Mayo Clinic Minute: Treatment for hair loss in women
Combating Hair Woes During Menopause
Because of hormone shifts, women may start losing the hair on their heads and see it pop up where in other unexpected places. These treatments can help.
By Marie Suszynski
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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It’s bad enough that menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings can turn your life upside down, but menopause can also lead to some serious changes in your hair. Menopause can cause the hair on your head to start thinning and the hair on your upper lip or chin to get thicker.
Thinning hair happens to about half of all women by age 50, while up to 15 percent of women experience hair growth on their chin, upper lip, or cheeks after menopause, according to the North American Menopause Society.
“Sometimes women experience both, sometimes it’s one or the other,” says Mary Polan, MD, a gynecologist at Columbia Doctors Eastside in New York City.
The culprit: changes in estrogen and androgen levels during menopause. Both levels of hormones go down during menopause, but at different rates. Estrogen levels drop severely while androgen levels drop more slowly over time. As a result, the ratio of estrogen to androgen levels changes dramatically, Dr. Polan says.
That can lead to scalp hair loss in women (who may already be prone to thinning hair due to genetics or aging) and the arrival of fine hair, or “peach fuzz,” on the upper lip or chin, or dark, wiry, hairs on the chin that grow quickly.
Hair Loss in Women: Menopause Treatment Options
While there are not a lot of menopause treatment options for women experiencing thinning hair, you might try these steps:
Consider hormone therapy.Some women who have high levels of androgens before menopause and are experiencing hair loss in the perimenopausal stage (the years leading up to menopause) can be treated with a combination of birth control pills and medications that lower androgen levels. However, this is something to try before going through menopause. After menopause, the risks of hormonal treatments — including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, and blood clots — generally outweigh their benefits.
Try regrowth solutions.Using the over-the-counter liquid minoxidil (Rogaine) can help promote hair growth in women, but you may not see results for three or four months after you start treatment. Also, you have to continue applying it to your scalp indefinitely in order to continue seeing results.
Ask about finasteride (Propecia).Although this prescription treatment is typically used by men experiencing hair loss, women may also use it, Polan says. But there is little evidence that it is beneficial in women.
If you are obese, lose the excess pounds.Androgen levels tend to be higher in women who are obese, so maintaining a normal weight can help reduce the imbalance in hormones after menopause that contributes to hair thinning.
Unwanted Facial Hair: What to Do
It’s easier to remove the hairs you don’t want than it is to make hair grow where you do want it. Luckily, women have a host of ways to get rid of unwanted hair:
Try to prevent it with the Pill if you’re pre- or perimenopausal.Taking birth control pills before you’re going through menopause can help prevent facial hair growth, Polan says.
Go with the old stand-bys — tweezing, bleaching, and waxing.If you don’t have a lot of unwanted facial hair, you can probably spend a little bit of time removing it yourself with a pair of tweezers or by waxing the hair away. Another option is to bleach the hairs on your face with an over-the-counter face and body cream bleach kit.
Try a prescription cream.The topical cream eflornithine (Vaniqa) slows the growth of facial hair. If facial hair is bothering you, it may be worth a try, Polan says. You’ll need to ask your doctor for a prescription and it may take four to eight weeks to see results.
Laser them away.A dermatologist can remove facial hair by using a laser to damage the hair follicle and slow down hair growth. But this technique works best on dark hairs, and is less effective for blonde or peach-fuzz type hair growth.
Every woman will approach thinning hair and facial hair differently. For some, it’s no big deal, while others want to try to find effective fixes. Whatever camp you fall in, know it’s a common part of aging and menopause, and talk to your doctor about your options.
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