The real culprit appears to be dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent form of testosterone. DHT is made from testosterone by a specific enzyme in the body, and while both testosterone and DHT are known to have a weakening effect on hair follicles, there appears to be something unique about the conversion process of testosterone to DHT that relates to thinning hair. This is why some drugs that are marketed for hair loss block the conversion of testosterone to DHT. (It’s important to note, however, that these drugs tend to be less effective in women than men, and that one of them—finasteride—is only approved for hormonal hair loss in men, not women. What’s more, the drug has been associated with increased risk of sexual side effects, depression, nausea, hot flashes, and increased estrogen levels—and too much estrogen is its own risk factor for thinning hair; more on that below.)
What she doesn’t mention is how to regrow your brows after chemo-related brow loss! If you have recently undergone chemotherapy, your brows may be a bit wonky in the beginning, but you still want them, right? They are the frame for your beautiful face. Every October we host a “Buy One Give One for the Cure” campaign, where for every bottle of WINK sold, we donate one to a cancer survivor. If that’s you, shoot us an email so we can get you hooked up.
Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time. When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head. In some cases, however, these hormones can cause more hair to grow on the face. This is why some menopausal women develop facial “peach fuzz” and small sprouts of hair on the chin.
Hormones are cyclical. Testosterone levels in some men drop by 10% each decade after age 30. Women's hormone levels decline as menopause approaches and drop sharply during menopause and beyond. The cyclic nature of both our hair and hormones is one reason hair loss can increase in the short term even when you are having a long-term slowdown of hair loss (and a long-term increase in hair growth) while on a treatment that controls hair loss.
Madarosis is a terminology that refers to loss of eyebrows or eyelashes. This clinical sign occurs in various diseases ranging from local dermatological disorders to complex systemic diseases. Madarosis can be scarring or non-scarring depending upon the etiology. Appropriate diagnosis is essential for management. Follicular unit transplantation has been found to be a useful method of treating scarring madarosis and the procedure relevant to eyebrow and eyelash reconstruction has been discussed. A useful clinical approach to madarosis has also been included for bedside diagnosis. The literature search was conducted with Pubmed, Medline, and Google scholar using the keywords madarosis, eyebrow loss, and eyelash loss for articles from 1960 to September 2011. Relevant material was also searched in textbooks and used wherever appropriate.
Mistakenly thought to be an exclusively male disease, women make up a significant percentage of hair loss sufferers all around the world. Forty percent of women have visible hair loss by the time they are age 40. After menopause, that number increases even more. Hair loss in women can be absolutely devastating for self-confidence, self-image and emotional well-being. Although it is not a life threatening disease and sometimes underestimated by physicians, hair loss can take an emotional toll that directly affects physical health. Hair is an important part of woman’s face and beauty, therefore it is not easy for any woman to face changes that affect the quality and especially the quantity of her hair. Hair loss in women is a serious life-altering condition that shouldn’t be ignored and has to be diagnosed and treated in the best possible way.
Topical estrogen and progesterone creams and oral medications are generally the forms prescribed for post-menopausal women with androgenetic alopecia. But HRT will rarely, if ever, be prescribed for treatment of hair loss alone.] If you have other bothersome symptoms which might warrant HRT, in addition to hair loss, you'll first need to undergo a thorough gynecologic and physical exam, and will likely have blood tests done to measure hormone levels before these drugs are prescribed.
There is also a different in the form of 5AR enzyme (5 alpha reductase) found on the facial hair follicles vs. the scalp hair follicles. This enzyme converts testosterone into that more problematic DHT. Type I DHT is found in sebaceous glands on the face and genital area whereas Type II is found in hair follicles of the scalp. Type II DHT is typically more of a problem in men, but Type II is increased in disorders with high testosterone like PCOS.
Dutasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor that binds both types I and II enzymes. Compared with finasteride, its inhibition of type II enzymes is three times more potent; its inhibition of type I enzymes is 100 times more potent (Clark et al., 2004). Dutasteride is not approved for the treatment of FPHL by the FDA, and ongoing studies on the efficacy of the inhibitor are promising but largely focus on male patients (Gupta and Charrette, 2014, Olsen et al., 2006). A study of women after 3 years of therapy showed that dutasteride may be more effective than finasteride in women under 50 years of age as measured by hair thickness (not hair density) at the center and vertex scalp (Boersma et al., 2014). One case report of a 46-year-old female with FPHL showed some response after 6 months of treatment with a dose of 0.5-mg dutasteride daily despite a minimal response to treatment with finasteride and minoxidil (Olszewska and Rudnicka, 2005). Data with regard to the treatment side effects in women is extremely limited. Dutasteride is classified as pregnancy category X because of teratogenicity and should have the same theoretical risk of breast cancer as mentioned in relation to finasteride (Kelly et al., 2016).
Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. You’ll feel stronger and happier once you incorporate exercise into your daily routine. It also helps prevent some of the other symptoms of menopause, including mood swings, weight gain, and insomnia. All of these factors are important for maintaining hormonal balance, which promotes healthy hair growth.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution, pill or product that will correct hair loss entirely. But if you think of your hormones as a cast of characters, knowing which ones are leading the show and which ones are only playing a supporting role can help you get to the bottom of the issue. If you haven’t already, take my free hormone quiz – it can help you determine what tests you may want to request from your doctor and which lifestyle or dietary changes may benefit you most. In the meantime, manage your stress levels and get enough sleep. This will help with general hormone balance and can protect your precious locks from any further damage.