Physiological changes in scalp, facial and body hair after the menopause: a cross-sectional population-based study of subjective changes

Br J Dermatol. 2011 Mar;164(3):508-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10156.x. Epub 2011 Feb 3.


Background: Significant changes in scalp, facial and body hair occur after the menopause. These can have a significant negative impact on self-esteem and are also potential markers of endocrine or metabolic diseases. Knowledge of postmenopausal hair changes is important for clinicians to distinguish between normal physiological change and those that require further medical investigation.

Objectives: To assess the subjective experience of scalp, facial and body hair change in a large cohort of normal postmenopausal females.

Methods: Postmenopausal females aged 45 years or over of northern European origin completed a questionnaire detailing scalp, facial and body hair changes following the menopause. Women with a history of thyroid disease, oophorectomy or premature menopause were excluded from the study. The Mann-Whitney U-test and the χ(2) test were used to assess the correlation between scalp, facial and body hair changes with age.

Results: Diffuse generalized hair loss was the most common form of scalp hair loss, reported by 26% of women. Frontal hair loss was reported by 9% of women. Facial hair gain was cited by 39% of females with the chin being the most frequent site for new growth (32% of women). Body hair loss was significantly correlated with older age (P < 0·001) and was most frequent at androgen-sensitive sites. We noted two patterns: (i) diffuse hair loss in which diffuse generalized scalp hair loss was significantly correlated with body hair loss and increasing age (P < 0·05); and (ii) frontal hair loss which was associated with higher facial hair scores and relatively younger age (P < 0·05) compared with women with diffuse hair loss.

Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive study of the subjective hair changes in postmenopausal women. This study demonstrates two distinct patterns of hair change relating to age, which may reflect different underlying pathophysiological mechanisms and are of relevance to the medical management of these women as well as being possible predictors of health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Alopecia / pathology
  • Alopecia / physiopathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Face
  • Female
  • Hair / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / physiology*
  • Scalp
  • Surveys and Questionnaires