To any woman who’s suffered from a hormone imbalance and the many symptoms that come with them it won’t surprise you to learn that hormones and hair loss are connected. And it’s more common than you think! Male pattern baldness is an expected, if often trivialized, part of aging for many men. Its female counterpart is seldom discussed until it becomes a problem. Women suffering from health issues, excessive stress, or simply going through menopause are waking up to find more hair than usual in their drain.
So what’s the reason behind this epidemic of hair issues? It’s likely due to modern life and the stress—both physical, mental, and hormonal—that many of us experience daily. To get down to the root cause, it’s always best to consult a trusted practitioner, but here are some key hormones which may be the culprit.
Androgenic Alopecia. When it comes to a testosterone imbalance, many think of a middle-aged man with thinning hair, trying to cover it up with a comb-over (think Donald Trump). Historically, practitioners blamed it on excess testosterone, but that’s only part of the story.
The real culprit appears to be dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent derivative of testosterone. Simply put, under certain conditions DHT wants those hair follicles dead. Scientists now believe that it’s not the amount of circulating testosterone that’s the problem but the level of DHT binding to receptors in scalp follicles. DHT shrinks hair follicles, making it damn-near impossible for healthy hair to survive.
Under normal conditions, women have a minute fraction of the level of testosterone that men have, but even a lower level can cause DHT- triggered hair loss in women.
2. Thyroid Hormone
The thyroid hormone is thought to be the “master metabolism” hormone, and it’s probably the most straightforward culprit behind hair loss, especially in women. If you have dry skin, brittle nails, fatigue, and hair loss—it’s a telltale sign that your thyroid may be under stress and you should look into it.
When the thyroid is under stress or poorly nourished, it starts to focus its efforts on supporting the bodily processes (like breathing and regulating heart rate) that support and sustain life and it stops paying as much attention to less vital functions, like hair growth.
It has long been known that polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is driven by chronically elevated insulin (hyperinsulinemia), which causes hair loss, acne, and weight gain, among other symptoms. And it’s not just in women that insulin is important! Men with hyperinsulinemia seem to suffer from hair loss as well.
Insulin resistance is also linked to Androgenic alopecia and can lead to diabetes, which left untreated, can have life-long damaging effects. The best way to treat this type of hair loss is by cutting down the amount of sugar in your diet, but make sure that this is the actual cause of your hair-loss before treating it aimlessly
Many women find that in pregnancy, when estrogen levels rise and then fall after birth, a large amount of their hair falls out. This is also true for many women during menopause, when estrogen levels are also falling. But it’s not just about having more estrogen in the body to prevent hair loss because chronic estrogen dominance can cause hair loss as well.
Just like excess testosterone (and DHT) can cause hair troubles, so can too much estrogen. For some women, excess estrogen may trigger hair loss because of a gene variant that affects the functioning of an enzyme (aromatase) that processes estrogen.
How To Get Those Luscious Locks?
Hormones are cyclical. Testosterone levels in some men drop by 10% each decade after age 30. Women’s hormone levels decline as menopause approaches and drop sharply during menopause and beyond. The cyclic nature of both our hair and hormones is one reason hair loss can increase in the short term even when you are having a long-term slowdown of hair loss (and a long-term increase in hair growth) while on a treatment that controls hair loss.