Beauty & Fashion

Causes & Treatment for Thinning Hair in Women Over 50

If you’ve got thin hair like I do, hair loss seems obvious much sooner than it does on women who start with thick hair. My first nasty bout with thinning hair began back in 2016 with a thyroid medication mishap. I continue to struggle with hair loss, so I decided to do a deep dive into causes and treatments for thinning hair in women over 50.

picture of woman with thinning hair
BACK IN 2016, MY HAIR BEGAN SHEDDING SO FAST I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HIT ME.
IT TURNED OUT TO BE A RESPONSE TO BEING PRESCRIBED TOO HIGH A DOSE OF THYROID MEDICATION

Once we fixed that, I assumed I’d be out of the woods, but no such luck, and the struggle continues for me to this day. At that time, my doctor told me to begin using this 5% topical minoxidil twice a day, which I continue to do. I struggle with heavy shedding phases followed by regrowth cycles, which may be common, but it’s very frustrating.

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about what does and what doesn’t help with female-pattern hair loss. Last summer I visited with a Trichologist to try and find some definitive answers and get her advice for what else I could do. Then, I checked back in with both my dermatologist and primary physician for their advice. Here’s what I’ve learned. As always, I am sharing my experience, and this is not medical advice so you should check with your own physicians.

Common Causes of Hair Loss In Women

Hormonal Changes

Menopause leads to decreased estrogen and progesterone levels, which are the hormones that help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods. The decrease can result in thinning hair. Since my mom had breast cancer, I was never given hormone therapy when I hit menopause.

Nutritional Deficiencies

My dermatologist ran a complete panel of blood tests on me because low iron, protein, and vitamins can affect hair health. It turns out that I was borderline low in iron, so she has me supplementing it. 

Stress

Chronic stress can trigger hair loss conditions like telogen effluvium. My trichologist diagnosed that as one of the conditions I was dealing with last summer during a massive fallout. Apparently, significant stress pushes hair follicles into a resting phase, which leads to increased hair shedding. I’ve always known that stress is bad for my heart, but I didn’t know it affected my hair loss.

Genetics

The most common cause of hair loss in females is androgenetic alopecia, which has strong links to genetics and can run in families. 

Medical Conditions

Thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions, iron deficiency, and other health issues can all contribute to hair thinning. I do have thyroid disease, and my chart says I have Hashimoto’s, although I’ve not tested positive for it. 

Effective Hair Loss Treatments For Women

Topical Minoxidil

Topical minoxidil has been shown to help slow hair loss and stimulate hair growth. One of the downsides is that you must continue to use it, or the new hair growth will gradually fall out when you stop using it.

Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life applying Rogaine

Click here to watch a video showing how I apply my minoxidil.

Prescription medications

  1. Spironolactone (a diuretic)and Finasteride are both FDA-approved anti-androgenetic medicines, but neither is approved specifically for female pattern hair loss. Some physicians prescribe them off-label to treat hair loss. My doctor decided not to put me on Finasteride because of my mother’s breast cancer. 
  2. Low-dose oral Minoxidil is a blood pressure medication that was shown to increase hair growth and is now being prescribed in very low doses for hair loss.
  3. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be helpful for some women, but it’s critical you understand the risks and benefits.

Low-Level Laser Therapy

Various studies have shown that LLLT can be effective in treating androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss) in both men and women. Several LLLT devices, including caps and helmets, have received FDA clearance for the treatment of hair loss. This clearance indicates that the devices are safe and have shown some efficacy for hair growth, although, as with everything, individual results can vary.

SOME LOW-LEVEL LIGHT THERAPY OPTIONS

Hair Transplant Surgery

It may sound radical, but hair transplant surgery can be a great option for women who struggle with stubborn patches or hair loss, especially around the hairline.

My Trichologist Results

The trichologist examined my scalp closely and then used a high-powered, special camera to photograph different areas of my scalp. This was sent to a lab for examination. 

IMAGES FROM TRICHOSCOPY REPORT ON SHOWING REASONS FOR THINNING HAIR IN WOMAN OVER 50
THESE PHOTO’S LOOK CLEARER IN PERSON

The results showed I had several types of hair loss. There were microscopic signs of Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) with miniaturized hairs and fewer hairs per follicular unit. Since miniaturized hairs are still present, I may be able to reverse some of this hair loss and prevent further progression.

It also showed Telogen Effluvium (TE), possibly brought on by stress, which speeds up the arrival of genetic hair loss. The report also showed I have mild Seborrheic dermatitis (SD), which is an inflammatory skin condition that is caused by Malassezia yeast.

My trichologist recommended I wash my hair twice a week with a ketoconazole shampoo like Nizoral, which kills yeast on the scalp that causes inflammation in the hair follicles. She also suggested I try laser light therapy, which has been shown to be very helpful with hair loss.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Natural remedies for thinning hair often focus on promoting scalp health, improving hair strength, and addressing potential nutrient deficiencies. I’ve tried and am using most of them.

YOU CAN SEE SOME NEW HAIR GROWTH ALONG MY HAIRLINE

Here are some commonly suggested natural remedies:

Scalp Massage

Regular scalp massages can increase blood flow and potentially stimulate hair growth. Using oils like coconut, almond, or olive oil during the massage may also nourish the hair roots but will also necessitate shampooing, so it’s best to do this right before your regular hair wash. Here’s a crop of mechanical scalp massagers you could try…or just use your fingers like I do.

SCALP MASSAGERS

Saw Palmetto

Often used in herbal remedies and expensive Hair loss supplements like Nutrafol. Saw Palmetto may help reduce hair thinning in cases related to hormonal imbalances.

Essential Oils 

I’ve read of certain essential oils, such as rosemary, peppermint, and lavender, for stimulating hair growth but I haven’t tried them personally or found any clinical reports of it actually helping.

Ketoconazole shampoo

Using a ketoconazole shampoo like Nizoral every few days will help reduce inflammation of the hair follicles. Tests have shown that 2% options are the best, which is over the counter in Canada and by RX here in the US, but even a 1% will help, so that’s what I’m using.

Dietary Changes

Make sure you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet, which is crucial for hair health. Foods like fish, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and lean meats are excellent choices.

My trichologist recommends that in addition to your regular supplements, you can consider taking 320 mg of saw palmetto a day along with 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil per day. Saw palmetto and PSO have mild anti-androgenic effects, and PSO has anti-inflammatory effects. She also recommends taking a vitamin D supplement of 1,000 – 2,000 IU) daily.

Avoid Trauma to The Hair

Use a wide tooth comb on damp hair and a soft brush on dry hair. Avoid unnecessary tugging or tight ponytails, which puts unnecessary stress on the hair. Brush gently to distribute natural hair oils. I’ve switched to a Zuvi Halo Hairdryer and find it the most gentle for my hair and leaves it nice and shiny.

ZUVI HALO HAIRDRYER

Zuvi has generously offered my readers a special discount. Use code Jennifer12 for 12% off your order here. (*You can also use Jennifer5 for an extra 5% off if the Zuvi site has a promotion already.)

Cosmetic Solutions For Women With Hair Loss 

Hairpieces, wigs, and hair extensions are all viable cosmetic options that can help improve a woman’s confidence who is struggling with hair loss. 

What I’m Doing to Treat My Thinning Hair

It would be easier to list what I’m not doing to help slow my hair loss. You can also read about The Haircare Products I’m Using For My Thinning Hair.

I’ve already mentioned the topical minoxidil and gentle hair dryer. I now wash my hair with this Nizoral Ketoconazole shampoo twice a week. I take a ton of suppliments which I shared here.

BRIOGEO HAIR SERUM / NIZORAL SHAMPOO

Caffeine Hair Serums

There is some clinical evidence showing that topical caffeine can stimulate hair follicles and increase hair growth, so I’ve begun testing a few. I bought the Briogeo Destined for Density caffeine, biotin, and peptide serum. I also bought the Vegamour Gro Hair Serum for Thinning Hair, which also contains caffeine.

Neither leaves a film on my hair or makes it feel greasy. That said, I prefer the ease of application and cleaner feel of the Vegamour, so I am applying it each night on a dry scalp and massaging it in.

woman with hairloss applying vegmour gro hair serum for thinning hair
APPLYING VEGAMOUR GRO HAIR SERUM FOR THINNING HAIR

I’d been taking Nutrafol for several years with mixed results and stopped taking it on the advice of my Trichologist. She felt its ingredients could be duplicated for a lot less money. I continue to use Rogaine 5% morning and night and am considering replacing it with low-dose oral Minoxidil.

I’ve also been using this Capillus Pro Cap S1, which the brand generously sent me to try.

The inside of the cap is covered with medical-grade laser diodes, which emit safe, low-level laser light at wavelengths that are believed to stimulate hair follicles, improve blood circulation, and increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which can energize and promote the activity of the hair follicles.

It’s designed to provide a convenient, non-invasive solution for people struggling with hair thinning and loss, particularly androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness). I use it for just 6 minutes a day, and it’s auto-programmed to turn off at the end of each session. They also have an app you can download to your phone to keep track of your progress.

Do you struggle with thinning hair or have hair loss? I’d love to hear what you’re using.

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