Most of us know that our hormones impact our energy, our mood and our skin (plus, so much more), but did you know our hormones also influence the health of our hair? In Chinese medicine, we say that the hair can be an extension and reflection of our internal health, and if we are paying attention, it can tell us a lot about what is going on internally, particularly with our hormones. Keep reading to understand the connection between your hair and hormones.
Testosterone is produced by the ovaries. Testosterone in the right amounts is important for female health from its impacts on muscle and bone health to libido. However, we need our testosterone to be kept in check. High levels of testosterone can cause an increase in oil production (cue oily hair) as well as hair loss.
If you experience thinning hair and excessive shedding, as well as long menstrual cycles (longer than 35 days), anovulatory cycles, acne and hirsutism (excess hair growth on face, abdomen, etc.), they could all be signs and symptoms of PCOS, and that possibility should be explored.
Estrogen is one of our hormones that often get a bad rep because, when the production or metabolism of estrogen is out of balance, it can cause a whole host of signs and symptoms, such as mood changes, period pain, breast tenderness, headaches, heavy periods, clotting and change in cycle length.
However, when estrogen is in balance (not too much and not too little), it is the star of the show! Estrogen improves our mood, increases libido, helps sleep, concentration, memory and improves neuroplasticity.
Estrogen also helps fuel hair growth. Healthy estrogen levels help to nourish hair follicles and fuel the growth of thick luscious hair. Low levels of estrogen can result in dry, thinning hair, and, over a long period of time, potentially, hair loss. We produce estrogen (specifically estradiol) by ovulating, so we want to make sure our menstrual cycles are healthy and regular to be producing optimal levels of estrogen.
Progesterone is produced by the ovaries after ovulation. It is a calming hormone that has positive impacts on mood, sleep, skin and hair. Progesterone helps to lower high testosterone levels, which can cause hair loss. The only way we make good amounts of progesterone is by ovulating. If you’re not ovulating regularly (amenorrhoea, PCOS, irregular cycles, on the pill, etc.) your progesterone production is reduced.
Our thyroid hormones impact every cell in our body. If our thyroid is slow or sluggish (hypothyroid), then our cellular functioning also slows down. This can show up in symptoms such as poor digestion, fatigue, brain fog and also hair growth. Hyperthyroid (when the thyroid is on overdrive) can result in dry, brittle hair and hair loss/thinning.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘being so stressed you’re pulling your hair out’ (metaphorically, or maybe even literally), but sometimes stress can cause hair loss all on its own (without you pulling it out!). Consistent elevated stress will cause higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that is secreted from our adrenal glands (endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys) in response to stress. High levels of cortisol can cause the hair follicles to shrink and can result in dry hair texture and hair thinning/loss.
Related Post: Stress Hair Loss and How to Stop It
Other Things to Consider
- Iron: Low iron levels are associated with hair loss. Make sure you’re getting lots of bioavailable iron in your diet and supplementing, if needed.
- Protein: Our hair is made from protein! Make sure you are getting enough complete protein in your diet to help nourish and support the health of your hair (and overall health!).
- Oral contraceptive pill: Progestins in oral contraceptive pills can shrink hair follicles and may lead to hair loss. The pill also stops ovulation, which, as a result stops production of estrogen (estradiol) and progesterone.
If you have been struggling with changes in your hair texture, oiliness or hair growth (lack of or excessive), and you have tried all the common external products and tips and tricks, and nothing seems to be working, it’s time to look inward and consider that maybe something is up with your hormones! Have a conversation with your health-care practitioner and start investigating to see what could be causing your hair changes.
This article is written by Lauren Curtain, a Women’s Health and Fertility-Focused Chinese Medicine Practitioner. Visit her Instagram page for a lot of helpful info on female health and well-being, based on Chinese Medicine and the newest research.
Featured Image via Instagram