What women think is happening
Many women think a change in scalp health and hair breakage could be due to shampooing in hard water, or that they are shampooing too frequently. Hair loss and hair thinning are often thought to be caused by hair dryers, hair colourants, conditioners and styling products.
What is actually happening
However, the cause of scalp and hair changes in women over 40 are typically related to changes in hormone levels. The menopause sees the level of oestrogen reduce and this may impact the scalp and hair in the following ways:
Skin oil production reduces. In turn this may lead to a slightly dryer scalp environment with an increased tendency towards scalp irritation. Less oil production leads to dry hair that lacks shine, elasticity and breaks more easily.
The hair growth cycle is altered. Oestrogen helps regulate the hair growth cycle - it maintains hair in the ‘active growth stage’ for the correct time, allowing hair to reach optimum length and vitality. When oestrogen declines, hair is shed earlier than normal.
Potentially, hair follicles may reduce in size. Alongside the reduction in oestrogen, testosterone starts having a greater impact and is potentially cruel to scalp hair, particularly if a woman has genetically hormone-sensitive hair follicles, which creates a reaction whereby testosterone attacks hair follicles throughout the top section of scalp, resulting in smaller follicles that produce thinner hairs, allowing more scalp to be seen.
What women can do
To help, always maintain a regular shampoo and conditioning routine. Shampoo daily for better scalp health but apply conditioners to the ends of the hair only - they work well here, but can increase scalp irritation if massaged into the scalp.
For hair loss and thinning, ensure a diet rich in protein foods such as red meat, chicken and eggs. For scalp and hair dryness, also include healthy fats in the diet such as oily fish, nuts and avocados.
Use intensive hair conditioning treatments to increase shine and reduce breakage. Choose hair care products that contain phytoestrogens.