Like oestrogen, progesterone is a sex steroid hormone that can impact the growth of hair follicles. However, its relationship with hair loss isn’t as widely discussed.
This is even when progesterone can indirectly influence hormones that have been linked to pattern baldness. Changes in the levels of this hormone can also end up causing excessive shedding.
Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, hair loss can be temporary or permanent. However, with treatment, you may be able to grow your hair back.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about progesterone hair loss and what you can do to help it.
What Is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a sex steroid hormone produced by the body, primarily in the ovaries. This hormone, along with oestrogen, plays an important role in both menstruation and pregnancy.
During the menstrual cycle, progesterone is produced in the second (luteal) phase by a temporary organ known as the corpus luteum. This happens after the release of an egg by the ovary.
And with that, progesterone helps in thickening the uterine lining. It helps prepare the uterus for the implantation and support of the fertilised egg in the event of a pregnancy.
However, when that doesn’t happen, the corpus luteum breaks down. And with that, the supply of progesterone also starts to dwindle. Eventually, you’ll have your periods.
On the other hand, if the egg is fertilised, progesterone plays a very important role in supporting the pregnancy. It even helps with foetal development. But its level drops dramatically once the child is born.
Here, it is important to understand that progesterone is different from “progestin,” also known as “progestogen.”
Progesterone is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Progestin, on the other hand, is a synthetic form of progesterone that mimics the original hormone.
This progestin can be found in birth control pills and is even used as a medicine or therapy for the treatment of different health problems. However, even this synthetic form of progesterone has been linked with hair loss.
Can Progesterone Cause Hair Loss?
According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, progesterone can affect the growth of a hair follicle in two ways:
- It suppresses luteinizing hormone which, in turn, has a negative impact on the production of androgens.
- It inhibits the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
Both these processes should help in the growth of hair. That’s because, in genetically susceptible individuals, androgens can miniaturise the hair follicles, which eventually leads to baldness.
It’s a type of hair loss known as androgenetic alopecia that usually follows a distinct pattern as your hair progressively sheds. Also known as pattern baldness, this hair loss is permanent.
So, if there’s a fluctuation in the levels of this hormone in the body, this is one way in which it may end up causing hair loss.
But other than that, a simple shift in the progesterone levels, as happens during pregnancy, postpartum, or menopause can also trigger a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium.
Hair loss can occur 2-3 months after a stressful event. Fortunately, telogen effluvium is reversible. It doesn’t really require any treatment as the hair starts to grow after 3-6 months.
Does Too Much Progesterone Cause Hair Loss?
High progesterone may cause hair loss due to telogen effluvium. The increase in progesterone might shock the system, which can send the hair into a resting (telogen) phase of the growth cycle. That can, in turn, cause hair loss.
However, it should be noted that there are instances in which the body naturally increases the production of progesterone. For instance, it happens during pregnancy.
And in pregnancy, some research shows that progesterone, together with oestrogen, can even prolong the anagen phase, which can promote hair growth.
But there are still some women who experience hair loss during pregnancy. And it’s possible that it may be due to shifts in the levels of progesterone, along with other pregnancy hormones.
However, high progesterone can also be a sign of an underlying health issue like ovarian cysts, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or ovarian cancer.
These illnesses may also cause hair loss in different ways. For instance, ovarian cancer may be treated with chemotherapy and that treatment can cause hair loss.
Can Low Progesterone Cause Hair Loss?
Low progesterone can also cause hair loss due to telogen effluvium. One common example of it is postpartum hair loss which occurs after a drop in the levels of progesterone and oestrogen.
Additionally, according to the research mentioned earlier, progesterone helps keep androgens in check, which influences the hair follicles.
So, if you have low progesterone levels, that may also end up causing hair loss (in genetically prone people) due to more androgens.
With low progesterone, oestrogen dominance is another possibility. It can affect your menstrual cycle, which can be another cause of hair loss.
Other than that, bear in mind that low progesterone can also be caused by underlying issues, like thyroid disorder, PCOS, prolactin disorder, stress, etc. That may also be responsible for your hair loss.
Can Progesterone Cream Cause Hair Loss?
It may be possible for progesterone cream (made with ingredients from plants) to cause hair loss. That’s because, according to WebMD, progesterone creams can enter the bloodstream through the skin.
A small randomised controlled study published in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology also found that over-the-counter progesterone creams produce “significant drug exposure.”
Therefore, these creams can increase the levels of progesterone in your body. Other than being dangerous for your health, this may also cause hair loss.
Progesterone creams have even been recommended for some types of hair loss. However, it’s not a conventional treatment option for alopecia, and you must consult a qualified medical professional before using it.
Can Progesterone Pills Cause Hair Loss?
Progesterone pills can cause hair loss due to telogen effluvium and/or androgenetic alopecia.
But progesterone products are manufactured artificially in laboratories using a substance (diosgenin) derived from wild yams or soybeans.
So, here, it’s the artificial form of progesterone called progestin that’s implicated. One example of it is the hair loss caused by progestin in birth control pills.
One study published in JAAPA reported that hormonal contraceptives – containing progestins – can cause hair loss due to telogen effluvium and androgenic alopecia in women.
This is due to the increased androgen activity. Androgens (male sex hormones) may convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, disrupting the growth cycle.
The researchers also note that the discontinuation of the pill can trigger shock hair loss. Moreover, even progestin IUDs (like Mirena) have been reported to cause alopecia.
Can Progesterone Help With Hair Loss?
In certain cases, it’s possible for progesterone to help with your hair loss.
For instance, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for relieving menopausal symptoms. Essentially, it replaces the oestrogen and progesterone in women.
Since the low levels of these hormones can cause hair loss after menopause, by replacing them, HRT can help grow your hair back.
However, because HRT can be risky, it’s not really given as a treatment for alopecia.
Other than that, there is a progestin pill that’s been shown to be promising for the treatment of alopecia.
Cyproterone acetate is a synthetic progesterone drug with antiandrogenic properties. It has been used for treating androgen-dependant hair loss (like pattern baldness).
How To Stop Progesterone Hair Loss?
To stop progesterone hair loss, it’s important to get a diagnosis of why progesterone is causing your hair loss in the first place.
If it’s telogen effluvium, you might not need any treatment since that hair loss is reversible. Still, your doctor may recommend minoxidil to promote hair growth.
On the other hand, if it’s androgenetic alopecia, there are non-surgical treatments that may help. But you’ll have to keep using them to see results.
In this case, you can consider a hair transplant to permanently restore hair in your bald spots.
But before that, if you have a progesterone imbalance due to an underlying condition, you should get treatment for that.
And in the meantime, make sure to eat healthy foods, exercise, try stress-management techniques, and be gentle with your hair.
While hair loss due to progesterone is not as talked about, it’s still a very real possibility. There are many different ways in which this hormone can end up causing alopecia.
Sometimes, it’s due to natural processes, but at other times, it can be due to some progesterone products or even health problems.
In any case, if you’ve started to lose an abnormal amount of hair, you should immediately get in touch with your doctor. There are many different reasons why hair loss can occur.
So, before you start using any hair loss products in the market, consult a qualified medical professional.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Hassan Soueid