If bad hair days have you feeling blue, don’t panic. Aging can cause physical and structural changes to the hair shaft, especially during the transition to menopause, but there are ways to restore your once-youthful locks to their vibrant, healthy state and to stop them from breaking prematurely.
Brittle Hair and Aging
When we’re young, our hair shines without effort thanks to an abundance of moisture and natural oils, but around menopause, dry, brittle hair becomes a problem for many women. A variety of textural changes, such as dryness, can occur as a result of inflammaging, thanks to “Chronic persistent low-grade [age-related] inflammation.” Dry hair feels coarse instead of smooth and may be difficult to comb because the cuticle of the hair remains open like a pine cone instead of closed like a rope.
Fighting Those Gray Hairs Could Be Part of the Problem
While opting for shimmery silver hair may be a fascinating trend for women, most people opt to camouflage their gray hair by adding highlights or coloring instead. Unfortunately, certain chemical hair processing procedures leave hair dehydrated with a tendency to fray or break.
Thyroid Medicine and Birth Control Pills May Cause Hair Damage
As hormone fluctuations occur, many women seek treatment for an underactive thyroid condition that often causes weight gain and reduces energy. Thyroid medication, such as levothyroxine, improves thyroid function but has the unwanted side effect of both hair loss and a change in hair texture. Similarly, doctors often prescribe hormone-based birth control pills to perimenopausal women to control erratic menstrual cycles. Depending on the hormones involved, the pills can cause hair to enter the telogen effluvium or resting phase prematurely and sometimes leads to hair loss too.
Eat Your Way to Healthier Hair
The old adage, “You are what you eat,” couldn’t be more true than during perimenopause. Cutting calories to fight excess weight gain makes sense but not at the expense of eliminating crucial protein, fat, and vitamins that keep hair healthy and strong.
- Protein – Take a heart heath and hair health approach by adding cottage cheese, seeds, eggs, and poultry to your diet. Protein supports muscle tissue and hair quality while also burning more calories than fat.
- Healthy fats and fatty acids – Fatty fish, such as salmon, protect the epidermis and prevent hair loss. Researchers believe that fatty acids may increase “sebum secretion” and coat the hair in protective lipids that increase hydration.
- Vitamin D – Some vitamins naturally help the body absorb nutrients that impact hair health. For instance, vitamin D reduces inflammation and makes it easier for the body to properly absorb calcium, zinc, iron, and selenium. Fish, like salmon, are rich in healthy omega-3 oil as well as vitamin D. Eggs, pork, and fortified milk (even soy) will increase your vitamin D levels and your body’s ability to benefit from other nutrients.
- Vitamin C – During perimenopause, many women often notice that their hair becomes brittle and starts falling out. The drop in oestrogen levels can cause a higher ratio of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that interferes with hair growth. To ward off DHT excess, add foods that are rich in vitamin C to your diet. In addition to the obvious choices – oranges – brightly colored fruits and vegetables make excellent choices. Look for “red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe,” as well as tomatoes.
Treat Your Hair to a Spa Day More Often
Showing your hair and scalp a little extra attention on a regular basis can make a world of difference. And despite what you may think, home treatments don’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Since scalp oils only nourish the first few inches of the hair, the rest of the strands may be thirsty and in need of hydration.
At-home oil treatments work wonders
Look up “dry brittle hair treatment,” and you’ll find oil at the top of the list. At-home oil treatments work wonders whether used hot and shampooed out after 15–30 minutes or left on overnight. On nights when your energy levels have bottomed out, press melted coconut oil or any other plant-based oil, like moringa oil, into your hair.
Start at the mid-shaft and coat the hair all the way to the ends. Put a towel over your pillowcase, so you don’t damage it, and then turn in for the night. In the morning, wash your hair as usual. You’ll instantly see a dramatic difference in hydration and texture, and, over time, your hair will be stronger and healthier.
Try switching to a moisture-rich shampoo or conditioner
Try switching to a moisture-rich shampoo or conditioner that contains humectants and fatty alcohol if you want a simpler approach. These include glycerin, glyceryl stearate, propylene glycol, sodium lactate, sodium PCA, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol.
These Lifestyle Changes and Natural Remedies Also Improve Hair Health
Just like your skin, your scalp naturally produces sebum to protect and moisturize the individual strands of hair. Without it, hair breaks more easily. Making a few simple changes to your hair styling habits and supplementation routine can ensure your hair looks and feels healthier.
- Stay out of the hot zone – at least occasionally. Hot styling tools like curling irons, flat irons, blow driers, and hot rollers can cause hair damage when used too frequently. Crimping tools, especially, weaken strands and may lead to breakage.
- Baby your hair when it’s wet. As tempting as it is to hurriedly run a brush or comb through your freshly washed locks, take your time and be gentle with wet hair. When fully saturated, hair is far more likely to snap when handled roughly.
- Avoid putting repeated pressure on your hair. It’s easy to rely on hair accessories like clips and ponytail holders when you need to get out the door fast. Unfortunately, dry, brittle hair is already weak, and these hair accessories can result in breakage if used too often.
- Consider adding a biotin supplement to your diet. Although current studies have not found a conclusive connection between biotin supplementation and hair health, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can’t hurt. To rule out an underlying condition that may, in fact, be causing a biotin deficiency, discuss your hair health with your primary care provider. In so doing, you may discover an undiagnosed condition. Biotin also helps the body use carbohydrates for energy, something most women in perimenopause appreciate.