The hormone-hair connection: how hormones affect your hair
While we naturally think of our hair as a reflection of our style and a look we want to achieve, our hair is also a reflection of our overall health. Many factors influence the health and appearance of our hair, and one significant factor for both men and women is hormones. Hormones are vital in regulating hair growth, texture, thickness and fullness.
Understanding the hormone-hair connection can help you identify and address hair-related issues caused by hormonal imbalances, so our expert nutritionists dive into the fascinating relationship between hormones and your precious locks.
Hair cycle and hair follicle structure
Hair growth occurs in cycles, consisting of an active growth phase ('anagen'), a transitional phase ('catagen'), and a resting phase ('telogen'). Hormones influence the duration and intensity of each phase, and ultimately affecting hair growth, hair thinning and shedding. You may also enjoy 'Best foods for hair loss and thinning'.
Hair follicles, which are tiny structures within the skin, house the 'hair shaft' and are responsible for hair growth. Our hormones regulate the size and activity of hair follicles, and determine the thickness and quality of our hair.
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How hormones affect your hair
The look of our hair, our hair cycle and hair follicle structure are affected by various hormones.
Oestrogen accelerates hair growth and contributes to softer, thicker, and healthier hair. It also extends the anagen phase, allowing hair to grow longer before shedding. This is why many women notice thicker hair during pregnancy, when oestrogen levels are at an all-time high. After childbirth, oestrogen levels drop to normal levels, leading to 'postpartum hair loss'. This is a very normal, healthy process so you shouldn't be alarmed! This hormonal shift can cause excessive hair shedding as the hair follicles transition into the resting phase. Menopause, characterised by a decline in oestrogen and progesterone, can also trigger hair thinning and loss. Learn more about how menopause affects your hair.
Androgens and Testosterone
Androgens, which are reproductive and growth hormones in men and women, and including testosterone, can have a significant impact on hair growth.
In women, hormonal imbalances linked to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can increase androgen production. Excess androgens can disrupt the hair growth cycle, resulting in changes such as increased hair shedding, thinning, and the appearance of coarse, dark hairs in typically non-hairy areas.
In men, testosterone is a key player in male pattern baldness. Testosterone can be converted into 'di-hydro-testosterone (DHT)' in the scalp, which shrinks hair follicles and inhibits hair growth. This process contributes to a receding hairline and thinning crown as seen in male baldness.
Testosterone is vitally important in women, and as a result DHT affects both men and women. However, because women only have a fraction of the testosterone levels men have, DHT-related hair loss affects only a small proportion of women.
Stress, which is a common companion in our modern lives, can disrupt hair growth. Cortisol, which is our stress hormone, can affect the hair growth cycle and lead to increased shedding and hair loss. Managing stress levels is essential for maintaining a healthy head of hair. Read the latest research into the effects of stress and anxiety, showing that 78% of us feel stressed at least once a week, and more than half of us suffering poor sleep, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and mood swings as a result. Discover the best foods and vitamins to help relieve anxiety.
Insulin promotes hair growth by stimulating the proliferation of cells in the hair follicles. As a result, diabetes can cause hair loss however good blood sugar control may help slow or stop diabetes-related hair loss and remember, the foods you eat can help your body deal with pre-diabetes, also known as insulin resistance.
Signs of hormonal hair loss in men and women
There are a few signs where hair loss is most likely due to hormone changes and fluctuations. These vary between men and women.
Men: thinning hair, receding hairline, changes in hair texture, patchy hair loss, scalp conditions and slower hair growth.
Women: widening parting, excessive hair shedding, changes in hair texture, patchy hair loss, hirsutism, scalp conditions and slower hair growth.
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Hormonal imbalances linked to thyroid disorders
Maintaining thyroid hormone balance is crucial for healthy hair. An imbalance in hormones which are linked to thyroid disorders can affect hair health. Hypothyroidism, an under-active thyroid condition, can lead to dry, brittle hair, while hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid condition, may cause hair thinning. Discover our nutritionists tips for best foods and nutrients for an underactive thyroid.
Balancing hormones naturally
If you suspect hormonal imbalances are affecting your hair, several natural approaches can help restore balance, and a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients is imperative.
Vitamin B6, biotin and other B vitamins are essential for hormone balance. Many of the B vitamins are needed for the creation of hormones, and others are needed for the detoxification of old hormones. B vitamins can be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and for non-veggies, meat, fish and eggs.
DR.VEGAN® UltraEnergy is a high-strength B Vitamin Complex including biotin, and an ideal supplement to support healthy hormones and hair, or opt for our award-winning Daily Multi-Vitamin to ensure you have all the B vitamins and other essential nutrients your hair needs every day.
You may enjoy learning why magnesium is 'The Mineral Superhero'.
Omega 3 fatty acids and GLA are needed for hormone balance and can be found in nuts, seeds and fish. Omega 3 is best taken as a supplement to get a clean, therapeutic dose, and GLA is present in evening primrose and borage oils.
Additionally, lifestyle modifications, including stress management techniques like meditation or exercise, can help regulate hormone levels and reduce hair-related issues.
You may also enjoy reading:
- Why is testosterone important for women?
- Does Rosemary Oil help hair growth?
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