You want it on your head. You’d rather not have it on your chin.
And if something goes sideways in either spot — if you start losing too much hair on your head or you’re experiencing unwanted hair growth in other parts of your body — it can be a source of great anxiety and shame.
It’s completely normal to have a few unwanted hairs here and there, as well as times when you shed a bit more hair from your head. We’re hirsute creatures and fluctuations are part of life.
But too much hair loss from your head and more-than-typical hair growth on your chin or chest are signs of a hormone imbalance. And, interestingly, both conditions have the same root cause: your body is producing too much testosterone and/or your cells are too good at responding to testosterone’s signals.
For years, I suffered from PCOS, which is characterized by higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and I know firsthand the pain of unwanted hair loss from the head and unwanted hair growth on the face. But you don’t have to have PCOS to experience unwanted hair growth or unwanted hair loss. This can happen to any woman, and it can be truly devastating.
You can improve hormone-related hair troubles by using nutrition and lifestyle to correct underlying hormone imbalances. Here are my best strategies fixing hormone-related hair loss (on your head) and unwanted hair (everywhere else).
Why do hair-hormone problems happen to good people?
The primary root cause of unwanted hair growth on your face and body and unwanted hair loss on your head is higher than normal levels of testosterone and/or increased sensitivity to testosterone’s hair-harming messages.
So…what causes testosterone imbalances?
One cause is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is characterized by higher levels of androgens, including testosterone, and insulin resistance. This can give rise to hair loss on the head and unwanted hair growth on the chin and chest.
Another cause is a history of taking hormonal birth control pills that have a high androgen index and that can lead to higher circulating androgens. The American Hair Loss Association lists hormonal birth control options from the lowest to highest on the androgen index, and you can check out that list here. But don’t be lulled into a sense of safety by choosing a lower androgen option. The danger of an initially “safer” option is that, once you stop it, your androgen levels rebound and you may experience a surge in hair loss and hirsutism. (Hormonal birth control is bad for your hormones in other ways, too. I advise women to reconsider the pill whenever they can.)
Other women may have normal levels of testosterone but be hypersensitive to androgens. Experts aren’t entirely sure what contributes to androgen hypersensitivity. Theories include: genetics, inflammation, and post-pill withdrawal.
Women who have just given birth (postpartum) and women in perimenopause may also experience shifts in hormones that lead to higher circulating testosterone.
In very rare cases, high levels of testosterone may be caused by a tumor on the ovaries or adrenal glands, according to research. If you’re worried about either condition or you have a history of adrenal or reproductive cancers, consult with a trusted healthcare practitioner.
And… what makes higher testosterone levels so bad for hair?
When testosterone reaches the hair follicles on your head, it is converted to a derivative compound called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. Too much DHT shrinks the hair follicles on your head and makes it more difficult for healthy hair to survive.
The hair follicles in other parts of your body (most notably the chin and genitals) contain higher concentrations of the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT and, hence, these follicles react differently to higher levels of testosterone. In the presence of increased testosterone, these follicles turn vellus hair (which is the type of hair that grows on your head) into terminal hair (which are the longer, thicker, courser hairs that grow around the genitals).
Natural Remedies for Hormone-Related Hair Loss and Hirsutism
Here are the strategies I recommend for hormone-related hair trouble:
For unwanted hair on your chin, neck or chest: In the short term, it’s better to go with frequent waxing or laser hair removal than using chemical products like Nair on unwanted hair, as sensitive areas tend to be the most open to absorbing nasty chemicals.
For promoting hair growth on your head: Studies suggest that when a carrier oil (like jojoba or castor oil) is mixed with the essential oils of rosemary, thyme, lavender, and cedarwood, it can help promote hair growth. Castor oil might be especially helpful. Castor oil hair treatments are highly praised for encouraging thick, strong, glossy hair regrowth on the scalp.
Long-term Food and Supplement Strategies for Hair Loss and Hirsutism
Scalp hair is strongly influenced by nutrition, and micronutrients are especially important for hair health. Use a combination of foods and supplements to improve your hair loss or hirsutism in a matter of months. Stick with this protocol for at least six months.
- Drink a cup of stinging nettle tea everyday
- Prioritize omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Good sources include egg yolks and salmon. Consider taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids in promoting hair health is hard to overstate.
- Prioritize foods high in phytosterols such as fermented soy, wheat germ, Brussels sprouts, and olive oil
- Take saw palmetto herbal supplement
- Try an evening primrose oil supplement
- Several specific vitamins and minerals further help promote hair health. Consider taking some or all of these in supplement form:
- B vitamins improve circulation, resulting in greater blood flow to the scalp
- Vitamins A and C support cell growth and collagen production for stronger hair
- Magnesium supports healthier hair follicles and also helps calm your nervous system
- Probiotics help you absorb and assimilate more nutrients and reduce stress
- Zinc has unmatched benefits for hair health, according to research. It has been shown to help speed up the recovery of damaged hair follicles
- Vitamin D3 is critical for thyroid function, immune system function, hormone balance and hair-follicle health
Use Food to offset hormonal fluctuations:
You have two moments during your cycle where you produce peak levels of testosterone: ovulation and the beginning of the luteal phase. You might have already noticed that you have unwanted hair growth and loss patterns on a monthly cycle, and now you know why – that’s when your testosterone and this issue is most active.
This is why food timing is so important, and why it is so critical for any woman with hormone-related hair troubles to practice The Cycle Syncing Method™. I developed The Cycle Syncing Method™ over a decade ago to help women live in line with their natural, 28-day hormone cycle. To sync with your cycle—or, as I call it in practice, to engage in phase-based self-care—is simply to know which of the four phases of your 28-day menstrual cycle you are in at any given moment and then tailor your food, movement, relationship, work, and lifestyle choices to your unique strengths, weakness, and needs during that phase.
If you make these nutrition, supplement, and lifestyle changes, you will experience improvements in hair health in six months, thanks to an improvement in your internal hormonal landscape. You will likely notice other improvements, too, like easier, more regular periods, less PMS, and less fatigue and mood swings.
Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
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