Your Best Menopause Hair Loss Treatment Options
3 minute read
Whether your hair used to be thick and voluminous or has always been fine and limp, seeing extra stands accumulate in the shower drain can be pretty alarming. Even worse: noticing that your part has grown wider or that the hair around your temples has begun receding.
Both problems are consistent with so-called female-pattern hair loss, which can be inherited from either parent. It may also show up in a “Christmas tree pattern” that starts with hair thinning at the top of your scalp and widens through the center.
Female-pattern hair loss tends to become visible in your 40s, 50s or 60s — which happens to be right around when most women are going through menopause. In younger women, estrogen helps keep hair full and strong, but this hormone drops off dramatically at menopause. That’s why most middle-aged and older women find their locks are no longer so lustrous.
Fortunately, you’re unlikely to go completely bald due to these menopausal symptoms. Plus there are many steps you can take to stop hormonal hair loss, slow it down, or camouflage it. Here, we consider how to stop menopausal hair loss.
Best menopause hair loss treatments
Specially formulated hair-loss shampoos get mixed reviews. Ditto for hair-loss supplements. While there’s generally no harm in trying these (check with your doctor first), most experts don’t advise banking on them. A better bet? Topical or oral medication, perhaps used in conjunction with some dermatologist-administered interventions.
Best known by the brand name Rogaine, minoxidil is a topical medication that you can obtain without a prescription. It’s the only FDA-approved option for treating female-pattern baldness, so most doctors will advise trying it before moving on to other options.
Minoxidil comes in 2 percent and 5 percent strengths, but even with the stronger version don’t expect miracles. Hair grows slowly, and the American Academy of Dermatology says you’ll need to use minoxidil daily for about a year before determining whether it’s working. (Warning: If you decide to stop this treatment, any new hair regrowth that grew in because of minoxidil will soon fall out.)
Minoxidil is generally safe, provided you’re not pregnant. (If you’re menopausal that’s unlikely, but stick with birth control until you’ve been without a period for at least one year.) Otherwise, the main side effects tend to be scalp dryness and irritation.
Androgens are “male” hormones like testosterone, but women have them too. What’s more, when “female” hormone levels like estrogen drop off around menopause, the relative power of androgens increases, which can further wreak havoc on your hair. That’s where prescription androgen blockers like finasteride (Propecia) might come in.
Officially, finasteride is approved only for men because it can cause birth defects. But some doctors prescribe it off-label for women with hair loss who haven’t benefited from other treatments. It shouldn’t be used by women with a family history of breast cancer.
Finasteride comes in both oral and topical formulations. Your doctor might suggest trying one of them if minoxidil hasn’t helped you and your hair loss is believed to be related to excess androgens.
Hormone replacement therapy
It’s controversial, and most doctors would not advise using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the sole purpose of combating hormonal hair loss. But if you’re already considering HRT — perhaps you are experiencing other menopause symptoms such as unbearable hot flashes and vaginal dryness and pain — then you should know that it might also give your hair a boost as well.
The catch, of course, is that long-term use of HRT is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. If you’re not at high risk for any of these problems then it might be safe to try, especially if you use a low-dose for a short amount of time. Be sure to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
Light (laser) therapy
Whether you see a dermatologist for professional treatments or invest in a laser that’s designed for home use, there’s some evidence that light therapy can help improve hair density,thickness and maybe prompt hair regrowth. Just keep in mind that individual results vary, these treatments can be expensive, and simply stopping hair loss from worsening is considered a win. (In other words, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually experience hair growth .)
Platelet-rich plasma therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) is an emerging and semi-experimental treatment that some dermatologists are already using to treat hair loss. It entails having your blood drawn so that the plasma (part that promotes cell growth) can be separated out. The plasma is then injected into several areas on your scalp.
There’s some evidence that PRP works, with a few caveats. First, it seems to work best when combined with other hair-loss treatments. It’s also pricey: Expect to pay about $1,000 per session, and you’ll need a series of three before you find out whether it’s working.
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that involves taking sections of hair from thicker areas of your scalp (along with roots and skin) and relocating them to spots where your hair is lacking. It won’t help everyone with hair loss: you need to have at least some full areas of hair the surgeon can harvest from.
You also have to be prepared to go through a procedure that lasts five to eight hours. During that time you’ll probably be awake (but your scalp will be numbed with local anesthetic).
Hair transplants are expensive, although the exact price depends on how many grafts you require. Side effects may include scalp and facial swelling and tenderness. Some people also experience postoperative bleeding and infection.
Camouflaging Menopause Hair Loss
If treatment isn’t your bag, here are a variety of techniques aimed at disguising thinning hair and sparse patches.
Get the right haircut: Consult your hairstylist, but shorter, layered styles tend to add volume.
Keep it colored: Dyeing your hair doesn’t make it fall out. Rather, it should help it look fuller since the dye gets deposited onto individual strands. A knowledgeable stylist can help you choose the right hue for you.
Try volumize-building products: Hair “fiber” products like Toppik or Caboki are especially good at concealing sparse spots. They go on like a powder and can be temporarily locked into place with hairspray.
Consider extensions: The right toppers and extensions add volume and cover sparse spots and tend to be less expensive and easier to manage than a wig.
Of course, not doing anything at all is an option too. In the end, the right approach to menopause and hair loss is the one that works for you. If you want to consider treatment, Alloy can help. Click here to find a health care provider near you and be on your way to healthy hair growth.
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