Our hormones act as messengers in our body, informing our muscles and organs how they need to work and when they need to take action. Finding the right balance can be difficult; a slight imbalance can cause issues with insulin production, cell growth, heart rate, general metabolism, etc. It can also cause hormonal hair loss.
Hormone imbalances that affect the scalp and hair growth can come as a result of several concerns, including thyroid conditions, inadequate levels of estrogen, menopause, weight changes and androgenetic alopecia. Each cause can have different effects, some of which are permanent and some that are temporary.
What Hormone Causes Hair Loss In Females?
To understand and identify the right cause of hormonal imbalance hair loss, you need to know the different hormones that can affect the hair follicles on your scalp. So, let’s take a look at them.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that’s produced by the adrenal glands in the body in response to stress. It’s the main hormone that the body releases when it’s in “fight or flight.” Different stressors that affect you throughout the day can also trigger its release. The release of this hormone affects different organs of the body, including your:
- Nervous system
- Immune system
- Reproductive system
- Cardiovascular system
- Respiratory system
It increases the blood sugar levels so that more of it is available for energy production by the body. Now, all the changes that the release of this hormone induces result in telogen effluvium. That’s when the majority of the hair follicles that were in the growing phase enter the resting phase of growth. They’ll stay there for a few months, after which they’ll start shedding, which can go on for 3-6 months.
The stressors, either internal or external, can trigger this response. And in all these instances, you can expect telogen effluvium to cause hormonal hair loss. In females, it could be anything from childbirth, pregnancy, bad health, weight loss, menopause, depression and anxiety. All these events can trigger this kind of hair loss.
Thyroxine & Triiodothyronine – T4 & T3 from Thyroid
The overproduction or underproduction of hormones thyroxine & triiodothyronine can result in:
These conditions can result in thyroid hair loss in females. According to Office on Women’s Health (OASH), women are at a greater risk of developing thyroid disease. The risk is higher after they get pregnant or after menopause. This may indicate that there’s some link between the female hormones and thyroid diseases which makes them more susceptible to them.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid produces hormones designed to regulate the regeneration and growth of cells and cellular energy. For this reason, hair depends on the thyroid to grow.
If you have thyroid disease, you can lose hair either due to the shock to the body due to the hormonal imbalance itself. However, another reason may be autoimmune conditions, which can result in thyroid diseases. This kind of immune response by the body can result in alopecia areata, which is the most common non-hormonal hair loss.
Estrogen production in women naturally fluctuates throughout their lifetime, but imbalances will often result in female hair loss or thinning. Hair will often go through growth changes during perimenopause, menopause, pregnancy and post-partum.
During pregnancy, for example, women typically see thicker, fuller hair due to increased levels of this hormone, while in postpartum, the sudden drop will cause hair loss. The same happens when a woman enters menopause. A sudden reduction in estrogen can send the hair into the telogen phase of growth, which can result in telogen effluvium.
However, there’s another kind of hair loss that occurs because of hormonal changes (in addition to genetic factors). That is androgenetic alopecia. Usually, this affects women after menopause because of the drop in estrogen. In women, the thinning of hair begins at the top of the scalp and is lost in a pattern similar to the shape of a Christmas tree.
Another hormone that can cause hormonal imbalance hair loss in females is testosterone. The increase in this hormone can be due to different conditions, one of which is polycystic ovary syndrome. This is when the ovaries overproduce androgens in females. This can result in androgenetic alopecia/female pattern baldness. In addition, it can cause hormonal hair loss due to the development of seborrheic dermatitis.
Can Hormonal Hair Loss Be Reversed?
That depends on the kind of hormone that’s causing the hair loss and the type of alopecia you develop consequently. If you’re losing hair due to high levels of cortisol, the hair loss is usually reversible. Thyroid hormones also do not cause permanent hair loss, although there’s a risk of it if an autoimmune disease is involved.
In the case of estrogen and testosterone, if you’ve developed androgenetic alopecia, the miniaturization of hair follicles and shedding is permanent. That kind of hair loss cannot be reversed. However, some treatments can help stop them.
Is Your Hair Loss Hormonal?
There are many people who don’t know whether or not their hair loss is hormonal. You can get an idea of this by looking at your scalp. If there’s a hair loss pattern that’s found in patients with androgenetic alopecia, you’ll have your hormones to blame. As mentioned above, it forms a “Christmas tree.” The middle of the part-line widens significantly and extends from the hairline to the crown.
In other cases, it may be more difficult to detect since the hair loss can be diffuse due to telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia, so you cannot differentiate between the two on your own. In addition, if it’s indirectly causing non-hormonal alopecia areata then too you wouldn’t come to an accurate conclusion on your own. For getting a diagnosis, it’s important that you reach out to your dermatologist. You may need physical exams, blood tests, even a biopsy for that. However, without it, you cannot start the treatment.
How To Stop Hormonal Hair Loss?
Depending on the kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, you can benefit from the following treatments:
One medication that works well for hormonal hair loss is minoxidil. It can increase the blood flow to the scalp and change the hair growth cycle by prolonging the duration of the anagen phase. You can further consult your dermatologist about its usage, depending on the kind of alopecia you have.
One of the most common causes of hair loss is stress. And it isn’t something that you can always escape. Throughout the day, there are many different things that can trigger the ‘fight or flight response by your body. However, it’s better if you prepare your body for it by trying different stress management techniques. This can also stop hormonal hair loss. These techniques can include:
- Physical exercise
- Deep breathing
- Taking breaks
- Doing things that make you happy
With its anti-androgenic effect, you can stop further hair loss due to the increase in the levels of testosterone, as happens in some conditions. Spironolactone won’t reverse hair loss, but it can prevent further shedding.
This is important in healthy hair growth. If you’re suffering from nutritional deficiencies in addition to hormonal imbalance, the lack of essential nutrients will just worsen the problem. That’s why it’s important to have vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and good fats in your diet.
Birth Control Pill
Although some of them are responsible for hormonal hair loss, there are some pills that are specifically used for treating it. These are the “low-androgen index” pills. These decrease the production of androgens and lower their levels in the body, thus protecting hair loss from DHT. This is usually not the first choice of treatment for hair loss. Your dermatologist might suggest others for you that can better deal with hormonal hair loss.
Getting PRP injections for your scalp is another way to promote hair growth after it’s been affected by a hormonal imbalance. Not only does it help heal the scalp but also helps regrow hair by improving blood circulation to the scalp.
In cases where you’re losing hair due to pattern baldness, hair transplants can help to provide a solution. Since it is the DHT hormone that’s causing the problem, this surgery places those hair follicles in the balding regions of the scalp that are resistant to the hormone. Therefore, you will grow the hair back that you’ve lost due to hormonal hair loss.
Hormonal hair loss in females can occur due to: cortisol, testosterone, estrogen and thyroid hormones. In some cases, this kind of hair loss is temporary, while in others, it can be permanent. There are different treatments that you can seek out, depending on the kind of hair loss you’re dealing with.
However, it’s important to get a diagnosis of it from your dermatologist before that. And you need to do that as soon as possible in order to prevent further hair loss and treat the existing one. If you try self-diagnosis and treatment, you can end up doing more harm than good to your hair.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.