With hormone changes in full force during menopause, some women may experience hair loss or thinning. But while we can't fight nature entirely (and shouldn't feel we have to), there are ways to give your hair health a boost during this time.
"Dealing with clients with menopause can be quite an emotional time, because not only does it affect your hormones and mood, but it can affect the way you look and your body," says Notting Hill-based celebrity hairdresser Gustav Fouche, behind the hairline GF Fabulosity.
"And while your hair will change too, we can stop that from translating visually."
Here, he shares the holy grail tips he uses on clients every day, to keep your hair looking great and you feeling like yourself during perimenopause and menopause.
1. Look after your scalp health
Let's start with some science. "The first thing is reducing the most 5-alpha reductase [an enzyme that changes testosterone into DHT, a hormone that affects hair] you possibly can out of the scalp," Fouche explains.
"What we've done with our hair and scalp recovery elixir is use a high concentration of amla [Indian gooseberry], which has been shown to remove this enzyme out of the scalp and improve the quality of your hair." He says if you're using HRT this might already help prevent hair loss, but the pre-wash elixir can also be a nice natural addition.
And with changing hormones comes excess sebum, meaning the hair can get oilier.
"What you want to do is make sure you're constantly keeping the scalp clean, because if there’s too much build-up of skin and oil, it can affect our hair follicles and growth, thickness, volume," says Fouche.
"You can also look after the scalp health by not over-shampooing. In the salon, we do something called a co-wash or conditioning wash, where the conditioners can all be used as shampoos. Basically a no-foaming shampoo.
"They will clean the hair and the scalp, but they don’t necessarily over cleanse. One of my clients only shampoos her hair once every four weeks, but co-washes it every two days with conditioner. Her hair has volume, more bounce, and higher natural quality."
You also need to make sure you've properly rinsed any products. "A lot of people think they rinse well but they don't."
2. Be gentle with hair colouring
It's worth making sure your hairdresser is taking an extra careful approach, like picking up the same hem [bottom edge of your hair] for highlights, or using semi-permanent dye instead depending on your colour.
"Application is key. Because no colour is bad, it’s the person that’s applying the colour. You can use bleach, bleach is not the problem, it’s the person that’s applying it," says Fouche.
"There’s a very fine tuned way to apply colour to make sure it doesn’t overlap where possible. If you’ve bleached that hair before, and you overlap again, that will cause breakage.
"For ladies who already have thinning hair, you want to preserve as much of the hair as possible by being gentle with application."
3. Find the best haircut for you
"With my clientele, they want to look good every single day. So disconnection [like a fringe not connected to the face frame] is great for people when they want high fashion haircuts, like a mullet, which is probably more suitable for a younger generation," says Fouche.
"But for the more mature ladies going through menopause, find yourself a haircut that is classically, phenomenally executed. You can use styling to give you that edge instead."
With body and face shapes changing during menopause, it's important to pick a cut that will suit you. "I know some people don’t want extensions, but you may need a few pieces to add to certain areas to give you a little bit more fullness and feel more like you," he adds.
4. Style right
"Nine times out of 10 when people bring in photos to the salon, they think the haircut is the thing that’s super edgy, but it’s actually how it’s been styled," says Fouche.
"Find the tools and techniques that won't give you too much heat, but longevity and great blow dries."
Fouche recommends using the variety available to us these days. He recently bought a client a clip on ponytail, which "looks amazing" and has "given her fullness". "We're now embracing artificial hair or extensions again," he adds.
5. Manage heat use
"The hair is already a lot more fragile during menopause. We don't promote nozzle use in the salon. I see around 170 clients a month, and use the nozzle on about one of them because it concentrates the heat and makes it a lot more intense," Fouche explains.
"Many of my clients are overdrying the hair and breaking it, especially the hairline and crown. And with menopause, the hairline is one of the first things that goes. So if you’re using a lot of heat there, you will naturally shrink it down, regardless of your menopause or not."
He recommends not over-straightening areas like the crown (which people often do because they can't see it) as this will lead to breakage and make it look uneven visually.
6. Remove silicone from hair products
If your hair is not improving, silicone, often used by the beauty and hair industry, may be the reason why.
"In haircare, silicone is one of the worst things you can apply. One single use can stop the natural osmosis process, crucial for hair survival to look healthy. And it can take up to three months to get it off the hair," Fouche cautions.
"Silicone coats the hair and prevents moisture from coming in. As soon as you put heat on it, it will speed up the ageing process of hair faster. It might feel amazing in the beginning, but the long-term use will shrink your hair down."
7. Don't pull grey hairs out
Last but not least, resist the urge to pluck out that stray grey.
"You’ll have the best hair ever till you’re about 25. Hair more or less grows in cycles of seven years so every time it falls out, it grows back slightly thinner and weaker. So every time you pull a white or grey hair, it will do the same, and by the time you're in your 70s, you might not have any left," Fouche warns.
"It's like when women in the 80s and 90s over tweezed their eyebrows, and some never grew back."
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