As our bodies and hormones change with age, so does our hair. We've heard plenty of stories from readers who had stick straight hair as children, and grew curls all of a sudden with puberty, or women whose hair has transitioned from tight curls to loose waves in adulthood. I recently spoke with curly hair stylist Dianne Nola of Nola Studio in San Francisco, who has been supporting her clients through all hair stages for over 25 years. One of the top concerns she sees her clients struggling with is the loss of hair density that many women experience as they go through menopause.
What are some common changes that happen to the hair for your clients during menopause?
The hair follicles become spaced further apart than they used to be; it's a very distinctive look––so much so that I can look at a new client and know she used to have very dense hair.
Women lose hair all over, but I see it first in the recession area (sides of the forehead), above the ears, and at the cowlick on the crown. Many women believe the back is not affected. We do have hair loss there but since there is more skin with hair follicles, it doesn't show as much.
Another change is each individual hair becomes smaller in diameter. It's as if the hair has lost its vibrancy. It is less robust and can appear downy.
What are the top questions you get from your clients who are dealing with these changes?
Should I take Biotin?
What do you think about Rogaine?
Should I see a dermatologist?
No one wants to lose their beauty and identity. Essentially, women are scared and I definitely can understand. I have also lost at least a third of my hair since my 20s.
It's important to realize, though, that other people don't view your hair in the past; they see it now. They see the shine, health, and movement of your hair. They also see the vibrancy of you, so keeping yourself healthy while you age is extremely important.
I do recommend seeing your dermatologist and having tests for blood count, hormone levels, iron, thyroid and Vitamin D.
As for biotin, there are not any substantial studies, but many of my clients attribute that it makes their hair thicker with less breakage. They take 2,500mcg/day with plenty of water.
What do you recommend to clients to help with changes in density?
As curly girls, we avoid touching our hair because it will frizz. But it is so important to get movement in the scalp area. Capillaries underneath the skin shrink and need to be stimulated to increase the blood flow to the hair root. This action helps to keep it alive.
A woman loses her estrogen when going through menopause. Then there is a loss of moisture and elasticity throughout the body, including the scalp. In each hair strand, we lose oil (sebum), which contributes to increased dryness.
It is also important to keep the scalp area cleansed and free from buildup, which enables the hair to grow. I use Deva's Buildup Buster but there are a few on the market. Think of a rose garden filled with nourishing soil where the weeds are pulled, exposing the flowers to air and light.
Are there products, a regimen or techniques that you've found to be effective?
The only well-publicized and approved studies are with Minoxidil (Rogaine). It prevents hair loss but you have to use it every day for the rest of your life! It costs approximately $40/month. I have only a few clients willing to make that commitment.
It works by enlarging the capillaries that supply blood, thus increasing the hair's growth cycle. Hair has three cycles: growing, resting and releasing. Each of these cycles varies with each person. Nutrition, genetics, medication, and trauma all play a part because the hormones are affected.
Some people use topical caffeine daily to increase the blood flow. There are many cleansers and conditioners available that contain caffeine to slow down thinning hair. Caffeine also enlarges the capillaries and stimulates blood to the hair root.
I also have clients that take collagen (or gelatin) and bone broth for protein support. The hair is 90% protein, so by taking this it allows the hair to be strong, warding off breakage.
Remember, everybody is different and responds differently to medications, supplements, and hair products, as we've learned. So these treatments might work for you but not for your best friend.
#NaturallyCurlyWorld, have you experienced changes to your texture or density with menopause? Share your story below.