By Paul Taylor
Often, the menopause and hair loss coincide. And whilst the menopause is a very real physiological change that marks a new phase in a woman's life, some men of advancing years also feel that a "male menopause" (also known as "andropause" and "manopause") is upon them that may be contributing to, or even causing, the hair loss they have.
This article explains hair loss (from androgenetic alopecia) during the menopause for both women and men, and reveals what you can do to "keep your hair on" later on in life.
Sounds daunting doesn't it?
Not only do you start getting hot flashes and your body begins to feel the ravages of time, but you start losing your hair as well!
And it's from a whole host of menopausal symptoms like these that many women opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
After the menopause, estrogen levels dramatically drop. And this drop can be big enough to let testosterone, and its derivative dihydrotestosterone (DHT), start to manifest itself on a woman's body - facial hair growth and scalp hair loss can only add to the sheer frustration that women experiencing the menopause must feel.
So, many menopausal women undergo HRT to replace the estrogen their body lacks in the hope that it will also help with these (scalp) hair loss and (facial) hair growth problems.
However, HRT drugs typically contain synthetic progestogens or progestins (i.e., a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone). And the shocking truth is that some progestogens are made with testosterone!
Which means that, not only can testosterone start to assert itself on the female body quite naturally after the menopause, but if you then take HRT drugs as well, you could be putting even more testosterone into your body. And clearly that’s not natural.
Not surprisingly then, the side effects from some HRT drugs can include the development of masculine characteristics (including hair loss). So that's why many women wonder whether HRT is making their hair loss worse. And the belief that HRT can help with hair loss is not necessarily true at all.
Note: HRT can’t actually cause this type of hair loss. But the higher levels of
testosterone and DHT that HRT can create, might
contribute to hair loss if you already have the genetic tendency towards
Often called the "andropause", the male menopause and hair loss might be connected too.
The andropause is so named because the hormones involved (testosterone and DHT) belong to a group called androgens. The term "andropause" then, suggests that in men "of a certain age", the production of these hormones will rapidly start to decline (i.e., just like estrogen and progesterone do in women during the menopause).
And, at first glance, this might suggest that hair loss is actually less likely the older you get. That's because high levels of testosterone mean there's more of it floating around your body that can get converted into DHT, so less testosterone should mean less DHT and less hair loss.
But, unfortunately, it's not as simple as that:
1. First of all, skull expansion (i.e., the underlying mechanism behind androgenetic alopecia) is not wholly driven by DHT. Other hormones such as the protein hormone insulin, can also increase bone growth and so might also contribute to the skull expansion process.
2. Plus, it's skull shape that determines who hair loss affects, not simply high DHT levels (some men have very high DHT levels but still don't lose any hair).
So, both these things may explain why this type of hair loss can continue beyond the so-called male menopause.
And the andropause is not even a definitive condition either - In men, the reduction in androgen production is very much a gradual process, whereas in women, their hormone reduction is much more rapid.
Also, not all men suffer from it. Many men will continue to produce high levels of testosterone throughout life, as is supported by two nasty conditions that mostly affect older men:
It's a fact that both prostate growth (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) and prostate cancer are hormone driven, with testosterone and DHT largely seen as the culprits.
Another hormone said to be associated with these prostate problems is estrogen. But, even so, estrogen is derived from testosterone too (testosterone can get converted into estrogen by the enzyme aromatase, or into DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase).
So whichever hormone gets the main blame, testosterone definitely plays a part.
Most men can continue to produce enough sperm to have children at any age, no matter how old they are. And, of course, sperm production is reliant upon there being enough testosterone.
So, once again, this must mean that most men continue to produce a sufficient amount of testosterone even in old age.
Just as many women opt for hormone replacement therapy, some men also choose this type of treatment (albeit to replace testosterone rather than estrogen obviously). And, similarly, HRT for men is not without its risks, one of which is an increase in hair loss.
So, for both women and men, messing around with your hormone balance through HRT might not be such a good idea.
So far, the focus has all been about androgenetic alopecia.
But what about hair loss caused by the aging process itself?
For many women, hair loss only starts to develop slowly over many years once they’ve already reached a ripe old age, rather than very rapidly when they’re young or during the menopausal years when they're middle-aged. So, for them, there might not have been any association between the menopause and hair loss at all.
Instead, it simply seems to be more related to the aging process itself, and not one specific type of hair loss. It’s as though an older body simply doesn’t grow hair as well as it used to.
And there can be a number of reasons for this, including:
1. As you age, your metabolism slows down, making it more difficult to recover if you become ill or injured. And, when you’re ill, your hair is often the first to show it - both the condition of your hair and quality of hair growth can fade.
2. An older body can also find it harder to keep its hormone levels balanced. And, as already mentioned, certain hormone imbalances can be connected to hair loss development.
In the future, more and more people will lose their hair.
The reason why, is partly because of our hectic 21st century lifestyles, following bad diets and suffering more stress, as mentioned in the last section.
But it's also because people today are living much longer than ever before. For example, within the past 150 years, the average life expectancy of British men and women has more than doubled (from 40 to 80 approx).
Statistically, this means that the percentage population of older people is increasing when compared to the younger population. So it’s highly likely that you’ll notice more and more elderly, balding individuals in the future.
course, most people you see who are totally bald are older men. Or at
least it seems that way – losing all your hair can often have an aging effect
on your appearance. So even those men who suffer complete baldness
at a very early age can look a lot older than they really are.
As for baldness in women, I still think it's unlikely that
you’ll spot too many bald headed ladies walking around. That’s partly
because women are more likely to wear a wig or hairpiece, but mostly
because women are simply less likely to lose all their hair than men.
Sooner or later, most men begrudgingly accept hair loss as simply an inevitable fact of life.
And, to some extent, the same applies to women. Maybe seven or eight decades into life, perhaps with a successful career and a flourishing family behind them, many women will no longer be too concerned about a "trivial" issue like hair loss.
After all, there are far more important things to do with whatever time you have left, right?
there's a surprising number of men and women who would rather stay
attached to the hair they have, no matter what color (or shade of gray)
it is now.
Perhaps it's because you spend almost your entire life with hair that, for many, it's become such a big part of their self-image. And so, letting go of something like that might seem to be the hardest thing to do (even though everything else in the body might be falling apart too!)
So, if that's you, then I believe there's a good chance that the techniques I developed (which successfully stopped my own hair loss from spreading into total baldness) can help men and women who may be suffering both the menopause and hair loss.
I would say though that, of my eight techniques, the three massage-related ones are probably the most important unless you definitely know that skull expansion (androgenetic alopecia) is causing your hair loss. You can learn about my techniques on the frequently asked questions page.
Always consult with a doctor about which HRT drug choice to make, and what side effects they might be causing.
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