Distress can also come from more than a change in body image. Dlova et al. (2016) found that in a group of black South African women, 52% reported serious worry that others would mistakenly assume that their hair loss was secondary to HIV infection or AIDS. It is critical that clinicians who care for such patients be compassionate and understanding but also have a solid understanding of hair loss so that reasonable expectations can be established and a therapeutic relationship can develop.
Check for hypothyroidism. If you also notice unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue, feeling depressed, or feeling colder than usual in low temperatures, your thyroid gland may not be producing enough hormones. You may also notice your periods getting heavier or becoming sporadic. Hypothyroidism is most common in women, especially over age 50, and it can be treated with a synthetic hormone.
If you’ve overplucked your brows too many times, you may have caused trauma to the follicles in the meantime, signalling not only those hairs you plucked to stop growing back, but also the hairs in surrounding areas. The good news: If the hair follicles aren’t dead, they can possibly be shaken from their resting state with a good brow enhancer. (like WINK yes of course, we have to say it). There’s no sure bets, but it’s worth a try–plus Wink has a money-back guarantee!
Telogen effluvium, a type of scalp hair loss characterized by hair shedding, may affect the eyebrows as well. It can be caused by any emotional or physiological stress, for example acute or chronic illnesses, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, and medications that alter the normal hair cycle and cause the hair the enter the telogen phase prematurely.
In men, finasteride (originally marketed as Proscar) is approved for hair loss associated with androgens. In one study, 62% of women also taking oral contraceptives containing the synthetic progestin drospirenone reported improvement. So it may be effective for female hair loss in the setting of increased androgen. But studies are limited and it is harmful to the male fetus so should not be used by women thinking about becoming pregnant or who are pregnant.
While these factors contribute to hair loss for any woman, it’s particularly dicey for those of us with PCOS because when the follicle is exposed to our elevated androgens such as DHT (di-hydro testosterone, an active metabolite of testosterone) it gets damaged. Whenever a cell is damaged it generates oxidative stress which further alters the androgen receptor in the follicle perpetuating the issue.