Caring for Your Hair & Skin During Menopause

Caring for Your Hair & Skin During Menopause

“My hair, nails, and skin look amazing since menopause started,” said no perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman EVER! But that does not mean all hope is lost. On the contrary, there are many easy and effective actions to take.

Skin and hair generally reflect what our body tries to tell us. “We are what we eat (and drink),” so let’s start with the nitty-gritty about diet and nutrients:

  1. The Mediterranean diet is the best for our skin, hair, and nails. This diet consists of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats like avocado and olive oils, whole grains, and lean meats such as fish.
  2. Vitamin D is essential. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is best absorbed into the blood when taken with fatty food. Vitamin D is also found in dairy products.
  3. Vitamin B12 is found in a variety of foods, including healthy grains. However, as we age, absorption decreases, so a supplement is occasionally needed.
  4. Iron matters. Red meat and dark/green leafy veggies are excellent sources.
  5. Zinc is important for hair growth and is found in foods such as pumpkin seeds and meat. You lose zinc in sweat, so for women who exercise a lot, it is possible to be zinc deficient.
  6. Biotin supplements can help if nails are breaking.
  7. Your hair and skin need protein. Ideally, 60-80 grams of protein a day.
  8. Hydration. Pop, energy drinks, and caffeine do not count.

TAKE HOME POINT: a daily multivitamin is really all most women need.


Your skin has three layers: epidermis (top layer), dermis (middle layer), and the deepest layer called the hypodermis. The dermis contains collagen, elastin, and protein. Collagen is what makes our skin appear plump, healthy, and full. During the first few years of menopause, women lose a lot of collagen in their skin. The loss of collagen causes the skin to sag and wrinkle. Estrogen hormone helps the skin maintain collagen and elastin. While Hormone Replacement Therapy is NOT indicated for wrinkles, a typical “side effect” of hormone therapy is improved skin appearance.

What’s a woman to do? 

Here is the skinny, the true data, the cliff notes if you will. No secret here but foods with antioxidants like fruit, olive oil, veggies are good for your skin because they provide important components to our skin’s dermis. PREVENTIVE action in the world of skin care in general goes a long, long way. Sunglasses, sunscreen every single day rain or shine (and don’t forget to apply to face/neck/earlobes/hands), use of moisturizers, and gentle exfoliation help as well. These measures are effective and within your control.

Sun exposure damages elastin. Loss of muscle also causes our skin anywhere on our body to sag. So, even some facial muscle exercises can be helpful. If you are a child of the ’70s and 80’s- you are likely familiar with the oily sunscreens we all used: SUN IN for our hair and even reflectors to get that beautiful, golden tan. I was a lifeguard for years and now lament my sun-worshipping, but what’s done is done. The good news is this: Studies show that it is not too late for us former sun worshippers and that starting these simple daily skin care activities can be reparative for our skin.


Hair is made of protein called keratin. Proteins and moisture make for healthy hair. Our hair goes through three cycles before it ends up in our shower drain.

  1. Growth phase: 2-8 years
  2. Transition phase: a few weeks when the hair starts to shrink
  3. Resting phase: 2-4 months-then alas, the hair falls out.

Hair loss can be due to family history, nutrition, hair styling (pulling hair at roots), extreme stress, medications, or iron/zinc/thyroid problems.

Hair loss can occur at any age but is most common in menopause. While women rarely become bald, about 2/3 of midlife women note thinning and some degree of baldness.

What’s midlife got to do with it?

Estrogen prolongs the growth phase of hair. There are estrogen receptors on our hair follicles. With menopause, estrogen levels from our ovaries decrease, and testosterone is predominant. Testosterone shortens the hair growth phase, making hair thinner and slow to grow. Testosterone can also cause unwanted hair growth (chin and upper lip). In general, it is normal to lose 100-200 hairs a day.

What’s a woman to do?

  1. Review your medications with your clinician.
  2. Eat a healthy diet described above.
  3. Sleep and less stress. I know, I live in this world as well but it is a goal. What are the roadblocks ? What are three things you can do to change? When we are sleep deprived and stressed, our cortisol(steroid) levels sky rocket which makes us revel up, hungry for sugar and anxious. We have to try to take care of ourselves.
  4. Handle your hair gently. Less washing, minimal brushing, more moisturizing, fewer tight ponytails. Oh, and those gray hairs-please do not pluck. Why? Because, it will always come back gray and in many cases the hair follicle is damaged and then there is no hair.
  5. Anti-dandruff shampoo helps, but be patient as it usually takes about 6-9 months to notice an effect.
  6. Minoxidil(this is over the counter), spironolactone and Estrogen hormones can all help hair growth.
  7. Ketoconazole shampoo can help some as well.

What about the hair I don’t want?

In midlife, this is usually due to the fact that there is more testosterone compared to estrogen. Testosterone works on our hair follicles on our face as well to stimulate hair growth, and in some cases causes short term acne.

  1. Plucking these hairs , waxing, electrolysis, and laser are treatments.
  2. Some medications can help like Vaniqa, spironolactone, and Estrogen.
Mother and Daughter Embracing in The Public Park.

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