As it is claimed Mary Berry uses hair extensions, what are the options for older women experiencing hair thinning?

The Great British Bake Off is always a major talking point, but this year it wasn’t just the cakes or Candice’s win that got people buzzing.

Mary Berry and hair extensionsViewers couldn’t help but notice the significant change in host Mary Berry’s hair. Appearing thicker, fuller and healthier, the 81-year-old’s dramatic makeover sparked rumours that she may be using hair extensions to hide her thinning locks.

Often seen as an ‘instant’ cure for fine hair, hair extensions can result in even more hair thinning in the long run, in the form of hair loss called traction alopecia.

Hair loss due to traction alopecia is caused by sustained tension on the hair follicles. The process is very gradual and sufferers can often be unaware of the problem until a distinct pattern of hair thinning occurs. It’s not just a case of the hair ‘breaking off’; the pressure on the scalp, either pulls out the hair from the roots or causes inflammation of the follicles. Although reversible if caught early enough, traction alopecia can eventually lead to permanent hair loss.

Berry certainly wouldn’t be the first woman to want to discreetly boost hair volume, but very thin, fine hair is even more susceptible to traction alopecia, so we would highly recommend exploring other hair loss treatment options, under the guidance of a hair specialist such as a consultant dermatologist.

Why does a woman’s hair thin with age?

Age-related hair thinning was once solely associated with men. Although it’s thought that half of all women over the age of 50 experience some degree of hair loss, women have always tended to be more discreet about this less than welcome ageing change and have had more options to camouflage any hair loss.

Also, unlike male pattern baldness, women don’t tend to go completely bald. Instead, the hair thins over time, causing diffuse hair loss all over.

One of the reason why the hair starts to thin as you age is because the scalp becomes drier and tighter. This in turn affects follicle growth and blood circulation. Genetics can also play a role in the development of the condition, as can hormones. In fact, female pattern baldness does tend to be more common in women going through the menopause, when hormone levels fluctuate significantly.

Menopausal hair loss

The menopause is known to cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects on the body, but hair loss is often one of the most distressing and surprising. While the majority of women go through the menopause at around age 50, hair loss can actually begin long before it kicks in.

During the menopause, the level of oestrogen in the body decreases significantly, while testosterone levels increase. Both hormones play a vital role in the hair growth cycle. The lower levels of oestrogen cause the hair to grow back much thinner, while the extra testosterone can cause excess hair growth. So, while noticing the hair on the scalp becoming thinner, you could also start seeing an increase in facial hair.

Hair thinning can be one of the more unwanted changes caused by the ageing process, but it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist as hair loss can be caused by a number of factors, including underlying health conditions that should be first ruled out. There are also a number of clinically-proven treatments that can be explored that can safely slow down or even reverse hair loss.

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