Thursday, February 8, 2024

Hair Changes in Perimenopause and Menopause

This is the first in a series of posts about changes in your hair during perimenopause and menopause.

There are a several things that happen to the scalp and hair that can make your hair seem more dry, more difficult to manage, more frizzy. Stick with this series - because those changes are fairly predictable, and there are some really simple changes you can make in your hair-care choices to make your hair more agreeable. On whatever budget works for you!

Menopause and perimenopause may be unique to women because they are related to loss of estrogen. But men do experience similar changes in their hair and skin. Though more gradually. 

Science-y Hair Blog © 2011 by  Wendy M.S. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Part 1: What Happens With Hair and Scalp? 

  • Width changes: The overall trend is to become slightly narrower. Exception/temporary: During your 40s and 50s, hairs may become wider (more Coarse). Silver/white hairs in particular can be wider.
    • After age 60-65, hairs tend to become narrower/finer than they were in the past. 
  • Flexibility changes:
    • Medulla: More hairs than in the past may include the medulla, which tends to decrease flexibility. You cannot see this, but this can cause Fine and Medium hairs to hairs feel inflexible or “wiry,” something that you might think is a characteristic of only Coarse (wide) hairs. So if you grab a hair and it seems Baby-Fine but also wiry and stiff: THIS IS WHY. We can deal with this. No problem.
      Left: Hair without the medulla, showing the cuticle and cortex. 
      Right: Hair with the medulla. This "layer" of hair is semi-hollow. 

    • Kinking: Even if your hair overall has a low amount of kinking (or none), silver hairs can have some kinking - bends and twists of the hair fiber itself, that make those hairs less inclined to line up with their neighbors. If your hair has a kinky texture already, there may be changes in where texture is concentrated (temples, hairline, crown).

  • Changes in scalp oil (sebum) productionScalp oil production usually decreases after age 40 - and keeps decreasing into your 60s.  Those oils from our scalp keep hair flexible. Less oil from your scalp means your hair needs more flexibility from things you apply to your hair. [Some people experience temporary increase in oiliness, but the overall trend is for skin to become less oily].
    Oil (sebum) production by scalp decreases between ages 40-60.

Sebum production in women (magenta line) and men (blue line). At left, the lines begin at ages 40-49 at then decrease as you go to the right until 70-79 (age is on the horizontal axis). Women start out less oily than men, and lose sebum more quickly after age 40. Click to make this larger / less fuzzy.

  • Changes in sebum composition: The oil on our scalps changes in ways that can cause hair to feel drier or more brittle.
    • Decreased or altered ceramide production plays a role in:
      • Skin hydration and barrier function - skin more likely to dehydrate.
      • Hair strength, shine, and volume.
    • Decreased wax ester and squalene content in sebum also occur. Wax esters and squalene are good at keeping water in the hair and creating lubrication. 
    • These changes can leave your hair more susceptible to damage from styling or breakage.
    • And can also make hair less flexible and more frizzy.

The composition of oils on your scalp changes enough that, cosmetically, it's equivalent to applying a different product to your hair. 

Changes in scalp hydration levels: Skin’s ability to retain water decreases, partly as a result of the changes in oil production and composition (ceramides - above).

  • This means your skin is more easily dehydrated, it can be more sensitive and more easily irritated, which can lead to inflammation.

Changes in wave/curl pattern

  • Curl may increase or decrease. Curlier/straighter sections may move around. Did your hair change when you were a "tween" or teenager? That. Again.
  • Hair’s volume, bounce, shine, and tolerance for styling may change as a result of all these other changes.

Part 2 will discuss how to adapt to these changes by changing your hair care. Healthier, more manageable hair - here we come! It's easier and more affordable than you might think.

Upcoming installments: Products and treatments that address menopause-related hair issues, Hair thinning, Hair coloring (or stopping hair color), White/Gray/Silver hair, and why you have your Dad's or Uncle's eyebrows around your mid 30s to 40s.

 I am here for you!

 I do hair analysis with an emphasis on troubleshooting. 

I've been doing that since 2013, and I've helped hundreds of people. Hair analysis takes a lot of the guesswork out of adapting to hair-changes. 

For the price of an average haircut (in my region), you can save time and frustration now - that may save you money in the future.

C. C. Zouboulis, U. Blume-Peytavi, M. Kosmadaki, E. RoĆ³, D. Vexiau-Robert, D. Kerob & S. R. Goldstein (2022) Skin, hair and beyond: the impact of menopause, Climacteric, 25:5, 434-442, DOI: 10.1080/13697137.2022.2050206

Kendall AC, Pilkington SM, Wray JR, Newton VL, Griffiths CEM, Bell M, Watson REB, Nicolaou A. Menopause induces changes to the stratum corneum ceramide profile, which are prevented by hormone replacement therapy. Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 15;12(1):21715. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26095-0. PMID: 36522440; PMCID: PMC9755298.

Qingyang Li, Hui Fang, Erle Dang, Gang Wang,
The role of ceramides in skin homeostasis and inflammatory skin diseases, Journal of Dermatological Science, Volume 97, Issue 1,2020: 2-8

Mamada A, Ishihama M, Fukuda R, Inoue S. Changes in hair properties by Eucalyptus extract. J Cosmet Sci. 2008 Nov-Dec;59(6):481-96. PMID: 19156331.

Grymowicz M, Rudnicka E, Podfigurna A, Napierala P, Smolarczyk R, Smolarczyk K, Meczekalski B. Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jul 28;21(15):5342. doi: 10.3390/ijms21155342. PMID: 32731328; PMCID: PMC7432488.

Sebum composition: Age-related Changes in Sebaceous Gland Activity
PETER E. POCHI, M .D., JOHN S. STRAUSS, M.D., AND DONALD T. DOWNING, PH.D. Department of Dermatology, University Hospital, Boston, Mass., U.S.A. THE JOURNAL OF INVESTIGATIVE DERMATOLOGY, 73:108-111,1979 
Pochi PE, Strauss JS, Downing DT. Age-related changes in sebaceous gland activity. J Invest Dermatol. 1979 Jul;73(1):108-11. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12532792. PMID: 448169.

Picardo M, Ottaviani M, Camera E, Mastrofrancesco A. Sebaceous gland lipids. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar;1(2):68-71. doi: 10.4161/derm.1.2.8472. PMID: 20224686; PMCID: PMC2835893.
Jacobsen E, Billings JK, Frantz RA, Kinney CK, Stewart ME, Downing DT. Age-related changes in sebaceous wax ester secretion rates in men and women. J Invest Dermatol. 1985 Nov;85(5):483-5. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12277224. PMID: 4056460.

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