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The Link Between Female Hair Loss and Hormones

The Link Between Female Hair Loss and Hormones

By Mike Kocsis | 7 minutes read | Last updated: February 28, 2024
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  • Medically Reviewed by Dr. George Touliatos

    Evidence Based Research

    If you are shedding more than 100 hairs daily and have bald spots, you probably have hair loss and need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

    There are different causes of female hair loss, and one of them is hormonal imbalance.

    In this article, you will learn about female hair loss and how excess or deficiency of different hormones can cause it.

     

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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. In females, the hairline does not recede, while in 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 that causes this problem and not testosterone.

    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

     

    In addition to the problems mentioned above, some women may also experience hair loss. It happens due to two reasons.

    • Oestrogen and progesterone hormones are important for hair growth. They keep them in the anagen phase, which is the growing phase of the hair growth cycle. During pregnancy, oestrogen levels become high in women, which is why their hairs grow thicker and faster. When women enter menopause, their oestrogen and progesterone levels decline. As a result, their hair does not get enough of the hormones it needs to grow properly.
    • The other reason is the hormonal imbalance that develops due to low oestrogen levels and high DHT levels.

     

    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 problem. Doctors will most likely prescribe you certain medications, and your thyroid problem will be gone in no time.

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

     

    Iron deficiency

    Iron is required for hair growth; hence, its deficiency can cause hair loss in women. You may develop iron deficiency when you do not take enough of this mineral through diet, or you lose it excessively during periods.

    Your doctor will test your iron levels with a serum iron test. They will take your blood from a vein and send it to the lab to measure iron concentrations. 

    If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency, your doctor will ask you to have more iron-rich food items such as seafood, green leafy veggies, and beans. They will prescribe you iron testosterone if your iron level is too low. Supplements will help you bring your iron levels back to normal.

    Once your iron concentration is restored, your hair will soon become healthy again.

     

    Lifestyle

    Your poor lifestyle habits can directly impact your hair growth and health. For instance:

    • If you do not take enough protein that your hairs require, your hair will soon become thin and brittle. 
    • Low-quality hair products can damage your hair to different extents. 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 can disturb your hormonal balance. It may slow down your thyroid gland, reducing your rate of metabolism. It can also decrease the production of progesterone and oestrogen.
    • Smoking and alcohol abuse can contribute to hair loss and hormonal imbalance. 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

     

    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 disturbed for one reason or another, you should reach out to a doctor, as delaying it can lead to serious consequences.

    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.

     

    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.

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

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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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