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How to tackle dry skin and hair loss due to menopause

More than half of women will notice thinning hair after menopause. The most common cause is androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss.
More than half of women will notice thinning hair after menopause. The most common cause is androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss.

Q I am 56 years old and underwent menopause about six months ago.

I am coping with the physical changes fairly well.

However, I find that my skin feels drier, especially around my eyelids.

It feels more sensitive and itchy at times, leading me to rub the area around my eyes, making the skin feel even bumpier.

My hair also feels like it has thinned out although I have not noticed any excessive hair loss.

I have tried using creamier skin moisturisers, but my skin still feels dry after a while.

Is there something I can do to "thicken" my hair and make my skin feel less dry?

A As oestrogen production declines after menopause, it is common for women who have had menopause to notice dry skin as well as thinning hair.

The skin surrounding the eyes is very delicate, and there are many causes of dry, itchy skin around the eye area.

Dermatological conditions, such as atopic eczema, can cause the symptoms you are describing.

Other causes include excessive sun exposure, irritants like harsh cleansers or makeup remover, and an inflammation of the eyelids known as blepharitis. This inflammation may be due to infection or rosacea.

An allergy to certain eye makeup products or even eye drops may also be behind the problem.

Rubbing the eyes excessively aggravates the condition, as this causes excessive stress to the skin in this area.

Environmental factors, such as excessive dust, humidity or pollution, may also be contributing factors.

You should see a dermatologist regarding this, so that the cause of your dry skin can be determined.

Eczema around the eyes can be treated with a mild topical steroid, as well as non-steroid-based creams and ointments.

The doctor may arrange for a patch test if he suspects a form of contact allergy to a product you are using.

Switch to a gentle non-soap facial cleanser, and pat the skin dry gently after washing instead of rubbing the area.

Moisturisers in the form of creams, eye gels or lotions should be used regularly.

It is estimated that more than half of women will notice thinning hair after menopause.

The most common cause is androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss.

It starts as gradual thinning at the hair parting, followed by thinning at the top of the head. A woman's hairline rarely recedes.

However, there are other causes of thinning hair, and these include conditions such as iron deficiency, thyroid disorders, and autoimmune diseases like lupus.

You should see your doctor for a consultation to assess the degree and possible causes of the hair loss.

Treatments are available for female pattern hair loss.

Minoxidil is a topical product that is used twice a day.

It has to be used over several months for any benefit to be seen. Therefore, you need to be patient when using it.

If the medication works for you, you must continue to use it for the long term to maintain its effect.

Occasionally, doctors may prescribe anti-androgen pills to treat female pattern hair loss, an example being spironolactone.

Regular follow-up and monitoring for potential side effects would be required if oral medications are prescribed.

Another non-drug option is the use of low-level laser therapy, also known as red light therapy or "cold" laser, which often comes in the form of a laser comb that is used at home several times a week.

It is also not unusual for patients to combine several modes of therapy.

Brought to you by Dr Tan Hiok Hee

Senior consultant dermatologist at Thomson Specialist Skin Centre.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'How to tackle dry skin and hair loss due to menopause'. Print Edition | Subscribe