April 25, 2021
While I’ve been pretty vocal about the various symptoms that have plagued me throughout my perimenopause phase, a recent reflection had me wondering why I haven’t spoken more about my thinning hair. Without overthinking (which is a special feat these days), I’m pretty sure it’s the basic shame of being a woman with a hair loss problem. But truth be told, I’ve been dealing with female pattern hair loss since my mid-twenties – and I associated it more with genetics (my paternal grandmother lost all of her hair and began wearing wigs at relatively young age) than with perimenopause…at least, until recently.
On some level, I’ve been in denial that it would get any worse and that I would actually go bald, but each year for the past four (at least), I’ve noticed that the cute bob cut swoop in the back was no longer masking the balding area without the investment of some intensive combover time. There’s no doubt that it’s getting worse, and let’s just say, I’ve been concerned.
For several years, the thinning was concentrated to the left crown area. And a few years ago, I noticed that my edges began thinning and breaking -- and the texture was becoming coarser and drier. I was shedding every time I combed my hair, but of even greater concern, the thinning was beginning to creep to the upper right crown.
My son, who is now 16 years old, has gone most of his life “checking my spot” to make sure mom’s bald spot isn’t exposed before we head out in public. Now, it’s only with a gentle comb through and meticulous placement of hairs, that I can be confident that you can’t see my bald spot. And then, by God, please don’t let it be a windy day, for all will certainly be lost and my anxiety abounds.
Even though the problem didn’t start with perimenopause, it’s certainly been exacerbated by it. And so, like my other efforts to manage my weird and ever-changing peri-related conditions, I decided to try and see if I could address it through diet and lifestyle modifications. For the past month I’ve been taking a combination of hair vitamins and collagen powder every (single) day in an attempt to regrow my hair or at least keep the hair I have.
There are a range of hair vitamins out there that claim help with hair growth and while I’ve thought about trying some of them, I’ve never followed through. Mostly because it’s hard for me to take anything consistently day-in and day-out, and I was concerned that (yet again) I’d be wasting my money on something I’d take two or three times before it expired. Edge Naturale is “a proprietary plant-based, cruelty-free formula with 28 vitamins, minerals, and herbs, enhanced with Biotin and Selenium.” A Black-owned company, their ads have been in pretty heavy rotation across my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Full disclosure, I decided to try the hair vitamins after one of their representatives reached out to ask if I’d be willing to try a 30-day supply at no cost and share my experience. Since I was balding and needed blog content anyway, I decided to take her up on it.
Overall, the vitamins have been fine and since I knew I’d have to write about the experience, I’ve actually done pretty well taking them every day and completed the 30-day cycle. No surprise, the main ingredient is biotin (also known as vitamin B7), which is foundational for most hair vitamins, and has been shown to stimulate keratin (the protein that makes up our hair, skin, and nails) and increase the rate of hair follicle growth.
The label advises that you take two vitamins each day at mealtime, which I did. While I appreciated only having to take them once a day, they’re pretty big tablets and may be difficult to take for those who have trouble swallowing pills (fortunately, I don’t). They also have a pretty strong vitamin smell, but that’s about the worst of it.
I started the collagen peptides about two weeks beforeI started taking the hair vitamins – again, in an effort to manage conditions related to my perimenopause – namely, unusually dry eyes and skin (I moisturize every day), and some joint pain. Because it’s also been attributed to supporting hair growth and overall hair health, I thought it wouldn’t hurt as a “booster” for the hair vitamins (or vice versa), once I decided to add those to my daily routine.
After reading numerous user reviews on Amazon, I decided to go with the most and best-rated product, which was Live Conscious Collagen Peptides for Hair, Skin, Nail & Joint Support (it was neck-and-neck between Live Conscious and Vital Proteins). The daily suggested use is 11 grams of powder (it comes with a pre-measured scooper) mixed with your favorite hot or cold beverage. Most days I added a scoop to my water bottle and shook vigorously before drinking. While the powder is “unflavored” there is a very faint earthy taste, but it was not off-putting enough for me to avoid it. A couple of times I added it to my coffee; while that masked the earthy aftertaste, it did not dissolve as well with a vigorous stir (vs. a shake) and left some small clumps that had to be swallowed whole.
Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with the effects of the collagen powder. Even though the information on the effects of collagen suggest it can take 6-12 weeks before you notice any improvements, after about three weeks I noticed that the skin on my face was much clearer and brighter, and felt smoother to the touch.
Despite my initial skepticism, I do think that these additions to my daily routine have made a difference in the overall health of my hair. After four consecutive weeks of taking both, I’ve noticed that my hair is softer and not as dry as it was before. The biggest improvement has been considerably less shedding when combing my hair, and after comparing a few before and after pictures (below), I actually believe there’s some healthy new growth.
Because I can’t be confident that it’s one or the other and not the combination of the two, I’ve decided to keep taking both for another month to see if there’s more progress. And yes, I’ve already ordered – and paid – for my second 30-day cycle of hair vitamins.
In my ongoing pursuit to better manage my own struggles with perimenopause, I’ve been much more focused on seeing how many of my related symptoms can be managed through diet and lifestyle change. It’s not that I’m opposed to HRT and other pharmaceuticals to manage my symptoms (though admittedly, I have been biased to fear by some of the negative reports associating its use with breast cancer), but I do think it’s primarily my responsibility to at least try to improve my situation by making behavioral and lifestyle changes that provide a strong foundation for my overall well-being.
That’s why recently, I was excited to not only read, but interview nutritional therapist and writer, Jackie Lynch, about her new book, The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help You Flourish. I mean, she had me at “The Happy...”, because let’s be real, when it comes to the typical thoughts and conversations we have about menopause, they’re rarely associated with happy.
A Registered Nutritional Therapist since 2010, Jackie is also the founder of the WellWellWell nutrition clinic in London, where she’s been specializing in women’s health and menopause for the past several years. In 2019, she launched The Happy Menopause, a diet and lifestyle podcast, so that she could reach more women with information they could consider – whether as alternatives, or in addition to – a medicalized approach to managing their menopause transition. And this month – well-timed to coincide with World Menopause Month – she hopes to reach even more women, with the publication of a new book inspired by the insights and guidance shared through her clinical work and popular podcast.
The book is written to be a practical guide to managing menopause transition through nutrition and lifestyle modifications. While the guidance Ms. Lynch offers isn’t necessarily new or ground-breaking, I found the book to be not just informational, but easy to understand and more important, useful to me. Like most working women who are managing chaotic households, I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to reading books, even of the “self-care” sort, so I really appreciated that Ms. Lynch acknowledges pretty early on, that women in midlife are BUSY and that her book doesn’t have to be read sequentially or in its entirety (woohoo, my kind of book). Rather, she’s laid out a “pick-and-mix approach” to help readers easily find the symptoms and corresponding information most relevant to them.
Because I’ve experienced or am currently experiencing several symptoms (i.e., more than three) -- and because I knew I’d be interviewing the author -- I did read the book cover-to-cover and was pretty glad I did. Overall, it was easy to follow and understand, and it was clear how I could pretty easily apply many of the tips and suggestions offered. The information is clearly laid out, with each of the symptom sections following a consistent format, highlighting what the symptom is, why it happens, and how nutrition can help – including which foods to eat and which to avoid.
For each symptom, she also includes callouts for practical lifestyle modifications and recipe suggestions. As I was reading, I found myself thinking that this would be a great book to have handy as I’m writing up my grocery list, or to have around the kitchen as a recipe guide for all of the protein and nutrient-rich snacks and meals I’ll be making.
Balancing your blood sugar is a fundamental premise and recurring theme throughout the book – and if you only read one chapter from start to finish, make sure it’s “Chapter 2: If You Only Do One Thing”. While I had a general sense before reading the book, that too much sugar can exacerbate many of my perimenopausal symptoms, I didn’t really understand the “why” of it, nor did I have a full appreciation for how crucial balancing blood sugar is to our overall health and well-being – both physical and cognitive. So…what’s my primary take away? BALANCE YOUR SUGAR!!!
I definitely recommend this book – particularly for women who are managing multiple symptoms as they navigate their own menopause transition. Personally, as I sit down to write my grocery list for the week, I can already see how it will be a frequent “go to” guide among my growing library of useful resources. Here’s to happy reading, and more to the point…here’s to a happy menopause!