PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a type of hormone imbalance in women that affects how the ovaries work, leading to a wide range of symptoms. Many women with PCOS experience hirsutism, which is excess facial and body hair growth. A lesser-discussed symptom of PCOS is hair thinning and hair loss, otherwise known as female pattern hair loss.
Hair loss can be an upsetting and unsettling experience for anyone, regardless of gender. However, generally speaking, hair loss is more widely accepted in men. Due to deeply ingrained societal beauty standards, many women feel that lustrous, healthy hair is a facet of their identity. Losing it can be especially difficult to come to terms with.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom!
Let’s explore the reasons why PCOS hair loss happens and what you can do to grow your hair back.
Does PCOS cause hair loss?
The female body produces male hormones called androgens; this includes testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of androgens, particularly DHT, can shrink hair follicles, leading to thinning hair, hair loss, and limp, brittle hair. Hair thinning due to the effects of increased androgen production is known as androgenic alopecia.
Telltale signs of androgenic alopecia include:
- Hair falling out mainly in the frontal and side (parietal) areas of the scalp
- Hair thinning around the parting area
- Hair receding above the temples
What’s more, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is believed to be more common in people with PCOS. It occurs in women with PCOS at three to four times higher than those without PCOS.
Severe and prolonged hypothyroidism can cause hair loss across the entire scalp. Studies suggest that the condition can also exacerbate the side effects of PCOS, creating the perfect storm for female hair loss and hair thinning.
Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast episode to learn more about reversing PCOS Hair Loss.
How to treat PCOS hair loss naturally
Don’t worry: we’re not going to tell you that the only option is a hair transplant!
Thankfully, PCOS-related hair loss can be treated at the root – in a literal and figurative sense. In addition to medical treatments approved by your doctor, such as oral contraceptives, there are a host of natural treatment options that you can try to improve the overall health of your hair.
Let’s take a look at the simple home remedies and dietary recommendations for fuller, healthier hair.
Please note that these tips do not substitute official medical advice or prescribed treatment from your doctor. You should always consult your doctor before trying a natural remedy, particularly if you are pregnant or nursing, have allergies or intolerances, or if you have any other known medical condition.
Rosemary oil is widely believed to prevent hair loss, reduce breakage and split ends, and stimulate hair growth. For centuries, rosemary oil has been used as a natural remedy to improve blood circulation in the scalp. Slow down graying hair, and ease dry scalp and dandruff.
In a scientific study, researchers compared the effects of rosemary oil extract and minoxidil (prescription medication for hair loss-related problems) on people with genetic androgen-related hair loss. They found that both treatments resulted in a similar efficacy, and rosemary oil was more effective in reducing scalp irritation.
Here’s how to use rosemary oil for hair regrowth
- Source a hair care product already formulated with rosemary and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Dilute pure rosemary oil in a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil. This must be done to reduce the rosemary oil’s potency, which can cause skin irritation. Mix around five drops of rosemary oil in the carrier oil. Massage into the scalp for 5-10 minutes, and rinse thoroughly. You can do this a few times a week. But make sure you’re also thoroughly washing your hair between treatments to avoid clogging your hair follicles.
- Mix rosemary oil with your shampoo or conditioner. This ensures you get the benefits of rosemary oil while washing your hair. Two to three drops of rosemary oil per one almond-sized amount of product will suffice. Make sure you thoroughly rinse your hair afterward.
As well as being a deliciously refreshing ingredient, studies have shown that spearmint is also a powerful anti-androgen. It’s believed to reduce testosterone levels, which can lessen the severity of female hair loss caused by excessive DHT.
Here’s how to incorporate spearmint into your hair care routine.
- Drink spearmint tea. You can either buy it from a store or make your own using loose leaf spearmint and a tea diffuser/kettle.
- Take it as a capsule supplement by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Apply spearmint oil to your scalp. Much like rosemary oil, spearmint oil must be diluted properly to reduce the risk of skin irritation. As a guideline, roughly 1 drop of essential oil should be mixed with every 5ml of carrier oil (such as canola or coconut). To apply to the scalp, add 10 drops of spearmint oil to 3.5 tablespoons of carrier oil. Mix the solution, and then massage the mixture directly into your scalp with the tips of your fingers. Leave it for 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Small but mighty, pumpkin seeds offer an array of nutritional benefits for a PCOS diet. Research indicates that they can block the 5-alpha reductase enzyme from producing DHT while simulating the follicles and delivering nutrients to the scalp.
Pumpkin seeds have been shown to increase hair count, thanks to their powerful concoction of iron, zinc, magnesium, beta-sitosterol, and essential fatty acids.
You’ll have no problem finding pumpkin seeds at your local grocery store. You can eat them raw, but they’re especially delicious when roasted in olive oil or butter. And seasoned with salt, pepper, or a seasoning of your choice.
Palmetto is a plant with small berries packed with potential health benefits. Much like pumpkin seeds, there is some evidence to suggest that palmetto berries block 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT and accelerates hair loss.
You’ll be able to find palmetto supplement capsules in your local health and wellness retailer. Make sure you consult your doctor about the recommended dosage and read the manufacturer’s instructions before ingesting.
Managing insulin resistance
Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant, which can cause insulin and sugar to build up in the bloodstream.
High levels of insulin is known to increase the production of androgens, which can lead to hair loss. Treating insulin resistance has been shown to combat hair loss and thinning in certain women with PCOS.
Ultimately, you can’t out-supplement a poor diet. For the additional natural remedies to work their magic, you need to manage insulin resistance through specific dietary choices. They might look like this:
- Reducing your gluten and dairy intake.
- Cutting down on carbs and figuring out your tolerance.
- Taking Ovasitol – a medical-grade supplement to help alleviate PCOS symptoms, including insulin resistance.
Once again, please consult your doctor before trying any of the above, as individuals can respond differently to dietary changes.
For more information on how to combat insulin resistance through your diet, check out our podcast here.
You don’t have to accept PCOS-related hair loss as a permanent problem. There are a host of treatments, remedies, and dietary changes that, when used together, can help you keep a full, healthy head of hair.