm wearing or how I look otherwise."

One major culprit? Changing hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone. As these hormones decrease, the effects of male hormones (androgens) increase.

Be aware that certain medications or supplements can also cause hair loss, as can certain hairstyles (like tight braids or ponytails) or hair care products and processes.

Add other things like stress, diet, and heredity and you have the perfect storm for thinning, or changing, hair, which behaves in distressing ways:

• Hair grows where it never did previously (like on the face, chin, and lips).
• Hair on your head becomes thinner due to shrinking hair follicles.
• Hair growth slows.
• Hair falls out more easily.
• Hair breaks off more easily.
• Your ponytails become smaller.

And while the most noteworthy cause of hair loss in women is something called female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), a largely hereditary and more extreme condition affecting about 30 million women in the U.S., the loss of estrogen during menopause worsens FPHL. Also known as androgenic alopecia or androgenetic alopecia, FPHL is characterized by thinning hair around the crown and top of your head.

Women who are taking hormone therapy might see an improvement in their hair, but hormone therapy is not recommended to treat hair loss alone.

Treatments for thinning hair or hair loss include:

• Antiandrogen drugs (like ketoconazole and zinc pyrithione)
• Minoxidil lotion or shampoo
• Antidandruff shampoos that contain ingredients like ketoconazole and zinc pyrithione
• FDA-approved low-intensity laser light therapy
• Hair transplant surgery (in which small pieces of the scalp with hair follicles attached are taken from the back of your head and transplanted to bald areas)

If hair loss is excessive, you may want to speak with your health care professional about testing your thyroid, your vitamin and mineral levels (hair loss can be caused by nutritional deficiencies) and/or your hormone levels.

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