10 Women Show ‘What Menopause Looks Like’

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Menopause may be the last taboo of the feminine experience. No one talks about it, but every woman goes through it. 

It’s a rite of passage with no map.

To show what menopause is really like, 10 women entering and experiencing menopause shared their journeys with Nutrafol for a photography and interview project called “What Menopause Looks Like.”

I had no idea sleeplessness was part of menopause. I haven’t had good sleep in three years,” said Suzanne, a 55-year-old music director with a silver mane straight out of the Marvel universe.

My hot flashes lasted for two years,” the soft-spoken Renée explained.

I’ve always had thin hair, but when I hit menopause, it went down to 50% of what I had,” Madeline, an actress with a Twiggy-esque pixie cut, shared.

Over 30 million women struggle with hair loss during menopause, and 40% of women have visible hair loss by age 40. “You feel your femininity kind of going away — and hair is one of the places where you get to be feminine, no matter what you look like,” said Madeline. 

For the millions of women like Madeline, Nutrafol created Women’s Balance, a natural hair supplement that uses hormone-balancing botanicals that not only help grow healthy hair, but also may ease hot flashes and sleeplessness during menopause. 

“What Menopause Looks Like” is starting an honest conversation about menopause and the changes it brings to our health and our hair. It also flies in the face of traditional advertising imagery for women over 40 — aka, the classic “woman hugging her grandchildren”-type tropes. Because grandkids are amazing, but women at this stage are so much more than just mothers and grandmothers. 

From a 66-year-old playwright who likes to dress like “Jenny from the block” to an English teacher with flaming red hair down to her waist, each woman was photographed on the streets of New York in an outfit unique to her personal style. 

The resulting photographs and conversations shed an important light on a topic that all women should be empowered to understand and talk about. 

Keep scrolling for some serious life (and hair) goal inspiration below… 

Meet Kristine

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

I have more energy and more time to focus on my health and my mindset. I’ve been able to embrace that lifestyle where I’m able to accept anything and everything that comes my way — the good, the things that people consider bad. I’m able to view them from a different perspective now.

What has menopause been like for you?

It was more during perimenopause that I had a difficult time. I used to be held prisoner by my hormonal fluctuations and where I was with my cycle. My period became so much more intense during perimenopause.

What is your relationship to your hair?

I have a great relationship with my hair. I love my hair. I have these crazy curls. I’ve always felt like it’s an extension of my personality, just wild and free. It’s hanging in there.

How has your hair changed post-menopause?

It has definitely thinned out a little bit and I’m really fighting the grays. I haven’t yet had the courage to embrace the gray.

How do you feel when you look in the mirror?

I’ve let go of that need to try to look young. I’m not competing with anyone. I’m not trying to look like anyone but myself and the best version of myself. I’m not striving for that same perfection that I did when I was younger.

I’ve let go of that need to try to look young. I’m not competing with anyone. I’m not trying to look like anyone but myself and the best version of myself.

Kristine's GrowthPlan®

Meet Denita

What is your relationship to your hair?

I have a really curly texture that I've always enjoyed, but all that said, I still used relaxers for a long time — peer pressure, I guess. But I stopped using relaxers in 2001, so I’ve been natural since then.

What made you decide to stop using relaxers?

I just wanted to feel the freedom. I was in law school and I was resisting the idea that straight hair was the only way to be professional. So I just let it go and started wearing my natural curls, even on job interviews.

How has your hair changed post-menopause?

My hair is definitely thinner. I did witness it falling out in the shower. And I noticed a lot of hair left in my comb and it just never regrew.

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

When I was a young adult, I was responsible, but I didn’t know that I had it — you know, like, I got this. Now I know for sure, I got this. I wish I could’ve had this when I was 25.

What's the best part of getting older?

Not giving a hot damn. At some point I was like, I don’t have to drive a mom car; I’m not a mom. I don’t have to have three or four bedrooms; there’s no one to put in ‘em. It’s me and one cat. I can do anything.

How do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Mostly I feel good about myself. I’m in very good health. I do everything I want to do and then some. So I feel good. I’ve never been one to focus on my perceived flaws anyway. I have ridiculously high self-esteem. It just comes from the inside out. I have a lot to be grateful for.

At some point I was like, I don’t have to drive a mom car; I’m not a mom. I don’t have to have three or four bedrooms; there’s no one to put in ‘em. It’s me and one cat. I can do anything.

Denita's GrowthPlan®

Meet Ann

What has menopause been like for you?

I haven’t experienced the big side effects yet, but I notice that I’m at the point in my life where I’m a miss/ma’am. That change that people perceive is happening now.

How do you feel at this age and stage of life?

I feel much more comfortable with myself now; knowing who I am and what my likes and dislikes are and not relying on other people’s influence. I feel very independent.

How do you feel about your hair?

I love how my hair looks and I do get a lot of compliments on my hair, but I’m always quick to say that it’s my sister — she’s my colorist. I’m a dyed redhead. I love red. I’ve been all shades of red.

What’s your next big goal in life?

For me it’s all about travel. I would like to revisit Thailand. I’m interested in going to Australia and Bali.

I feel very independent right now. I really like that I’m at a place in my life where I choose what I want to be doing.

Ann's GrowthPlan®

Meet Suzanne

What has menopause been like for you?

I started very late. I had no idea sleeplessness was part of menopause. I haven’t had good sleep in three years. I didn’t have hot flashes. All of what you hear about typical menopause symptoms, I didn’t have.

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

I’m living in the present with less worry over what’s happened in the past. I’m using the wisdom of what’s happened before. It just comes with age and the people who I’ve been blessed to know.

How did your hair change during menopause?

My hair was falling out. People joked when they’d go in my car, like, “Do you have a dog?” My hair was everywhere and people would say, “Suzanne was here [laughs].” You’d see these strands of gray hair all over the place. The texture of my hair changed, too, as it was thinning out.

How long have you been embracing the gray?

I stopped coloring my hair in 2012. Then, about two years later, I started coloring it again. And then for the past three years plus I have not colored my hair.

What made you decide to stop coloring your hair?

I was so tired of coloring it and whenever I let it go, people would comment, “Oh, look at that gray.” My mom — God rest her soul, she colored her hair until she passed — was like, “Oh, you’re gray, you can’t have that gray.” And I said, “Why not?” And I love it now. I’ll never go back to coloring it again.

Do you still get comments from people about your hair?

Yes, but always good. I was walking in Brooklyn recently and a gentleman behind me said, “I have never seen a woman with hair like that.” And he started talking to me about his life and we had this great conversation. I meet the nicest people and have the most pleasant conversations and my hair is the starter. My hair starts conversations.

My hair starts conversations.

Suzanne's Growth Plan®

Meet Renée

What has menopause been like for you?

I had perimenopause symptoms in my mid-40s. It started as hot flashes at night and it lasted for several years. I would just start burning up and I would kick the covers off.

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

I feel free. At this point in my life, I’m all about happiness and peace of mind and doing things that serve me and serve my purpose. I don’t like drama. I’m all about peace, happiness, and good energy.

How do you feel about your hair?

I’m at a point of acceptance. I learned to love what I was born with, but if I could tweak it I definitely would. Since menopause, my hair has become softer, thinner, and shorter.

How do you practice wellness and self-care?

I’m plant based; I have been for about 10 years. I eat whole foods mostly and very little processed foods. Every Friday I cook for a whole week and refrigerate everything so it’s all prepared for the week. I also do yoga and Pilates.

How are you living life to the fullest?

My husband and I are definitely traveling a lot more — and without the kids. That’s the biggest thing.

I feel free. At this point in my life, I’m all about happiness and peace of mind and doing things that serve me and serve my purpose.

Renée's GrowthPlan®

Meet Madeline

How do you feel at this age and stage of life?

What’s wonderful is you’re just at this existential crisis and you get the chance to say, What do I want to do every day when I wake up? You don’t have that opportunity before for various reasons. That’s the gift — What do I want to do? — at a time when you have the freedom to do whatever the answer may be.

What has menopause been like for you?

Menopause is full of change; it’s a sea of change. It gets talked about as a list of a few annoying symptoms, but it’s a sea of change. And you can welcome that change as an adventure, but it’s just like any loss. There’s a grieving period and you see the old you go away and the new you comes out. It’s like a metamorphosis.

How has your hair changed after menopause?

Hair has always been an issue with me because I never had that beautiful, thick hair. And then, when I hit menopause, it went down to 50% of what I had. I felt a loss for the hair that I lost during menopause. You feel your femininity kind of going away — and hair is one of the places where you get to be feminine, no matter what you look like.

What’s your next big goal in life?

I’d love to adapt a piece of writing into a play. I think it would be interesting to tell the story of Joan of Arc where Joan is just someone who wanted to live as a man, and having a calling from God to be a soldier was the only way she could do that. When I die, I would love to leave something as an artist that is lasting and that affects people.

Menopause is full of change; it’s a sea of change. It gets talked about as a list of a few annoying symptoms, but it’s a sea of change.

Madeline's GrowthPlan®

Meet Christine

What has menopause been like for you?

Perimenopause was in my late 40s and my monthly period started to get a little bit less and then probably after a year it stopped completely. I had some of the symptoms, mostly hot flashes. You always have to dress in layers because you go from cold to hot.

What is your relationship to your hair?

I’ve always had mid-length hair, but now as I get older, I’m finding I like it a little bit shorter and layered, just because it helps with the body and fullness of it.

How has your hair changed post-menopause?

I’m starting to notice a little bit of thinning and hair coming out after the shower. My hair used to be really full and I’m noticing that it’s not as full and luxurious as it was prior to menopause.

How do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Overall I feel really good about my body. I’m more aware of the food I eat and exercising and keeping a positive outlook. I definitely look in the mirror and see my age, but I don’t let it get me down. It’s more about keeping a positive outlook and being happy.

I definitely look in the mirror and see my age, but I don’t let it get me down. It’s more about keeping a positive outlook and being happy.

Christine's GrowthPlan®

Meet Maylyn

What has perimenopause been like for you?

Last night I was sleeping and I was like, Oh my God, I feel like I’m dying of heat and the a/c is on full blast.

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

I’m thinking about myself now. I need to take care of myself and do what I want to do. I’ve been so focused on taking care of others, and now it’s about, What do I want to do now? I’m 43. I’ve got half my life to live. So I’m just going to go for whatever I want. I’m renewing my mind every day.

How do you feel about your hair?

I like wearing it natural now. I used to hate seeing my curls, because my hair is naturally curly. Now I don’t put anything in it, I just let it dry. My mom says, “You look like a lion! You don’t look like you’ve brushed your hair,” and I’m like, “You know what? I don’t care, it’s natural. I don’t have to be self-conscious about it.”

How do you practice wellness and self-care?

I like to read when I get a chance. My daughter loves music so I’m teaching her. I just like to spend time with my kids and read and mostly enjoy fitness and music. I’m also a songwriter, so I’ll sit down at the piano and write.

What’s your next big goal in life?

I want to focus on being an artist now. I’m actually shutting my music school down at the end of the month and focusing on my music, because that’s what I really love to do — music, wherever that takes me.

Now it’s about, 'What do I want to do now? I’m 43. I’ve got half my life to live.' So I’m just going to go for whatever I want.

Maylyn's GrowthPlan®

Meet Maureen

How long have you been embracing the gray?

The last time I colored it was two years ago. When I let it grow between colorings, I just assumed that my whole head would go gray, but it just grew in around my face and the rest was still pretty dark, but I was like, let's just see this through.

What was the reaction from your friends and family?

It’s funny because so many people, when I first stopped coloring my hair, would come up to me and say, “What are you doing? What is this going on?” And now the same people are like, “Oh, look at your hair!”

It's funny how men don't get that. They get called silver foxes.

I just went to my high school reunion and every guy in the room was either bald or salt and pepper and I was the only woman with gray hair. And people came up to me and said, “Wow, that’s really brave” [laughs].

How do you feel about your hair?

I really like it and I feel much freer.

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

I still feel like college-age. Once my kids went away to college I started doing more stuff for myself. I started coaching at an all-girls’ high school and I got into tennis myself. Sports were a big part of my childhood, so to be able to get back into it as an adult and to be on teams and travel is like being a kid again.

I just went to my high school reunion and every guy in there was either bald or salt and pepper and I was the only woman with gray hair in the room. And people came up to me and said, ‘Wow, that’s really brave [laughs].’

Maureen's GrowthPlan®

Meet Stephanie

How do you feel about this age and stage of life?

You don’t change — the spirit in you is still that 16-year-old or 25-year-old or disco queen. You’re still the same, you’re just wiser. So I feel the same. The ‘70s is my favorite decade so I still go dancing at clubs and I don’t like wearing bras unless I have to. I dress pretty much the same now as I did back then.

Is hair a defining feature for you?

Hair is like fashion: How you wear your hair on a particular day is an expression of how you’re feeling or your style or your personality. Hair definitely makes a statement.

How do you feel about your hair?

I’m going through chemotherapy for the second time in two years. Losing my hair the first time was OK, but I didn’t know I was going to lose my eyebrows and eyelashes, too ... I’m growing my hair back right now. I have a cute little short blonde look [under my wig]. I’m really looking forward to having my hair grow back so I can take this wig and throw it out.

How do you practice wellness and self-care?

I’ve been a member of Planet Fitness for two years and I’ve yet to set foot in that place. I’m starting to take probiotics.

What’s your next big goal in life?

To finish my film by the end of the year and have it on Netflix next year. It’s a supernatural thriller. Also, I want to learn to swim.

I still go dancing at clubs and I don’t like wearing bras unless I have to. I dress pretty much the same now as I did [in the '70s].

Stephanie's GrowthPlan®

Photography: Ryan Bailey
Hair and makeup: Aleetha Clanton
Wardrobe: Erin Turon

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