Menopause & Hair Loss: Prevention & Hair Growth Tips
Let's be honest: People don't talk about menopause enough. The lack of open communication can make this experience seem even more daunting—apart from the hot flashes, skin changes, and sleep troubles.
It's no wonder many women experience hair loss during this time without understanding there's a direct link between menopause hormones and hair growth. However, we're here today to shed light on a very real, very common, and very important topic: menopause hair loss.
Hair loss for those in menopause.
Hair loss that may happen during menopause is not triggered by one single factor, though hormones do play a significant role. This kind of hair loss is multifactoral and complex—one of the many reasons it can be so frustrating.
When someone enters menopause, their estrogen and progesterone levels start to vary and eventually decline. "Studies have shown that decreases in these two hormones contribute to hair loss because they play a role in hair growth and the duration of time that the hair stays in the growth or anagen phase," biomedical doctor, hair expert, and founder of hair care brand Alodia Isfahan Chambers-Harris, Ph.D., tells mbg.
"The decrease in these hormones can also cause an increase in androgens. Androgens can shrink the hair follicle, which can cause hair thinning," she adds. So even if you don't notice significant fallout, gradual thinning can be connected to menopause as well.
Contributing factors to menopause-related hair loss.
As we mentioned earlier, hormones are not the only reason you may experience hair loss during menopause. To follow, a few compounding triggers:
Menopause can be a stressful time—not knowing what's going to come next, bodily changes, not to mention riding the wave of shifting hormones day in and day out.
What's more, stress and hair loss are linked regardless of menopause-related hormone shifts. In fact, stress hair loss has its own name: telogen effluvium1.
"Telogen effluvium is a kind of hair loss that takes place after a person undergoes a stress to the body or mind such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a high fever, a surgery, or an abrupt hormonal change," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., previously told mbg.
"As we age, there is reduced hair density and a weakening or thinning of the hair shaft," dermatology nurse practitioner Jodi LoGerfo, Ph.D., tells mbg. What's more, research shows that hair growth slows with age2, until at some point, follicles stop growing hair altogether.
In other words: Gradually losing your strands and experiencing thinning is entirely normal with age, whether you have yet to begin or if you've ended the most intense season of menopause.
Think of it like wrinkles caused by age: You can certainly do your part to encourage tighter skin, but it's practically impossible not to get a single wrinkle as you age—the same goes for your hair. Don't worry, we'll dive into preventive tactics in the next section.
This one is very situational but certainly worth noting for now or for future reference. "Any imbalance in the body can trigger diffuse hair loss," certified trichologist Penny James once told mbg, including undergoing an operation.
"Surgery can bring on diffuse hair loss, [which may] only last for three months, then correct itself," James explains (However, for some folks it may take up to 12 months we should note). Not only can the stress of surgery trigger hair loss, but anesthesia, postoperative medications, and increased metabolic needs of nutrients like protein, zinc, and biotin post-surgery can contribute to this, board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., previously noted.
This is particularly notable if someone undergoes a hysterectomy, which will trigger what's called surgically induced menopause3.
How to prevent hair loss during menopause.
While there's no surefire way to prevent hair loss point blank, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep your scalp and strands in tiptop shape—start with these:
Keep your scalp balanced.
Scalp care is another complex realm, but something worth reading up on if you want to prevent hair loss. As a quick recap of our full scalp care breakdown, here are the basic steps you should consider:
- Look at your scalp: If you don't really look at your scalp every now and then, you might miss the early stages of buildup, inflammation, irritation, and even hair shedding—so section out your hair and investigate every so often.
- Exfoliate weekly: Dead skin builds up on the scalp, and when it's not cleared, the risk of those flakes clogging your follicles rises (thus preventing growth). Opt for a gentle scalp scrub or chemical exfoliant treatment.
- Replenish hydration: Keep a hydrating scalp serum on hand to restore the moisture barrier after exfoliating. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and panthenol.
- Give your scalp a break: If you frequent a slicked-back or tight hairstyle, you may consider giving it a break, as these can lead to a different kind of hair loss called traction alopecia.
- Massage your scalp: There is so much power in your built-in tools. Giving yourself a scalp massage in the shower or with products before or after your rinse can work wonders for growth—more on this step in a bit.
- Wear scalp sunscreen: If you're spending a long day in the sun, wear a scalp sunscreen—here's a list of our top 8 scalp sunscreens for your browsing pleasure.
Limit excessive heat or chemical processing.
As any stylist or scalp expert would say, do your best to limit heat styling when you can. There's nothing wrong with using it on occasion (with a heat protectant of course) but try to limit your styling to once or twice a week rather than every day.
Adjust your wash schedule or switch to a gentler shampoo.
If your scalp is dry or irritated, you'll have much more difficulty combating hair loss. One way to ensure your scalp stays hydrated and balanced is to limit your washes to every other day (or every few days if you choose).
You generally don't want to go over a week without washing the hair, especially if you use styling products. If you pass seven days, the buildup can become so tacky that you'll need to use a scalp detoxifying product like a scalp scrub or chemical exfoliant treatment to clear it out.
However, some people swear by a daily cleanse—and that's OK. If this is the case, just be sure to opt for a gentle shampoo that is not stripping and replenishes hydration in the scalp rather than an astringent formula.
“Scalp irritation could also be a sign of seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis,” notes board-certified dermatologist Ruth Jobarteh, M.D. In which case, it’s a good idea to visit your dermatologist for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Eat a balanced diet.
Eating a balanced diet is important in general, but what you consume also plays a role in your hormone health and thus may contribute to hair loss. There are plenty of foods that can help support healthy hormones as well as ones to consider limiting. In general, work on crafting balanced plates of whole and natural foods when possible.
If you want to dive deeper into eating to support hormonal health, check out this story. For now, keep these tips in mind:
- Get enough healthy fats and protein every day.
- Skip caffeine on an empty stomach.
- Consume probiotics.
- Get enough magnesium.
As mentioned earlier, stress is another major hair loss trigger, whether it's during menopause or not. You'll want to have some stress-relieving activities on hand for self-soothing purposes, so we'll toss a few ideas below:
- A long shower or bath
Get enough sleep.
One common struggle for anyone going through menopause is falling asleep and staying asleep. So it's easier said than done to prioritize sleep, but it's critically important for your hormonal health.
In fact, research shows that lack of sleep can disrupt your hormones 4and4 your metabolism4—along with making you feel drab the next day. If you need a bit of assistance, consider a natural sleep aid, sans melatonin—here are 9 A+ options to consider.
How to encourage healthy hair growth.
Say you're already experiencing a bit of hair loss or thinning during menopause, perimenopause, or really any time in your life—you'll want to focus on regrowth, which may take some targeted treatment.
To come, a few at-home-friendly options to consider adding to your hair care routine.
Hair growth serums.
Earlier we discussed putting your scalp care first—and picking up a hair growth serum is a great place to start. When you're searching, keep an eye out for rosemary oil. This ingredient works wonders to stimulate the scalp and thus, promote growth.
In fact, a 2015 randomized comparative trial found that rosemary essential oil was just as effective5 as minoxidil (the active ingredient in many commercial hair-growth products) for reversing hair loss caused by androgens—also known as male- or female-pattern baldness—after six months.
Other ingredients to keep in mind include peptides, caffeine, plant stem cells, castor oil, aloe vera, and the list goes on. To ease your search, we created a list of the 13 best hair growth serums on the market right now—all of which you can read about and shop here.
You may be familiar with LED light therapy for aging skin and easing acne, but did you know it can help with hair growth as well? As indicated by one research review, the remedy can promote hair growth in men and women6 by helping hair follicles enter the anagen phase.
You can visit a dermatologist for an in-office treatment or opt for at-home devices like the Hairmax Ultima 9 Classic LaserComb, as previously recommended by certified trichologist Shab Reslan.
Chambers-Harris also recommends looking intro microneedling. This is an in-office procedure where a dermatologist or certified aesthetician uses a tool to prick the skin with tiny, sterilized needles.
This helps to stimulate the scalp and increase penetration of topical products (like growth serums, for example). You can technically use a dermaroller to do this at home, but only if you're committed to the extensive cleaning process required.
Another low-lift tip: Practice scalp massage. While you're in the shower washing your hair or after applying a scalp serum, go in with your fingertips (not your nails) and gently massage each area of your scalp. The results? Not only instant relaxation but also potential growth.
In fact, in a 2016 study, a small number of men received a daily four-minute scalp massage. At the conclusion of the study, the investigators found an increase in hair thickness7. A more recent 2019 study found that of the 300 or so participants who followed a specific massage regimen, nearly 70% reported improved hair thickness at the end8.
Targeted hair supplements.
There are plenty of hair supplements on the market today, but it can be difficult to weed out the research-backed formulas in such a big crowd. To help you out, keep this list of vitamins in the back of your mind when shopping—as previously recommended by certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology William Gaunitz, FWTS:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin D
- Folic acid
Plus, additional boosters like amino acids and target antioixdants can help tend to the hair and the skin—a multi-beauty vitamin if you will. Not sure where to shop? Here are our eight favorite beauty supplements to inspire your search.
Visit a pro.
While hair loss during menopause is certainly normal and expected, it's still worth it to visit an expert. A dermatologist or trichologist can help you pinpoint additional triggers you may be facing as well as put together a scalp and hair care routine that's customized for your needs.
Dermatologists may even propose oral medications like spironolactone, which is used off-label to treat hormonal hair loss and hormonal acne (another thing that can happen during menopause). Of course, these medications aren't fit for everyone, but it's worth having a conversation with your derm about prescription-grade options.
Styling tricks to make hair appear fuller.
Once you've put together your scalp care routine, evaluated lifestyle factors that may be contributing to hair loss, and visited an expert (if you choose to), it will inevitably take a few months to see growth.
In the meantime, there are a few ways to mask hair loss to help you feel more confident while all of the other treatments are picking up. Here are a few ideas:
- Change your part: If your hair loss is targeted in one area, changing your part may help mask the lighter spots.
- Use scalp foundation: If you haven't tried scalp foundation yet, it may be your next favorite thing. The ME Cosmetics Scalp Foundation is the best of the best—there's a wide range of shades, the formula won't build up on your scalp, and the before and after results are truly amazing. Not to mention, it's easy to apply.
- Get frequent trims: When you visit your hairstylist, ask them for a trim that will add volume to the hair. When you add layers and dimension to your strands, your hair will automatically look fuller.
How can I stop hair loss during menopause?
Hair loss during menopause is natural and expected, but there are steps you can take to take care of your scalp and encourage growth. Add a growth serum to your routine, massage your scalp at least weekly, exfoliate the scalp weekly, and look into microneedling treatments. Visit your dermatologist to discuss oral medication options such as spironolactone.
What vitamins help with menopause hair loss?
Vitamins C, E, and D; folic acid; niacin; and iron can help support healthy hair growth. Ingredients like biotin and collagen can provide an additional boost for both the skin and the hair.
Is it normal to lose a lot of hair during menopause?
Yes—hair loss during menopause is normal. When someone enters menopause, their estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop—both of which are major players in hair growth. Androgens also increase during menopause, which can shrink the hair follicle, leading to thinning.
The hormonal changes and psychological stress that come with menopause can lead to hair loss. To help prevent it, tend to your scalp with growth serums and massage, eat a balanced diet, get a full night's sleep when you can, and visit a dermatologist if you have access to one. Now that you know the 101 on menopause hair care, feel free to read up on how your skin may react during this time and how to deal, here.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.