After giving birth, reaching menopause years or experiencing other hormonal imbalances, it’s not uncommon for women to start losing hair. And while hair loss is a normal process (the American Academy of Dermatology estimates the average person sheds about 50-100 hairs a day), it’s also something that can be remedied by addressing underlying health and hormonal problems.
A decline of estrogen, whether due to menopause or other hormonal imbalances, can also affect hair growth. You'll experience a thinning or loss of pubic hair as well as hair on your scalp if you have low levels of estrogen in your body. You might also experience unwanted hair growth on your face during menopause, when your estrogen levels are at their lowest. This phenomenon occurs because the lack of estrogen leaves you with a hormonal imbalance of sorts; you have more androgens, or male hormones, than female hormones in your body, which contributes to some male-like symptoms such as body and facial hair.
Yes. If you wear pigtails or cornrows or use tight hair rollers, the pull on your hair can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia (say: al-oh-pee-sha). If the pulling is stopped before scarring of the scalp develops, your hair will grow back normally. However, scarring can cause permanent hair loss. Hot oil hair treatments or chemicals used in permanents (also called “perms”) may cause inflammation (swelling) of the hair follicle, which can result in scarring and hair loss.
It is perfectly normal for people to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day. This generally doesn't cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time that hair is shedding. However, hair loss occurs when this hair growth cycle and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle becomes destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. Female pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) is the most common form of hair loss in women. This occurs gradually and is caused by genetics (from either side of the family), age, and the action of a specific male hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone is found in lesser amounts in women and it preys on the hair follicles, preventing them from receiving vital nutrients for proper hair follicle growth, leading to the hairs shrinking, and resulting in a shorter lifespan. Interestingly, DHT does not need to be elevated to generate hair loss. Estrogen, when lowered as commonly seen in menopause, creates a change in the ratio of male to female hormones, giving an edge to these male hormones. Compounded with the sensitivity of DHT to the hair follicles, heredity can affect the age at which a woman begins to lose her hair, as well as the rate of hair loss and the extent of baldness.
When a woman is experiencing hair loss and has PCOS, spironolactone is often prescribed and it can be helpful but it’s important as well to address all these other issues when it comes to PCOS related hair loss. It’s also important to know that there is only a mild correlation of elevated testosterone on a blood test and hair loss. This is likely due to the hypersensitivity of the follicle to androgens in PCOS. Basically we get an exaggerated reaction from a smaller amount of testosterone.
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Eyebrow thinning that manifests in irregular patches, especially accompanied by red and itchy skin, may indicate atopic dermatitis. This condition—commonly called eczema—can occur just about anywhere on the body and is usually hereditary. People with atopic dermatitis may be more sensitive to topical irritants, but eczema just from topical irritants is called allergic contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis. While you wait on the appointment with your dermatologist, you can help ease eczema around the eyebrows by switching to mild soaps or a soap-free facial cleanser, and applying an intensive facial moisturizer within three minutes after bathing.
Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, which is held in a hair follicle's oil glands. 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 impossible for healthy hair to survive.
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Like with low thyroid, there can be a myriad of imbalances at play with PCOS related hair loss making it a complex issue that’s often written off as merely high testosterone. While androgen excess and hypersensitivity of the hair follicles to these hormones are part of the issue, these are other contributing factors to PCOS related hair loss as well:
Estrogen and combined oral contraceptive (COC) drugs with estrogen or progestogen have been reported as effective, but data are limited (Adenuga et al., 2012, Raudrant and Rabe, 2003, Scheinfeld, 2008). They are thought to function through several mechanisms. Both components of COC drugs increase the levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (Schindler, 2013). They also send negative feedback signals that suppress the hypothalamic secretion of gonadotropin and releases the hormone and pituitary secretion of the luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, which results in a decreased androgen production (Gilman et al., 1990, Varothai and Bergfeld, 2014). These actions decrease androgen secretion from the ovary and the quantity of free, biologically active androgens, which reduces their effects on the hair follicles (Schindler, 2013). Our practice when prescribing COC drugs is a combination of ethinyl estradiol 20 mcg plus drospirenone 3 mg. Drospirenone is an analogue of spironolactone. This treatment combination is approved by the FDA for the treatment of acne but not alopecia.
If you’ve undergone chemotherapy recently, you know the effects that it has on your hair, including your brows and lashes. First of all, I want to point you to this awesome resource by FairyHairs (click here), that shows in intervals, with pictures, what you can expect with regrowing your hair after chemo (Thank you, Jenny Mealy!). The article also includes ways to regrow your hair after chemo.
There is also a different in the form of 5AR enzyme (5 alpha reductase) found on the facial hair follicles vs. the scalp hair follicles. This enzyme converts testosterone into that more problematic DHT. Type I DHT is found in sebaceous glands on the face and genital area whereas Type II is found in hair follicles of the scalp. Type II DHT is typically more of a problem in men, but Type II is increased in disorders with high testosterone like PCOS.
Around 30 million U.S. women will experience hereditary hair loss, or female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), while others will struggle with situational hair loss, brought on by medical conditions, medications, poor health and nutrition, environmental factors such as smoking and sun damage, or even from adverse reactions to hair care products or treatments.
FPHL or androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in women and one of the most common chronic problems seen by dermatologists worldwide (Varothai and Bergfeld, 2014). FPHL is a nonscarring form of alopecia in which the frontal hairline is maintained, but there is progressive hair thinning at the vertex of the scalp. Thinning of the hair is secondary to alteration of the hair cycle with shortening of the anagen phase and simultaneous lengthening of telogen. This increase in the resting phase and decrease in the growth phase of the hair cycle results in the miniaturization of hair because long terminal hairs are gradually replaced by short vellus hairs (Messenger and Sinclair, 2006, Sinclair et al., 2011).
Elizabeth Willett is the Senior Herbalist and Lead Educator at NaturalFertilityInfo.com. She holds a BS in Mass Communications (2000) from Minnesota State University, and a Master of Arts degree (MA, 2010) in Holistic Health Studies with a specialization is herbalism from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. Liz has written over 200 articles on women’s fertility and brings a vast wealth of knowledge and expertise in holistic health and healing to Natural Fertility Info.com
Scalp hair loss may be a common complaint among men and women, but in my practice, loss of eyebrow hair is a major concern among my female patients. Because eyebrows frame the face, hair loss in this area can dramatically change one's appearance, and since eyebrow hair loss is not easily concealed, it can be, for some women, an even more devastating loss than scalp hair loss.
For now, therapies include cortisone injections directly into the bald patches; topical cortisone; Minoxidil — known to many people under the brand name Rogaine; and anthralin cream. A less-widely available option is topical immunotherapy: certain chemicals applied to the scalp can trigger an allergic rash, which alters the immune response, NAAF notes.
Eating too many high-glycemic foods for too long (often in combination with other lifestyle factors, like being sedentary and experiencing chronic, unremitting stress) can cause an overload of insulin in the body—and too much insulin disrupts ovulation and signals the ovaries to make testosterone. More testosterone predisposes the body to more DHT conversion, and, hence, more hair loss.
Also new is the HairMax Laser Comb. It's a red light therapy hairbrush-like device that increases circulation and the biological march that makes hair. It's only approved in men (though some women are using it) and in my experience, is not as good as minoxidil. But in one study, 45% of users reported improvement after eight weeks, and 90% saw improvement after 16 weeks.
Estrogen, the power player in women’s bodies, is your friend when it’s appropriately balanced. It makes you feel energized, helps stabilize your moods and contributes to a healthy sex drive. Yet too much estrogen, which can be caused by weight gain, perimenopause or toxicity from exposure to endocrine disruptors (which are rampant in our food, water and plastic products), can lead to thinning hair. During and after pregnancy, for example, estrogen levels peak and then dip, causing sudden hair loss for many women.
This is a diverse group of rare disorders that destroy the hair follicle, replace it with scar tissue and cause permanent hair loss. The hair loss may be accompanied by severe itching, pain and burning, and may progress rapidly. In other cases, the hair loss is gradual, has no symptoms and is unnoticed for long periods. It is also sometimes known as scarring alopecia and can occur in otherwise healthy men and women of all ages.
Topical estrogen and progesterone creams and oral medications are generally the forms prescribed for post-menopausal women with androgenetic alopecia. But HRT will rarely, if ever, be prescribed for treatment of hair loss alone.] If you have other bothersome symptoms which might warrant HRT, in addition to hair loss, you'll first need to undergo a thorough gynecologic and physical exam, and will likely have blood tests done to measure hormone levels before these drugs are prescribed.
Try to include 'hair friendly' foods in your diet, such as Omega 3 rich salmon and walnuts; beat-carotene rich sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin and spinach (yes, dark green veggies are a good source of beta-carotene too); and foods like eggs (rich in biotin, B6, B12, selenium, zinc and copper), lentils (which are loaded with hair-healthy vitamins and minerals), chicken or turkey (which contain lots of protein, B vitamins and minerals), plus vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables like blueberries, kiwi, strawberries and tomatoes.
There can be any number of different factors contributing to your hair loss. If you’re reading this and thinking, “well I have that and that, and am going through that,” then you may already have an idea of what is a contributing cause for you. You may already be doing much of what is suggested here and may learn of additional ideas to consider trying.