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The Link Between Female Hair Loss and Hormones

The Link Between Female Hair Loss and Hormones

By Mike Kocsis | 10 minutes read | Last updated: June 28, 2024
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    Approximately 40% of women show signs of hair loss by 50 (The Treatment Rooms 2024). If you’re losing more than 100 hairs daily and noticing bald spots, you’re likely to be experiencing hair loss. This can be a distressing issue, affecting not only your appearance but also your confidence and overall well-being. One of the common underlying causes of female hair loss is hormonal imbalance, a factor that can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle.

    Understanding the root causes of hair loss is the first step toward effective treatment and management. In this article, we will focus on how fluctuations in hormone levels can lead to thinning hair and bald spots. By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the connection between hormones and hair health. We’ll also look into lifestyle choices and the most common treatments to combat hormonal hair loss.

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    Female hair loss

    Excessive shedding of hair is termed hair loss. Female hair loss is similar to male hair loss in several ways, but what makes them different is the pattern of hair loss. For women, the hairline does not recede, while for men, it is very common to lose hair from the temple and hairline.

    There are five main types of female hair loss:

    • Androgenetic Alopecia
    • Telogen Effluvium
    • Anagen Effluvium
    • Alopecia Areata
    • Traction Alopecia

     

    What are the causes of female hair loss?

    Women can experience hair loss due to multiple reasons. Some of these are:

    Hormonal imbalance

    It is one of the most common causes of hair loss in both men and women. It occurs due to hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone.

    Testosterone is a male sex hormone, but it is also produced by ovaries in small amounts. It works with the female sex hormone oestrogen to maintain female reproductive tissue and control bone mass. Fluctuations in its concentration can cause hair loss in women. Researchers used to believe that testosterone is the main culprit behind hair loss in men and women. However, the latest studies show it is the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that causes this problem and not testosterone.

    What is DHT?

    DHT is produced from testosterone with the help of 5-alpha reductase. It causes hair loss by miniaturising hair follicles. During miniaturisation, hair follicles shrink and fail to support normal hair growth. DHT is structurally similar to testosterone, but its nature is different to some extent. It is more powerful and can attach to testosterone receptors strongly. It causes hair loss when it attaches to follicle receptors and disturbs the normal hair growth cycle. Your body becomes more susceptible to these effects of DHT if you have low oestrogen and progesterone levels.

    Doctors prescribe DHT inhibitors and blockers to women having high DHT levels. Inhibitors reduce DHT production from testosterone, and blockers reduce its attachment to receptors.

     

    Menopause

    Menopause is the point when women stop having menses. Your ovaries no longer produce oestrogen and eggs. In most women, it starts when they are in their mid-forties. Women going through this phase experience the following symptoms.

    • Night sweats
    • Hot flashes
    • Mood swings
    • Depression
    • Lack of energy
    • Breast tenderness
    • Headaches
    • Change is sex drive
    • Increase in weight

     

    Deficiency of thyroid hormones

    Thyroid hormones are also involved in hair growth. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause this problem. Women with low or high levels of thyroid hormones experience some other symptoms that help them diagnose the issue.

    Hypothyroidism symptoms are:

    • Sluggishness
    • Tiredness
    • Increase in weight
    • Muscle pain
    • Depression
    • Skin itching
    • Constipation
    • Difficulty concentrating

     

    Hyperthyroidism symptoms are:

    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Fatigue
    • Trouble falling asleep
    • Muscle weakness
    • Mood changes

     

    If you think your hair loss is due to thyroid problems, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible to get rid of the condition. Doctors will most likely prescribe you certain treatment plans to help ease your symptoms.

    Hair loss caused by this problem is temporary and can be resolved with an improvement in thyroid function and hair supplements.

     

    Iron deficiency

    Iron is required for hair growth; hence, its deficiency can cause hair loss in women. You may develop an iron deficiency when you don’t get enough through your diet, or you lose it excessively during menstruation.

    Your doctor will test your iron levels with a serum iron test. Your blood sample will be sent to a lab to measure iron concentrations. If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency, your doctor will ask you to consume more iron-rich food items such as seafood, green leafy veggies, and beans. They will prescribe you iron supplements if your iron level is too low. Supplements will help you bring your iron levels back to normal. Once your iron levels are at an optimum level, your hair will soon become healthy again.

     

    Lifestyle

    Poor lifestyle habits can directly impact your hair growth and general health. For instance:

    Not consuming enough protein: Your hair is partly made out of a protein called keratin. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, your hair will soon become thin and brittle. 

    Low-quality hair products: Some harsh chemicals present in these products could cause permanent damage to your hair or scalp. You should check the ingredients list and buy products that have good online reviews.

    Poor sleep: Having poor quality sleep may slow down your thyroid gland, reducing your rate of metabolism. It can also decrease the production of progesterone and oestrogen.

    Smoking and alcohol: Acute consumption can increase your oestrogen levels by increasing the conversion of testosterone into oestrogen. That is why you should avoid smoking and alcohol consumption as much as you can. They produce many other serious health problems, such as heart disease and lung cancer.

     

    Other causes of female hair loss are:

    • Certain medications
    • Sudden weight loss
    • Psoriasis
    • Autoimmune disorders

     

    Medical research on hormones and hair loss

     

    Study 1: Androgens and Female Pattern Hair Loss

    Overview: Explores the role of androgens, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), in female pattern hair loss (FPHL). The researchers conducted a detailed analysis of hormone levels in women with FPHL compared to a control group.

    Findings:
    – Elevated dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels in women with FPHL.
    – Higher androgen receptor density in scalp hair follicles of affected women.
    – Positive effects of anti-androgen treatments like spironolactone and finasteride.

     

    Study 2: Estrogen Deficiency and Hair Loss in Postmenopausal Women

    Overview: This research focuses on the link between estrogen deficiency and hair loss in postmenopausal women. The study involved monitoring estrogen levels and hair density in postmenopausal women over a period of time.

    Findings:
    – Reduced estrogen levels correlated with increased hair shedding.
    – Presence of estrogen receptors in hair follicles indicates direct influence.
    – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) improved hair density and reduced shedding.

     

    Study 3: Thyroid Hormone Dysfunction and Diffuse Hair Loss

    Overview: This study investigates the relationship between thyroid hormone imbalances and diffuse hair loss in women. The researchers analyzed thyroid function tests and hair loss patterns in women diagnosed with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

    Findings:
    – Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are linked to diffuse hair loss.
    – Significant hair thinning and reduced hair shaft diameter in affected women.
    – Treatment of thyroid dysfunction improved hair growth and density.

     

    Tips to improve your hair growth during menopause

    The following tips can help you improve hair health during menopause.

    Become more physically active:

    Exercise has several health benefits. It can boost your mood and help you get rid of several menopause symptoms, such as mood swings, insomnia, and anxiety. You should also try breathing and stress management exercises, as they can help manage stressful situations.

    Keep yourself hydrated:

    You should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The amount of water a person needs depends on various factors, including their activity level and exercise intensity. Regardless of these factors, you should have at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

    Take care of your hair:

    Your hair is your responsibility; treat it as you would any other part of your body. You should avoid using heat tools like hair dryers and straighteners. Do not be harsh on your hair while styling them. Try to avoid dying your hair. Hair dyes contain artificial chemicals that can damage your scalp as well as your hair.

    Wear a swimming cap if you swim often. The chlorine present in the water of swimming pools can be damaging to hair. Similarly, if you spend several hours under the sun, you should wear a hat to prevent hair dryness and breakage.

     

    Treating hormonal imbalance with HRT

    Women having low oestrogen levels due to menopause or any other issue can have hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In it, a combination of progesterone and oestrogen is administered in the body of women who are unable to produce these hormones naturally.

    HRT helps women increase their hormones and get rid of associated symptoms such as:

    • Low sex drive
    • Mood changes
    • Night sweats
    • Improvement in sleep quality
    • Lesser vaginal dryness or irritation

    HRT may also help you prevent hair loss if it is due to the deficiency of oestrogen and progesterone. You can have these hormones in different forms, such as injections, creams, gels, and patches, based on your preferences, health condition and needs.

    However, HRT is not suitable for all women as it may increase the risk of breast cancer and high red blood cell count. You should get yourself checked fully to determine whether or not you are the right HRT candidate.

     

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    Summing it up

    Like men, women can also experience hair loss in their lives. The most common causes of female hair loss are hormonal imbalance, menopause and age. If your hormone levels are not stable for one reason or another, you should reach out to a doctor, as delaying it can lead can not only prolong your symptoms but can cause irreversible damage.

    Women with low oestrogen and progesterone levels may start losing hair due to a hormonal imbalance. After consulting with a doctor, they should get their hormones checked and start hormone treatment like HRT. Here at Balance My Hormones we offer bespoke HRT treatment plans to suit your individual needs. Get in contact with us where we can asses your symptoms and see what treatments are best for you. 

     

    References/Further reading/Scientific studies/Bibliography 

    Brough, K.R. and Torgerson, R.R., 2017. Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss. International journal of women’s dermatology3(1), pp.53-57.

    Davis, S.R. and Tran, J., 2004. Estrogen Deficiency and the Pathophysiology of Hair Loss in Postmenopausal Women. Menopause, 11(2), pp.123-130.

    Olsen, E.A., 2001. Female pattern hair loss: Clinical features and potential hormonal factors. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology45(3), p.S69.

    Olsen, E.A., 2002. Androgens and Female Pattern Hair Loss. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 47(2), pp.253-262.

    Neuhauser, M.L. and Levorson, R., 2005. Thyroid Dysfunction and Diffuse Hair Loss: A Prospective Study. British Journal of Dermatology, 152(1), pp.72-78.

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    This article has been researched and written based on scientific evidence and fact sheets that have then been crossed checked by our team of doctors and subject matter experts.

    References, sources and studies used alongside our own in-house research have been cited below, most of which contain external clickable links to reviewed scientific paper that contain date stamped evidence.

    Our team of healthcare experts and GMC registered doctors are licensed to UK GMC standards. We strive to provide you with the latest evidence based, researched articles that are unbiased, honest and provide you with accurate insights, statistics and helpful information on the discussed topic to ensure you gain a better understanding of the subject. You can read more about our Editorial Process by clicking here.

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    About the Author: Mike Kocsis

    Mike KocsisMike Kocsis has an MBA with a focus on healthcare administration and is an entrepreneur and medical case manager for Balance My Hormones Ltd which offers medical services in the UK and Europe. Mike has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare sector, much of that working with people who have hormone imbalances. Mike has appeared on podcasts and radio and is an expert speaker on the subject of hormone imbalance. He specialises in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and has helped thousands of people suffering from hormone imbalances recover and regain control of their lives. You can follow him on LinkedIn and on the Balance My Hormones YouTube Channel.

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