Is perimenopause causing your hair to change?

From texture changes to a greasy or itchy scalp, those fluctuating hormones have a lot to answer for. Here’s what the experts suggest

Abi Jackson
Friday 22 December 2023 08:44 GMT
Hormonal changes can cause a whole host of changes (Alamy/PA)
Hormonal changes can cause a whole host of changes (Alamy/PA)

Our haircare needs can change throughout our lives, and the lead-up to menopause is no exception.

Perimenopause – the phase before your periods stop completely – brings big shifts in oestrogen and progesterone levels, impacting cells throughout the body. And if you’re a bit unsure whether it’s hormones or something else causing pesky changes with your scalp and barnet, join the club!

We asked the professionals for their take on our perimenopause haircare conundrums…

My hair feels like it’s getting thinner and less voluminous. Why is this happening?

“Hair thinning is completely normal for many women as they age and approach menopause. It happens due to hormonal changes, and while it can be distressing, it’s important to know you’re not alone,” says Dr Roshan Vara from The Treatment Rooms London.

“The primary cause is a decline in oestrogen, which plays a crucial role in maintaining hair health and thickness. However, there are several other factors that can contribute. Alongside menopause, many women suffer from androgenetic alopecia (female pattern hair loss), a hereditary condition.

“Hormonal changes pre and post menopause can affect the sensitivity of hair follicles, leading to thinning and subsequent loss of hair volume. Other factors include nutritional deficiencies, stress, and the natural ageing process.

“Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to improve the overall health and reduce the appearance of hair thinning. Ensuring a balanced diet, managing stress, and using haircare products designed for thinning hair can often help. It’s also important to note that at the time of menopause, the hair shaft naturally becomes thinner in diameter – this means those with straight or wavy type hair are prone to looking thinner and feeling finer in texture,” Vara adds.

“If you’re concerned about your hair thinning, don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional, trichologist, or a dermatologist to discuss potential treatment options. Remember, there’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about hair thinning – it’s common and there are plenty of solutions available.”

My hair texture is changing and now feels brittle and course. Is this hormone related?

“Hair texture can sometimes gradually change due to hormonal influences; however, the major influence is external factors,” says Glenn Lyons, senior consultant trichologist and clinical director at Philip Kingsley.

“Hair texture and good condition is dependent on adequate moisture. Blow-drying too near or too hot, and using hair straighteners are common causes of brittleness and texture change. Too tightly-packed bristles in brushes can also be detrimental. Wind and sunshine can also have an adverse impact on our hair condition through the evaporation of moisture.”

I’m not completely grey yet, however my hair doesn’t seem to take dye as well as it used to. Am I imagining this?

“If you’re going grey, welcome to the club – I like to think of it as a sign of maturity and that you have lived an exciting life!” says Gina Conway, owner of Gina Conway Salon & Spa in Wimbledon.

“Some grey is caused by stress, while for others it’s hereditary. Grey hair is usually a coarser texture than your pre-grey hair and is also more wiry, which is why it shows up more. So you’re not imagining it, but those stubborn greys are easily banished when your colourist conceals them with the correct pigment balance.

“There are so many techniques now, from a subtle grey blending to full coverage, or just a creamy glossing over to balance it and enhance it. Have fun with it – and don’t beat yourself up if a few rogue hairs peak through, as does happen. I personally like using a demi-permanent colour, so as your hair grows out, it washes out, meaning you don’t see such a strong line by that five-week mark. See your colourist for some inspiration.”

My hair gets so greasy now – wasn’t that meant to stop by this age! And is it really that bad if I wash it every other day?

“There are lots of reasons why your hair is getting greasier. It’s not entirely a bad thing – it’s great for your face, as it will keep the skin looking more youthful! However, in the hair, it can be a nuisance,” says Conway. “Remember when you were a hormonal teenager? Well, you are likely now a hormonal mid-lifer, as your body is starting to prepare for menopause.

The body is an amazing machine!

Gina Conway, salon owner

“Another reason hair can be more greasy is that hair colour, especially blonder hair, absorbs oil. If you’ve transitioned to a colour where you don’t put it near your roots, it will appear a lot greasier. Another reason could be your diet, so I recommend seeing a nutritionist to look at how you could balance this out. Lastly, if you’re using a shampoo that is really cleansing, it could be too harsh for your skin,” Conway adds. “Your body’s reaction will be to produce more oil to keep that delicate balance, so you aren’t getting any infections through your scalp. The body is an amazing machine!

“You don’t need to wash your hair every other day to combat grease, and this can exacerbate the problem if you over-cleanse – just rinsing your hair works wonders to balance this overproduction out on the days you don’t shampoo. Dry shampoos are also amazing at this life stage.”

My scalp has been so itchy – someone mentioned this can be perimenopause related. What’s going on?

Itchy skin is recognised as one of the wider group of menopause symptoms – and “this can also affect the scalp, which can become very dry and lead to an impaired skin barrier function”, says intimate health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetics.

“This leads to scalp dryness, as well as a lack of moisture. With perimenopause, thinning hair is also common and means your scalp is more exposed to outside factors, such as UV rays, which can again cause scalp irritation. The oil glands become less active as levels of oestrogen drop and this can result in a dry or itchy scalp too. Many women in perimenopause will experience scalp irritation, dryness, as well as dandruff.

“There are several things you can do to soothe your scalp. Using a mild shampoo and avoiding harsh chemicals will help. You can also try using natural oils, such as coconut or castor oil, to keep the scalp moisturised. Also, look for a gentle hair brush that is kinder to the hair and scalp,” Lakhani adds.

“Make sure you are also getting all your essential vitamins and minerals, as these are crucial for healthy hair and menopause can affect nutrient absorption. If you are lacking in nutrients such as zinc, biotin or vitamin D, then it can also lead to dryness and other scalp problems.

“Make sure you stay hydrated, and avoid hot showers as hot water can dry and strip the scalp of its natural oils. Use lukewarm water and avoid over-washing too. I recommend seeing a medical professional if you do not see improvement after a few weeks.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in