As if horrid zits and murderous mood swings weren’t enough, now we can also thank those blasted hormones for messing up the hair on top of our heads. ”Hormone levels affect both the quality and quantity of hair,” explains trichologist Dr. Christiana Menezes. “That’s because hair is directly linked to highs and lows of various hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, which is why hair can be thin, brittle or lustreless during certain times.” While your hair texture might not change on a month-to-month basis due to hormonal fluctuations, there are certain life events that can cause a dramatic difference.
Going on and off the pill
Taking hormonal birth control changes some women’s hair, usually for the better. Usually, the pill makes hair luscious, shiny and abundant. However, when we stop taking it, we may see sudden hair loss and a slowdown of growth, as well as a decrease in the quality of the hair shaft.
What you can do: Consider all-over colour or highlights, which will plump up your hair’s cuticle layer and create instant volume. Plus, build body with a thickening shampoo and apply a pea-size dollop of conditioner to your ends only so you don’t make your locks more limp.
The Pregnancy Zone
Surging hormones during pregnancy often spark hair growth, giving expectant moms luxurious, thick hair. That’s the good news.
The not-so-good-news comes during the last trimester and the months following pregnancy, when a woman’s hair may look like she’s been through a war zone.
That thick, beautiful hair you grew to love during pregnancy may turn on you after the baby is born. The texture may change from straight to curly and vice versa. And it may begin to fall out in clumps. That’s because there are very low levels of estrogen in a woman’s body after childbirth, which lead to excessive hair loss. But this problem is perfectly normal and, better yet, it’s temporary. Usually, your tresses will right themselves in 6-8 months.
What you can do: In the meantime, eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and avoid chemical treatments like colouring or perming. Also, switch to shampoos that contain ingredients like protein to coat the hair, making the strands appear fuller. Or try a new hairstyle: a shorter ‘do can make tresses look fuller. If the hair loss hasn’t righted itself within a year, visit your GP.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is caused by an excess of male hormones, which can trigger hair thinning at the front and top of the scalp. This is more acute in PCOS sufferers who have a family history of genetic hair loss.
What you can do: Ask your doctor about drugs to reduce the levels of male hormone – this should help hair regrowth, as will head massage, which increases blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles.
Hair loss, in fact, is often the first sign of a thyroid disorder. That’s because too much or too little thyroid hormone in the body affects the hair-growth cycle. Thyroid-related tress thinning is generalised – back, sides and top – as every follicle is affected.
What you can do: To help hair grow back, have plenty of protein and massage the head every morning. Besides this, remember that toxins can accelerate hair loss as the thyroid gland accumulates more toxins than any other organ. So, opt for organic foods and use non-toxic hair and skincare products wherever possible.
Stress is often blamed for hair loss and grey strands – and usually with good reason. Hormones (like adrenaline) released in the body during stressful events affect the absorption of B-vitamins that are needed for pigmentation. Stress also produces testosterone, the male hormone, which affects the hair follicle and causes thinning.
What you can do: As well as relaxation techniques, taking a B-vitamin complex supplement could help deal with premature greying. The hair loss can be treated in various ways – including steroids or UV light therapy – but in some cases it is simply a matter of waiting for the hair to grow back.
Levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone fall during the menopause, while testosterone increases. This affects hair follicles, causing the hair to start thinning on top of the head, along with becoming finer in texture.
What you can do: A good way to increase your estrogen levels when you hit menopause is through a diet packed with plant sources of phytoestrogen that can be found in nuts and seeds, and berries rich in flavonoids like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and pomegranates. It’s also good to eat sources of plant protein such as those in soy products like soymilk, tofu and edamame.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)
This inherited, hormone-related hair loss affects half of the female population, often before the age of 50. In most cases, it represents an abnormal sensitivity of the hair follicles to androgens – male hormones produced in women by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Female pattern AGA commonly causes hair loss at the top of the head, resulting in a widened part but preserving the hairline. Less often, women develop male pattern AGA with hair loss at the temples, causing an M-shaped hairline. In either pattern, hair becomes shorter, finer and less pigmented with each successive growth cycle, adding mousy to the pool of adjectives for no-longer-glorious heads of hair.
What you can do: Rogaine is the only product available over the counter with a prayer of promoting hair regrowth in women with AGA. When it works – as it does in fewer than 50 percent of cases – it prolongs the anagen stage and enlarges hair follicles, thus producing somewhat longer, thicker hair. But it must be applied twice a day to a completely dry scalp, takes as long as 32 weeks to work and the effect is lost if use is discontinued.