Many women who struggle with PCOS also struggle with hair loss, which is also known as androgenic alopecia, PCOS balding, or PCOS alopecia. In fact, 40-70% of women with PCOS experience hair loss. The main cause of hair loss is high testosterone levels (the “male” hormone commonly higher in women with PCOS).
Here’s how the process works: when testosterone levels are elevated, it is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT then binds to hair follicles, shrinking them and causing your hair to fall out. High DHT levels may also cause thinning hair, hair loss, bald patches, and other signs of alopecia.
Additionally, progesterone plays a role in preventing hair loss and is typically released during ovulation. Because most women with PCOS have irregular menstrual cycles, they may not get the benefits of progesterone (the “female” hormone in the body which is commonly lower in those with PCOS).
Despite these impediments, there are ways to treat PCOS hair loss. Check out our recommendations below:
Overall Diet & Lifestyle Modification
This is the first step of PCOS management and reversing hair loss and includes diet, exercise and weight-loss (if applicable). Increase hair-growth-boosting-foods in your diet: eggs, healthy fats (like omega 3 fatty acids from salmon, nuts, and seeds), and fruits/veggies. These foods provide your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Protein also plays a large role in hair structure. Try having at least 0.5-1 protein serving per meal to adequately meet your daily protein needs.
Nutritional supplementation may contribute to overcoming PCOS symptoms. For instance, iron deficiencies are common in women with PCOS. Low iron levels may affect hair growth and structure. Zinc and biotin may also influence hair growth. You can talk to your doctor or dietitian about supplementation and/or focus on eating foods high in iron and zinc. Foods high in these micronutrients include shellfish, legumes, and seeds. Additionally, foods such as eggs and avocados will give you a healthy dose of natural biotin.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in women with PCOS. Women with low vitamin D levels are more likely to experience various forms of hair loss. If you believe you are low in vitamin D, talk to your doctor about supplementation or replacement therapy. This can certainly help with hair regrowth.
If you are experiencing hair loss, talk to your doctor about starting or changing birth control pills or adding an oral medication to your regimen.
Rogaine, Propecia, and Avodart are products that may also assist in hair regrowth. Be sure to discuss these options with your doctor before starting.
Thinning hair is one of the most common symptoms of PCOS. The severity can depend on the individual and can be very frustrating. The good news is that hair loss from PCOS can be reversed when the underlying issue is identified and addressed! If hair loss is affecting your emotional and psychological well-being, speak to your doctor to understand your PCOS treatment plan.