Polycystic ovary syndrome is a medical condition that affects up to 1 in 5 women. It is characterized by 3 key factors:
- Increased androgen levels
- Irregular periods
- Enlarged ovaries and fluid filled sacs
Most women will only receive a diagnosis during a routine gynecological checks as they will be asymptomatic but may have other associated problems including:
- Decreased fertility
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Hirsutism or an increase in body hair is a common side effect of PCOS, it would be a safe assumption to think that it would include scalp hair, however often the adverse is true. PCOS can and often will lead to increased scalp hair loss. The cause for this is debated, some specialists argue that increased testosterone and androgens are to blame, but others lean towards there being a genetic or predisposition which makes and individual more sensitive to the androgens. The later is more widely accepted as often serum levels of free testosterone are within normal ranges.
Androgens especially DHT (dihydrotestosterone) shrink the hair follicle and shorten the cycle leading to fine hair and eventually complete destruction.
Types of Hair Loss Associated with PCOS
Shedding (Telogen Effluvium)
Any change in the internal environment can push the hair into the final stage of the hair cycle (Telogen) and cause them to shed. This may be due to an imbalance of hormones, introduction or change in medication and the symptoms may be short lived as the body adjusts or ongoing. TE will not lead to baldness as the hair is continually replaced.
Androgenetic Alopecia—this can occur in 2 forms.
Female Pattern Hair loss – hair is principally lost from the top of the head with it starting as a widening of the parting. It will not usually result in total hair loss but widespread thinning following the Ludwig scale.
Male Pattern Hair loss – hair recedes from the temples back to the occipital while the sides are largely unaffected. Baldness is commonplace and follows the Hamilton scale.
Both types have a genetic element which can make the condition worse for PCOS sufferers, however the hair loss is often slow and takes years to develop.
PCOS is often difficult to treat and requires a lifestyle change to manage most of the symptoms.
The main change comes from avoiding products and foods that have come into contact with endocrine disruptors. These are widespread in cosmetics and food preservatives as we are only learning of the long term impact. It is best to use organic and natural products as much as possible.
Ingredients to Avoid
BPA, Dioxin, Atrazine, Phthalates, Perchlorate, Fire retardants, Mercury, Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), Organophosphate pesticides, Glycol Ethers, Phytoestrogens, Parabens
Ingredients to Try
Use of anti androgens can reduce hair loss symptoms but should be directed by a medical professional. Minoxidil can be used but results are often poor and come with its own set of problems.
Oral contraceptives and topical solutions used in tandem, provide the best results but the addition of herbs that have the same effect can often be better for the body.
Saw palmetto, Peony & Licorice root are all natural DHT blockers which can help to reduce the effect of androgens naturally.
I want to give a huge shout out to my IG curlfriend, Jessica, who reached out to me when she found out I was doing research on this topic. She was so kind to want to help by sharing these linked articles written by doctors she and her team worked with. I hope you find them helpful.
Lara Briden— The Period Revolution: 3 Signs Your Period is Not Really a Period.