We all remember “The Slap Heard Around the World.” Although the jokes surrounding the regrettable moment that Will Smith slapped comedian, Chris Rock seem to centre on two men; the real story belongs to women. Let’s shed light on hormonal hair loss.
CROWNING GLORY TURNED HORROR STORY
Hair loss is a profoundly personal experience for women. It’s not just about losing strands of hair; it’s about
losing a part of their identity. For women, hair is a symbol of beauty and vitality. It’s a feature that can make or break feelings related to their appearance, and losing it can be devastating. We spoke to Dr Sibu Lubelwana, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist practising in KwaZulu Natal, about hormones’ role in hair loss. Unlike men, who are expected to lose their hair as they age, women’s hair loss is often stigmatized. Society has placed immense pressure on women to have thick, luscious hair.
This can cause women to feel ashamed or embarrassed about their hair loss, leading to feelings of isolation
and low self-esteem. Women should be celebrated for who they are, not judged based on their hair or lack thereof. While we wait for society to catch up, we acknowledge that hair loss is not just a physical experience for women. It’s an emotional one that can significantly impact their self-esteem.
WHAT IS HAIR LOSS?
We’ve all found clumps of our tangled locks on the shower floor, and many have wondered if the amount we pick up after each wash is “normal.” While losing between 50 to 100 hairs per day is normal, losing more than that can be a cause for concern.
Hair loss, or alopecia, is a common condition that affects both men and women. Various factors, including genetics, age, medications, and hormonal imbalances, can cause it. Hair fall is natural and part of the body’s hair growth cycle. Hair loss occurs when new hair doesn’t replace the hair we have shed.
HOW DO HORMONES AFFECT HAIR?
Hormones can significantly impact hair loss in both men and women. Androgens, male hormones also present in women, play a key role in hair growth and can contribute to hair loss when levels are imbalanced. For
example, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative of testosterone, can cause hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop producing new hair growth. Hormonal changes can also affect the hair growth cycle, causing more hairs to enter the shedding phase at once, resulting in increased hair loss. Dr Lubelwana explains: “In General, cyclical hormonal changes are a constant feature in women’s lives.
These changes have different impacts on different people. Just like some teenagers will experience acne and others not during puberty, the sequela of hormonal changes in menopause may differ from person to person.”
CERTAIN STAGES IN LIFE WILL BRING HORMONAL CHANGES:
Puberty – increased reproductive hormones can stimulate oil resulting in greasy hair and increased hair growth.
Pregnancy– increased progesterone and estrogen prolong the growth cycle, which causes less shedding and leads to the appearance of thicker hair.
Increased Stress Hormones – Increased levels of cortisol and adrenalin disrupt the hair’s life cycle. Stress hormones also suppress estrogen, which is needed for hair growth.
Thyroid Imbalances– Hypothyroidism can also lead to hair loss.
Menopause – During and after menopause, less estrogen is produced, and the effects of testosterone increase, which affects the hair follicles and leads to thinning. Menopausal hair loss usually leads to thinning in the front of the scalp.
WHEN TO SEEK TREATMENT
If your hair loss is causing you concern, it’s time to seek professional advice. Dr Sibu urges patients to ensure that treatable causes are identified and treated but to steer clear of home remedies that may cause more harm than good.
- Is your diet rich in Iron, fatty acids and vitamin D?
- Do acute stressors play a role?
- Explore ‘Traction Alopecia’. This is hair loss caused by hairstyles that pull on the hair from the follicles.
Patients experiencing menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, insomnia and mood swings may benefit from Hormone Therapy. Where hair loss is an isolated symptom, Dr Lubelwana says HT is not the first treatment option. “I normally refer the patient to a Dermatologist for further investigation. Where we’ve excluded all treatable causes, the problem is mainly in the follicle; patients might benefit from a referral to a hair transplant specialist.”
Hormone-related hair changes could include:
- Brittle hair
- Dry hair
- Oily hair
- Greying hair
CONSIDER TRYING A FEW OF THESE TO RECLAIM YOUR MANE:
Balance those hormones
Speak to your gynaecologist or GP about your symptoms and see what they can advise or offer to correct imbalances.
Feed your follicles
Good hair is grown in the kitchen. Eat a balanced diet rich in protein, biotin, vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, B, Iron, and essential fatty acids. Think oats, carrots, spinach, avocado, prunes, eggs, berries, salmon, and beans. Sugar, alcohol and greasy foods are the bad guys here.
Destress your Tresses
We’ve explained how stress impacts on your hormones. Find ways to manage your stress. Exercise and meditation are always gentle places to start.
Be Kind to Your Crown
Dial back on heat styling, use gentle products, don’t brush too hard, and don’t pull your hair into tight styles.
Don’t give up hope to all those suffering from hormonal hair loss. Menopause is a milestone to be celebrated. Of course, it comes with many other troubling symptoms, but simplify your life and deal with them one step at a time. See your doctor so that you can be assessed. Seek professional help early to achieve the best outcomes and get back to feeling comfortable in the skin you’re in!