As part of an ongoing effort to raise the conversation around women’s hair thinning and empower women to take charge of their hair health, our team of experts and physician partners are sharing their knowledge to arm women with the facts. This week, we’re diving into the connection between balanced hormones and healthy hair growth.
Behind the scenes of a woman’s hair growth, hormones are pulling many of the strings.
Think of them as the crossing guards of hair growth traffic. They tell things where to go, when to go, and how quickly to move. Because of this, changes in your hormones can have a big impact on your hair growth cycle.
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Which hormones impact hair?
First and foremost, the hormones estrogen and progesterone play important roles in modulating hair growth, whereas a potent byproduct of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), is linked to hair thinning and follicle miniaturization.
While these sex hormones have a heavy influence on the hair growth cycle, they don’t deserve all the attention. The aptly named growth hormone (GH) helps stimulate growth in the environment around the hair follicle, as well as that of the keratinocytes, which help create the keratin protein that becomes the main structure of your hair strands.
Meanwhile, thyroid hormones have a big say in giving the hair growth cycle a green light. Having too many or too few of these hormones is connected to changes in hair texture, thickness, and fullness. The hormone insulin (usually known for its role in blood sugar regulation) can also play a part in stimulating the hair growth cycle. And finally, spikes in the stress hormone cortisol can decrease the activity of keratinocytes, trigger hair to stop growing, and hamper the formation of skin-strengthening, follicle-securing collagen. It’s safe to say that hormones have a lot of influence in how your ‘do is doing.
Androgen influence and hormonal shifts
While both men and women have all of the hormones mentioned above, there are biological differences in how much we have of each hormone and when their levels change. These hormonal variations have an influence on how different life stages can impact us when it comes to hair thinning, whether it’s in the case of a woman in menopause or a young male in his twenties.
For example, while women experience natural dynamic shifts in hormone levels over a cycle of about 28 days, men are influenced by a 24-hour hormone cycle directing the ebb and flow of androgens like testosterone. But women can also suffer from overzealous androgen influence that can lead to changes in hair fullness.
One culprit for a woman’s sensitivity to the effects of androgenic (aka male pattern) hair thinning is genetic susceptibility. This predisposition can be worsened by a decrease in estrogen (which can help prolong the hair growth phase) as women transition into menopause. Hormonal conditions like thyroid disorders and stress can also compound hair thinning caused by genetics.
The major health conditions and life events that can affect a woman’s hormones (and hair) include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism)
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Diabetes mellitus
- Menstrual disorders
Some hormonal hair changes are expected, as with those connected to menopause, and certain ones may even be self-correcting, such as the natural postpartum fall in estrogen that has been noted to influence hair loss. Although, some postpartum women report their hair never returns to the same quality as it was pre-baby.
How to balance hormones for healthy hair
When it comes to taking charge of your hair health, the number one action is to consult with your physician. In addition to that important step, there are lifestyle changes and natural supplements to help support balanced hormones and healthy hair growth.
As hormones are sensitive to external influences, it may be helpful to decrease daily exposure to hidden hormone disruptors in the environment, such as plastic bottles and food containers, cleaning products, cosmetics, hair products, and other personal care items. Get the facts and some fast and easy tips here.
For those with increased sensitivity to the androgen DHT, saw palmetto, a key ingredient in Nutrafol, is a natural botanical that’s clinically shown to help prevent testosterone conversion to DHT. Another hormone balancer from Mother Nature is maca. This adaptogenic root is known to support hormone health peri- and post-menopause, which is why it’s included in Nutrafol Women’s Balance.