Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Menopause feels like being forced to attend a horror movie, with unimaginable and terrifying twists and turns. Still, I felt that I did a reasonably good job of keeping my eyes open and not screaming until the climactic “disappearing hair” scene. I was stoic through the storylines of hot flashes, insomnia, memory loss, and more. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
However, when my hair skipped past merely thinning to outright disappearing, I flipped out. Panicked, I ran to my hairdresser for help. She calmly informed me that it was not “unusual”, “probably hormonal”, and that “it’ll grow back.” Ditto from my dermatologist. Only slightly reassured, I surfed the net for causes and treatments for female hair loss. Alopecia. Such a lovely name for such a horrifying experience. I have images of two beautiful (for their age), primly dressed, elderly women with perfect skin and white, thinning (of course) hair sitting comfortably at the kitchen table. One asks the other in her best British accent, “Alopecia, dear. Would you pour me a cup of tea?”
For many midlife women, estrogen therapy and thyroid replacement if thyroid hormone is low will be enough to halt hair loss and promote regrowth. I take bioidentical estrogen and thyroid hormones which have helped with most of my menopause symptoms. Alas not with hair thinning.
It seems I have a common type of hormonal hair loss called AGA which stands for Androgenic Alopecia. (More likely AGA is the sound a goddess makes each time she reveals a little more pretty pink scalp.) The good news? There’s a drug called aldosterone that has been helpful for women suffering from hormonal hair loss- dosage range 100-200 mg. per day. It’s a mild diuretic and blocks the action of testosterone on the hair follicle. The bad news? I can’t tolerate it. Headaches and stomach upset actually trump the hair loss in my case.
However, it is a viable and useful option for a number of women, so discuss it with your physician if you are undergoing menopausal hair loss. (Most health care practitioners are relatively uninformed about this so go armed with info to help educate them- check out www.wegohealth.com for some of the latest internet info on female hair loss. (I had to educate my MD, who is pretty darn progressive and informed.)
So the mourning process over my fragile little hairs leaping off my head has continued. Theresa-Venus claims she went through the same freakout 2 years ago, and while her hair is thinner, she still has enough. Thanks to her and the support of the other goddesses, I’ve been feeling marginally better. I might be able to uncover my eyes soon, but I won’t be wearing any ponytails, that’s for sure.
Scientific explanations notwithstanding, I KNOW what really happened to my hair. My hot flashes fried my hair follicles! I only hope they can regenerate. There is a modicum of good news, however - that bikini wax I’ve been meaning to get for so long? Won’t be needin’ it.
(Adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age: The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses". To comment or learn more about our virtual menopause goddess community, visit our main website at www.menopausegoddessblog.org .)
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
About two years ago, I was confronted by the Menopause symptom that shattered my Pollyanna outlook forever. My hair seemed to be thinning at an alarming rate. There was no consoling me when I saw the amount of hair in my brush or around the shower drain each day. So overwhelming was my anxiety over this development, that upon meeting a high-powered, intelligent female friend of my brother’s for the first time, I forgot my social graces completely. I answered her innocuous question “What did you do today?” with a full-blown Menopausal Tourette’s performance. (we’ll address Menopausal Tourettes at greater length in a later blog entry.) “I went to my hairdresser because I’m losing all my hair,” I blurted. “Oh god, me too,” she gasped. We began an earnest discussion and continued it via email. Our cyberspace conversation was joined by her sister. Here is an excerpt:
Aug. 14, 2006, at 8:15 AM
Lynette and Barbara,
Hope all is well with you both.
Just saw a segment on hair loss. This is not good! It can be hereditary (Barbara, in our case Aunt Edna is not a good sign!), indicator of medical problems (thyroid), a particular disease, menopause, and 10 other things.
They recommend seeing a dermatologist to find out your particular problem, but the real solutions are injections, plugs, Minoxidil (sp?)....or get a wig.
Aug. 14, 2006 at 1010 am
Hi Janet (and Barbara)
I did a search on the net re: hair loss - came up with much the same. My hairdresser tells me that ALL her menopausal clients that are not on hormone replacement freak out about their hair loss. It stables out (she says) at a certain point, and then hair starts growing back, but never as thick as it once was. My girlfriend Theresa says that was true for her. I AM going to get my thyroid tested again. Also, estrogen dominance can cause hair loss, so a saliva test to check for estrogen vs progesterone in our bodies is a good thing. I doubt that I have this, since I use a natural progesterone cream and no plant estrogens, herbs, or soy. (all of which are natural estrogen replacements.) If you are using any herbs or eat lots of soy, you might want to have this checked.
Bad news with Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) it apparently does not grow nice normal hair but short little hairs that break off, giving one a peach fuzzy look - okay for balding men, not so great for women. Ugh.
I am using a natural shampoo system that was recommended on some menopause blog. Supposedly takes 2-4 months but will grow strong healthy hair. There's a weird "thing" DST or something like that, I forget (menopause again). Anyway, this substance is secreted on the scalp as we age and it screws up the hair follicle so it can't grow. Supposedly, this shampoo system blocks the effect of this substance and voila, hair again. (I found out about the DST one place, and read that it is blocked by the shampoo on their site, so it isn't something the shampoo folks made up.)
My loss seems to have decreased, no big bunches of hair coming out - it's just really thin now.
The shampoo system I'm trying is called Curetage - I got it from Curetage.com. So far no real hair growth, but my husband says my hair is looking much better. so we will see. I'll keep you posted re: results.
Plugs and injections do not sound good to me. Wig likewise. oh well, onward.
Keep in touch.
Aug. 14, 2006 at 1253pm
RE: The Mystery of the Disappearing Hair
(A Nancy Drew thriller for menopausal girls)
I have watched with both horror and humor - humor? I think not! Well, horror, then - as my hair washes down the shower drain. It started about three years ago, and just when I think I'll see no more pink, another batch washes away. I used to have bangs - now I just have one bang. Anyway, I read lots of lit, but outside of the obvious (babushkas), there seems to be not much to do about it. I asked my hairdresser, Pat, what she thought of "hair-in-a-can", but, of course, she pooh-poohed the idea. Sounded good to me.
I've started to use Nioxin again. I really think if I continued to use it for the last three years, it might have done the trick. It keeps the gook from clogging your hair shafts.
It does not pretend to grow new hair; I'm not sure anything can do that. I had my thyroid tested in December, and it's fine. So, I'm going to blame it all on Aunt Edna, and Lynette, you can, too. She's so nice - she won't mind.
Well, enough nonsense. I hate the whole thing, including the vanity that I was unwilling to acknowledge that I had. We could each buy a wig (blond, brunette, red head) and trade them around each month? Oh, every man's dream come true...
Over and out,
Stay tuned for Part Three of the Mystery of the Disappearing Hair - coming soon. (Adapted from our upcoming book “Venus Comes of Age, The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses”.)
To comment or share, visit the goddesses at our main site:
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Great - we’ve entered the “goddess” phase of our life, only to find that we are androgynous. We are growing beards. The first time a Venus feels that coarse “hair” poking out of her chin, she is equal parts horrified and fascinated. Unable to reconcile this new reality with her view of herself as a member of the feminine gender, she obsessively strokes and touches it to see if it truly is still there. Perhaps it is a new mole, a zit, or just a figment of overactive imagination. She can’t believe that she is actually hoping for a pimple. And when she realizes that the hair truly is protruding from a follicle on her own face, she rushes off for tweezers, hot wax, or electrolysis.
All of us goddesses suffered from this, but each of us feared we were the only real (werebeast, until we came together. So while we are still horrified, at least we now know that this is NORMAL. But the hairy difficulties don’t end there.
Sensitivity to Hair
In our youth, we certainly had bad hair days. These were temporary and referred generally to how our “do” looked at a specific time and place. However, now we find ourselves visited by the oxymoronic “permanent change”. Our hair actually turns against us. We are being attacked by our own tresses - in the tiniest puff of wind, individual hairs will reach out and TOUCH your skin! Like a dozen tiny spiders crawling all over your cheeks, forehead, FACE. Some Venuses have seriously considered taking a pair of scissors and just hacking it off. (The scissor attachment on my micro Swiss army knife was inadequate to the task or I might have done it at the lunch table one day.) Much calmer now, I just carry a small pump of hair spray so I can shellac it into a helmet when the torture begins.
My husband observed when we were in a restaurant recently that nearly all the women appeared to be over 50. "Look around at them. What do they all have in common?" he asked. When I shrugged my shoulders, he laughed, "They ALL have short hair!”
(Adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age, The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses" If you'd like to comment, share or be part of our menopause community, we'd love you to visit our main blog at menopausegoddessblog.org )