Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), is a hormone disorder that is common in women of reproductive age, where the production of excess male hormones called androgens can cause hair loss, as well as ovarian cysts, thicker facial hair, irregular menstruation, weight gain, and infertility. In this article, we cover PCOS hair loss, what causes it, and home remedies that can help it to grow back.
What is PCOS?
With the help of the regulating pituitary glands, the female body naturally produces a balanced amount of female and male hormones on an ongoing basis. For women with PCOS, however, the messages sent from the pituitary glands can become disrupted, resulting in an increased production of male hormones called androgens.
Androgens, which are usually responsible for kickstarting puberty and encouraging the growth of pubic and underarm hair, as well as regulating reproductive health as humans mature, can have adverse effects on the body when overproduced.
While the increase in production mainly affects the ovaries and reproductive system, it can also trigger weight gain, acne, thicker facial hair, and thinning head hair, which is medically referred to as Androgenic Alopecia or Female Pattern Hair Loss.
While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, it is believed to be linked to genetics.
What Causes PCOS Hair Loss?
Essentially, it is the overproduction of androgens, or male hormones, that causes hair loss or hair thinning in women with PCOS. One androgen, in particular, known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), binds itself to hair follicles on the scalp, causing the hair to thin, become shorter, and weaker until eventually hair is no longer produced through the follicle.
Women with PCOS generally notice excess hair on their hairbrushes or increased shedding after washing their hair, as well as hair remaining on the pillow after sleep. PCOS hair loss tends to begin on the crown of the head before gradually spreading over the top of the head, and revealing more of the scalp. Complete baldness, however, is rare.
Will Hair Loss from PCOS Grow Back?
Hair loss due to PCOS will not naturally grow back on its own but there are steps you can take to help stimulate re-growth. Doctors will generally treat the root of the problem by prescribing medication like an oral contraceptive pill to address the hormonal imbalance and regulate menstruation.
For hair re-growth, your doctor or trichologist might prescribe Rogaine cream to apply to the scalp, as well as some natural remedies that are known to help.
Home Remedies For PCOS Hair Loss
In conjunction with medical treatment for the hormonal imbalance and a topical cream like Rogaine, the following natural remedies are known to lower androgen levels and encourage PCOS hair re-growth.
Biotin, also known as B-7, is a widely used natural supplement to strengthen hair, and a 2015 study reported that when taken for 90 consecutive days, it resulted in significant hair re-growth.
Holistic health experts recommend a daily scalp massage using cinnamon oil to improve blood circulation in the scalp, nourish hair follicles, and encourage the growth of healthy, strong hair.
Amla, also known as Indian Goosberry, is a proven natural tonic for hair. As well as fatty acids which deeply strengthen hair follicles, this fruit is also high in iron and carotene, both of which boost hair growth.
Fenugreek seeds are believed to reduce the ability of DHT from attaching to hair follicles, thus slowing hair loss associated with PCOS. Holistic health experts recommend soaking two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Using the same water, grind the seeds into a sticky paste, which should be applied to the hair roots and left for twenty minutes.
Results from a 2016 study revealed that women with PCOS who took 50 mg of zinc in supplement form for eight weeks experienced less hair loss.
Inositol is a type of sugar naturally made in the body to balance moods, fertility, cholesterol, blood sugar, and metabolism. Concerning women with PCOS, researchers have found that a combination of Myo and D-Chiro Inositol in supplement form can promote hormonal balance and influence the use of insulin.
The added ashwagandha and vitamin D in the Myo and D Chiro Inositol Supplement from Intimate Rose also regulate brain hormones like serotonin and dopamine to reduce stress, which can be a significant factor when it comes to hair loss.
If you are experiencing hair loss, consider switching to a soft hairbrush and taking more time to gently brush your hair. Get rid of any harsh shampoo, conditioners, or hair products. Instead, use products that are paraben-free and sulfate-free, and avoid using curling irons, hair straighteners, or blow dryers that could further damage your hair.
Many women with PCOS suffer from unexplained weight gain due to imbalanced hormones and heightened insulin levels. However, research has shown that even a 5% loss of body weight can significantly help to lower androgen levels and insulin resistance as well as reduce PCOS symptoms such as hair loss.
If you have PCOS, look for motivation in regular exercise to avoid becoming discouraged. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous - brisk walking, hiking, yoga, or cycling three times a week is a great place to start. And even if the weight drops slowly, which it can with PCOS, exercising will always lift your spirits and make you feel better.
In addition to regular exercise, healthy food choices are crucial when it comes to managing PCOS symptoms. Due to the insulin resistance associated with the condition, sugary foods, pop drinks, junk food, and processed food should be avoided.
Foods that are high in fiber like leafy greens, whole grain bread, and pasta as well as nuts and seeds will help to reduce insulin levels, encourage weight loss and generally improve PCOS symptoms like hair loss.
Although hair loss caused by PCOS does not usually re-grow on its own, medication, hair treatment creams, and a combination of home remedies can stimulate the hair to grow again. It is important to note that the key in re-growing hair lost from PCOS is to first treat the root of the problem – the hormonal imbalance, by speaking with your doctor.
It is also recommended to consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements, especially if you already take medication for another condition.
Johns Hopkins Medicine – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
Vedix – Ayurvedic Ways to Treat PCOS Hair Loss - https://vedix.com/blogs/articles/pcos-hair-loss
National Center for Biotechnology Information - A Review at the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28879195/
Web MD – What to Know about Fenugreek For Hair Growth - https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/what-to-know-fenugreek-hair-growth
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Dietary intake, body composition and metabolic parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30449604/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Effects of Inositol(s) in Women with PCOS: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5097808/