Senior Women and Hair Loss: Causes and Treatments

Senior Women and Hair Loss

Getting older brings many changes for women. While some of those changes are welcome – such as having more wisdom – some of them are decidedly not welcome at all. Female hair loss is a common consequence of aging that nobody really wants to talk about. While it is less common than the typical pattern baldness we often see affecting men, female hair loss tends to have a more devastating effect on a woman’s self-esteem.

After all, for most of women’s lives, their hair is seen as their crowning jewel. Women spend great amounts of money, time, and effort on their hair. From getting just the right cut to using the best products to choosing the appropriate color throughout life’s changes, a woman’s hair is one way she can show the world who she really is. A woman’s hair is often strongly tied to her identity.

The thought of losing that can be very difficult. So it makes sense that scientists are looking for the reasons why female hair loss happens and what medications or treatments might work to stop hair from shedding.

More Than Half of Senior Women Deal with Thinning Hair

We lose hair every single day. In fact, most people lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands each day. While that might seem like a lot, Harvard University says the average adult has between 90,000 and 150,000 individual strands of hair! So normally, the hair you see on your hands after shampooing is perfectly normal and doesn’t make a difference in how your hair looks or feels.1

But then menopause hits.

Menopause brings all sorts of changes to a woman’s body. As hormone levels fluctuate wildly, the result can be a variety of conditions that nobody really wants to feel, like night sweats, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and irritability for absolutely no reason. That’s not including the changes that you can’t really feel but are happening in the body regardless, such as losing muscle mass and bones becoming more brittle. That’s why it’s a great idea to get a medical alert device when you start to feel the symptoms of menopause.

When women start to lose their hair, it often happens with thinning at the crown of the head and on the sides. You might not notice it until looking at the back of your head through the mirrors at a salon, and the shock of that can be immense. Or you might not notice until a lot of hair begins falling out in the shower or during brushing. The loss usually happens gradually and the hair doesn’t grow back as quickly, eventually leading to the realization that your hair is thinning.

A study published in the journal Menopause observed just under 200 women over the age of 50 who had gone through menopause. They found that among those women, over half of them had markedly thinning hair, known as female pattern hair loss.

The study also found that 60% of the participants reported low self-esteem. Those who had more intense hair loss reported the most severe rates of low self-esteem. What’s more interesting about the study is that when they looked at the rates of hair loss, only about 4% of those studied had severe hair loss. The vast majority – three in four – had mild hair loss. So that suggests that even the slightest hair loss in women can have a deep, long-term psychological effect.2

What are the Reasons for Female Hair Loss in Seniors?

The study found a few things that were associated with female hair loss in senior women, including a higher body mass index, age, and having gone through menopause, all of which suggest that lower estrogen levels might be the culprit. The writers of the study pointed out that the hair follicles have estrogen receptors, so the hormonal changes of menopause can affect the follicles just as easily as the rest of the body. (And it also explains why men might lose hair – most men don’t have as much estrogen coursing through them as women do.)

But there are other reasons why women can experience hair loss. Those who have some autoimmune conditions might notice it, as well as those who have a depressed immune system. Chemotherapy can damage hair follicles – it is common to lose all your hair with some chemotherapy drugs, and if the follicle is damaged badly enough, the hair might not grow back.

Not getting enough nutrients, especially folic acid, iron, and B vitamins, can cause it. That’s why many women who have a poor diet or suffer from eating disorders might also have hair loss. Problems with the thyroid often lead to thinning hair.

And for some, genetics come into play; if other women in your family had thinning hair, you are more likely to have the problem too.

What are the Treatments for Female Hair Loss?

In some cases, you might be able to grow back the hair you’ve lost. Some over the counter products might promise to help with the issue. Many hair care products designed for women who have thinning hair don’t actually help regrow the hair but instead make the existing hair shaft thicker, leading to a fuller overall appearance. These products work well for their intended purpose but you must keep using them to keep the look of fuller hair.

You can also strengthen the hair you have by taking oral B vitamin complex or getting injections of B vitamins from your doctor. Taking biotin and collagen supplements can help (and can provide other benefits as well, such as stronger nails and clearer skin). Plasma injections might also help stimulate the follicles that are still working and encourage them to grow thicker hair.

There is one drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to fight female pattern hair loss. According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, minoxidil is offered for both men and women in 2% and 5% concentrations. You can purchase this in stores under the name of Rogaine. Women need to apply the topical foam once a day. Those who find the foam irritating can try the oral medication instead. The drug works by thickening the hair follicle, which extends the growth phase of the hair.3

Some laser treatments to improve the hair follicles have been approved by the FDA. Microneedling is also an option. These treatments are available in dermatology offices.

Options for Fuller Looking Hair

Though it might seem like there’s nothing you can do about female hair loss, there are a few options that might help. It certainly won’t hurt to give them a try!

·        Use the right kind of product for thinning hair. You want to use something that is light and airy but still adds volume. A professional stylist can guide you in the right direction.

·        Use shampoo that contains no sulfates and promises to add volume. The shampoo works by swelling the hair shaft.

·        Get your hair cut short, with layers. The layers add bounce and movement, which can make your hair look and feel fuller.

·        When you are in the shower, massage your head well with your fingertips as you use the shampoo. This can stimulate blood flow to the area and keep the follicles healthy. If you want a real treat, purchase a scalp massage tool.

·        Contrary to popular belief, coloring your hair doesn’t make it fall out (for most people). The colorant can actually add volume. However, coloring it too often, the wrong way, or with harsher chemicals can backfire. Ask your stylist for their opinion. 

·        Avoid hairstyles that pull at your hair, such as ponytails or buns.

·        Avoid using heating tools on your hair if possible. This includes blow dryers. Let your hair dry naturally or use a hair dryer on the lowest possible setting.

·        Take supplements to help support the hair you have right now, including zinc, B vitamins, iron, biotin, and collagen. Most supplements that say they give you stronger hair actually contain biotin and collagen in high doses.

Staying Safe While Looking Good

Whether you are heading out to the salon to talk with your stylist or going to the dermatologist to discuss ways to boost your hair follicles, take a mobile medical alert with GPS with you. An on-the-go option can make you feel safer no matter where you are, from driving in your vehicle to walking into the doctor’s office to running a few errands after your appointment.

In addition to the very good idea of having a senior life-saving alert system with you at all times, keep in mind that menopause does cause a wide variety of changes in your body. Those changes can catch you off guard. Sleep problems, for instance, can lead to serious fatigue over time, and that can lead to an increased risk of falls. And since osteoporosis often comes along with menopause, that fall could lead to a serious fracture. Having a senior alert with fall detection within reach at all times – even when you are in the shower – can provide peace of mind. Alert1 wishes you good health!