Here’s a fun fact: hormonal imbalances are the leading cause of hair loss. At least 50 percent of men are affected by the age of 50. (01) Ladies, this is true for you too. Those chemicals that send messages to your organs, skin, muscles, and other tissues are pretty powerful. They rule your emotions, your weight, your sleep patterns, and, yes, your hair. If your hairline is receding, or you’re starting to see bald patches on the crown of your head, it may be a sign that you need to get those hormones under control. Not sure how? Here are some tips and tricks to help.
Hormonal Hair Loss Triggers
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the different types of hormonal hair loss. Not all hair loss due to hormonal imbalances is the same. Some hair loss is short-term. Once balance is restored, your hair will grow back. Other types are a bit more challenging to manage. In this case, medication can help stop your hair loss and jump-start the growth process. Fortunately, great progress has been made researching and developing medications designed to treat hair loss due to hormonal imbalances. Many effective oral and topical options are now available. So, what hormones cause temporary hair loss, and which create more long-term issues?
We’ll start with testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone that stimulates the development of male sexual characteristics. Testosterone affects men’s sex drive and sperm production. It also plays a role in bone and muscle mass, fat storage, blood cell production, and mood. Women also produce testosterone, but in much smaller amounts.
Typically, about ten percent of testosterone in men and women converts to an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) due to an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5-AR). Once DHT flows through your bloodstream, DHT attaches to the receptors on your hair follicles. The hair follicles then shrink, making your hair thin and eventually fall out, causing what’s known as male or female pattern hair loss.
Solution: Successfully treating male or female pattern hair loss often takes a multi-faceted approach. Enlarging the hair follicles while blocking the testosterone from converting to DHT is usually the best strategy. It can, however, take some trial to determine which medications and strengths are most effective for each person. Minoxidil is often used to open the follicles. Commonly used DHT blockers include Finasteride, Dutasteride, and Spironolactone. All of these medications are available in oral or topical formulas. Many people prefer topicals since they eliminate the risk of systemic side effects.
Who isn’t stressed out these days? Pressure at work, rising costs, and keeping peace at home can be a lot to handle. When you get stressed out, your body generates extra cortisol. Cortisol is produced and released in your adrenal glands which are located on top of your kidneys. Its job as a steroid hormone is to tell your body, ”Hey, you need to chill out!” When your cortisol level gets high, it can reduce the synthesis and speed up the breakdown of hyaluronic acid and proteoglycans in your scalp. The increase interrupts your hair’s growth cycle, which can lead to hair loss.
Solution: Breathe. Hair loss due to stress is usually temporary. Your hair will grow back on its own once the stressors are gone. Head outside for a walk, sign-up for a yoga class, or download a meditation app to listen to before bed. If the usual tricks for restoring calm in your life don’t work, seeking help from a counselor or therapist may be the way to go.
Triiodothyronine (T3) & Thyroxine (T4)
T3 and T4 are hormones produced in the thyroid gland. They control how your body uses energy and help regulate many functions from your metabolism to brain development. T3 and T4 are the markers typically used to help diagnose thyroid disorders. Too high or too low can be signs of hyper or hypothyroidism. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can lead to hair loss with specific patterns. People who lose their hair due to thyroid issues usually see thinning over the entire scalp.
Solution: Treating the thyroid disorder usually leads to regrowth over several months. If you think your hair loss may be thyroid related, you’ll need an appointment with an endocrinologist. Once your thyroid is treated, your hair will slowly grow back.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Decreases in estrogen and progesterone levels have been proven to affect women’s hair growth cycles. (02) That’s why women tend to see their hair thinning or shedding after childbirth or during menopause. During menopause, a decrease in these hormones also causes an increase in androgens that produce DHT. DHT conversion happens for women as it does for men, resulting in female pattern hair loss. Hair lost after childbirth usually resolves itself and grows back over time. Hair loss due to menopause requires treatment.
Solution: If you’ve recently had a baby or are nearing menopause age, visit your dermatologist for a consultation and diagnosis. Postpartum hair loss and female pattern baldness can usually be diagnosed through a visual exam. There are very specific patterns of hair loss. You don’t want to assume that your hair loss is hormone-related, just in case another cause requires different treatment.
How to Treat Hormonal Hair Loss
If your hair loss is due to hormones, treatment options will be based on your condition. In some cases, your hair will grow back on its own. Other cases will require treatment. Here’s an idea of the different types available:
Minoxidil, a popular hair loss medication, is sold over the counter and in stronger doses by prescription. It helps enlarge your hair follicles and allows healthy hair to grow. It’s best to have a board-certified dermatologist monitor your Minoxidil use. The reason why is because the medication must be continued once you start using it. If you discontinue Minoxidil, the hair you grow while using the medication can fall out.
When male or female pattern hair loss is an issue, preventing testosterone from converting to DHT is one of the most effective ways to stop thinning and shedding. A few different types are available, including Finasteride, Dutasteride, and Spironolactone for women. Prescription DHT blockers are available in pill or topical formulas. Each have pros and cons, so it’s important to work with your dermatologist to determine which medication and formula is best for you.
Supplements alone won’t regrow your hair, but they can help treat the root cause of your hair loss. Iron and vitamin D deficiencies are common among people with hair loss due to hormonal imbalances. Collagen, probiotics, and other supplements can also help strengthen your hair and scalp.
Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner
The right shampoo and conditioner can help make your hair thicker, shinier, and healthier. Look for products infused with collagen, saw palmetto, keratin, biotin, and other ingredients that have been proven to support hair growth.
Whether you’re 15, 50, or 70, dealing with hormone imbalances can be a nuisance. However, thanks to research and technology, you have more reliable and accessible options than ever to deal with associated hair loss. You don’t even have to leave your sofa. Simply answer a short hair loss questionnaire and our licensed dermatologist will review your case. If you are a candidate for hormone-induced hair loss, we can make recommendations and deliver customized prescription medications directly to you. Want to learn more? Get in touch with us for an evaluation and personalized treatment plan.