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Menopause and hair loss in women: Causes, treatments and prevention

Losing your hair is a menopause symptom that can stress you out. We'll explain what can help.

Woman checking for hair in front of mirror
Hair loss can be a symptom of menopause, but there are ways to fight back. (Getty).

If you're going through menopause, you've likely experienced symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. But unfortunately the symptoms don't always end there. Menopause can also bring about unexpected changes such as hair loss and thinning hair.

For instance, you may notice your scalp is more exposed than usual or that your hair feels much more sparse than it used to be. But while menopausal hair changes are stressful, some treatments can help you manage this aspect of menopause.

We'll explain what causes you to lose hair during menopause, as well as signs to look for and treatments available to help you. For more, check out this list of the best hair growth products for women, according to dermatologists and trichologists.

Hair loss during menopause generally happens due to a gradual shift in hormones, including estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic Ohio tells Yahoo. Since estrogen plays an important role in promoting hair growth and thickness, when those levels decrease, the hair follicles become thinner over time, which can lead to hair loss.

Genetics also play a role in menopause, Khetarpal says. Androgenetic alopecia, more commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss (depending on whether it's taking place in men or women, respectively), is caused by hormones and genetics and can be a reason women lose hair during menopause. This can be triggered when estrogen levels drop, thinning out the hair follicles, and may be more common in some women than others, based on genetic factors.

When women experience hair loss during menopause, they generally report seeing more of their scalp showing because there's less coverage from their hair, Khetarpal says. Women don't report any changes in hair shedding, she adds, but instead a more gradual increase in hair loss.

"Women also tend to preserve the frontal hairline and see their part width getting wider," Khetarpal said. The hair on the back of the scalp isn't susceptible to genetics, so women's hair during menopause will generally be thicker in the back and thinner on top of the head.

She also notes that because oil glands are under the control of testosterone, hair might become drier, more brittle and frizzy when testosterone levels decline.

Khetarpal says the first step is to take care of any nutritional or vitamin deficiencies to help control hair loss during menopause. She recommends taking a multivitamin daily, and, if you don't eat red meat two to three times a week, an iron supplement.

There are also over-the-counter minoxidil topicals you can apply to your scalp each day that are FDA-approved. These topicals can help the hair shed slower while progressing hair growth.

Oral minoxidil is also an option, but you'll need to get your doctor to prescribe it for you. This can affect the hair follicle to promote hair growth and stop hair loss, Khetarpal said.

Woman parting her hair
You may notice your hair part widening due to hair loss. (Getty).

If you're looking for products to help slow your hair loss, Khetarpal recommends getting an over-the-counter shampoo with ingredients that help with hair growth. Look for shampoos containing zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole to help jump-start the process until you can get an appointment to see your doctor.

If you're looking for additional products to help slow hair loss and promote hair growth, check out these products we've tested and reviewed.

If you're vitamin deficient in a few key areas, you may be more inclined to notice hair thinning or hair loss. To help give your hair the vitamins it needs to stay its strongest, Khetarpal suggests taking a multivitamin or similar supplement to prevent or correct any deficiencies in the following areas:

  • Zinc

  • Ferritin

  • Biotin, though there's limited data

  • Vitamin D

  • Iron

Here are some treatments that may help aid hair loss caused by menopause.

  • Hormone replacement therapy: HRT is sometimes used to supplement estrogen levels during menopause, which can help curb hair loss.

  • Low level laser light therapy: Devices such as laser hair combs are non-invasive and use red light to help promote hair growth.

  • Topical treatments or oral medications: Using minoxidil can help aid hair growth.

  • Nutritional supplements: Taking supplements that contain biotin, zinc and other vitamins that support hair growth could be beneficial. Here are some of the best vitamins and supplements for hair growth in 2024.

  • Hair transplantation: Khetarpal says this option should be a last resort. Transplantation involves minimally invasive surgery to move hair follicles from one site to another.

As always, you should consult your health care provider to address what could be causing your hair to fall out. However, there are some things you can do at home to help prevent hair loss.

Be gentle with your hair: Gentle hair care practices can help minimize hair damage and breakage. Avoid using excessive heat when styling your hair with heat tools, and avoid harsh chemicals on your hair. If you typically wear your hair up, avoid tight hairstyles such as a high, slicked back ponytail.

Manage your stress: Stress can increase hair loss, so try practicing mindful activities such as yoga or meditation to help balance out your mood. Seeking medical therapy can also help to manage your stress.

Massage your scalp: Massaging the scalp increases blood flow to the hair follicles, which can promote hair growth and reduce hair shedding.

Take preventative measures: Khetarpal recommends starting topical minoxidil early on instead of waiting for hair loss to happen, as well as taking a multivitamin and using medicated shampoo.

Not experiencing menopause yet? See if your hair loss could be caused by COVID-19 and how to fix it. Additionally, here are the best hair growth products for men.