Hormones sure have a lot to answer for. We all know how the menstrual cycle can majorly mess with our skin and meddle with our moods, so it’s no surprise really that fluctuating hormone levels can also affect the look and feel of our hair.
To get the legit lowdown on why hormones unsettle the hair and scalp, and to learn more about dealing with lacklustere locks or excess shedding, we called in the experts.
Hormones and hair loss
Did you know that oestrogen has a protective effect on hair growth, while male hormones – androgens – encourage hair thinning and loss? This throws truth on the cliché of a pregnant woman with a head full of thick, shiny hair, caused by all the extra oestrogen going on. In contrast, when oestrogen levels dramatically dip, a woman’s hair can become thinner and possibly start to fall out.
Consultant dermatologist and leading hair and scalp expert, Dr Sharon Wong, says that “changes to the texture of hair can be noticed at times of hormonal fluctuations such as with the use of some forms of contraceptive pills, post-pregnancy, and the menopause – a time of significant change where the oestrogen levels drop and there is a proportionate increase in androgens. All of these can impact hair growth and can cause women to experience hair shedding.”
Dr Wong adds that one of the most common causes of hormone-related hair loss is female pattern hair loss, the female equivalent of male balding. “This occurs due to the hair follicles being genetically more sensitive to male hormones. Female pattern hair loss has been estimated to affect approximately 50% of women as they age, but this is probably under-reported. Female pattern hair loss typically appears with gradual thinning on the crown with a widened parting and the hairline is not usually affected,” she explains.
Emotional stress, which sees an increase in adrenaline and cortisol in the body, may also cause hair thinning and hair loss. As can crash diets and nutritional deficiencies.
“If you’re losing clumps of hair continuously, then see your doctor who can check there are no underlying issues such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or problems with your thyroid or iron levels. Your GP may then refer you to a dermatologist or trichologist to investigate further,” advises the renowned hair expert Lucinda Ellery.
Self-care for happy hair
Over-styling with heat and chemicals can cause some level of hair loss through breakage and weathering, but this is easily prevented by using heat protection products and doing ultra-hydrating hair masks, like the Chirp Body Softnest Mask, to regularly restore moisture.
For hormone-related hair loss and to improve the condition of your scalp, adding several drops of Jojoba essential oil to your regular shampoo can help to boost hair growth. We love the pure, deeply penetrating oil by Sanatio Naturalis.
Jojoba has long been used as an Ayurvedic remedy due its skin-nourishing nutrients of Vitamin E, Vitamin B-complex, copper, selenium, zinc, chromium, silicon, and iodine. When massaged deeply into the scalp, this magical oil can encourage circulation and nourish the hair follicles to stimulate growth.
It's also effective at controlling dandruff and cleansing the scalp of excess oils. Sebum build-ups are often present with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome due to elevated androgen levels.
Taking care of your hair from the inside out and promoting a healthy balance of hormones in your whole body, involves nurturing yourself with the right foods – meaning a mix of lean proteins, good carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals.
“Hair follicle cells are the second fastest dividing cells in the body and require all the nutrients of a well balanced healthy diet,” says Dr Wong.
“As hair is not an essential structure for survival, the body does not prioritise nutrients for hair growth. As a result, hair is very sensitive to nutritional deficiencies and this, together with crash diets can both arrest the growth of hair follicles and cause hair shedding.”
And stress is also a major cause of hair shedding, so taking time to really relax is important to keep hair looking and feeling its best.
“Whilst eliminating stress is impossible, developing coping strategies to help us effectively handle stress is extremely important. Make time in the week to regularly practice stress relieving activities such as meditation and yoga,” suggests Dr Wong.