By Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
PCOS and hair loss are definitely linked, in fact, hair issues are one of the most common symptoms of PCOS. Whether it hair loss on the head or growing it in unwanted places (hirsutism), this is a struggle that many of us face. When I was struggling with PCOS and hair loss, it really added to my sense of depression and isolation, and it exacerbated emotional issues. Hair loss can either be genetic, the result of an illness (commonly thyroid), medications, stress, or environmental factors.
If you have PCOS and you keep finding hair in the shower drain or when you comb your hair, the two conditions might just be linked. Fortunately, there are natural steps you can take to treat the issue before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
The Link Between PCOS and Hair Loss
Women with PCOS commonly experience excessive hair growth either on the face or elsewhere in the body, but some cases have the exact opposite – hair loss – happen. This condition is referred to as female pattern hair loss. How can a condition that causes excessive hair growth also cause hair loss? Let’s take a step back and understand what happens to our hormones when we have PCOS.
All humans produce hormones called androgens including testosterone, which many consider a “male” hormone. Androgens are largely responsible for ushering in puberty which causes massive physical changes to the body such as increased height, muscle mass, stronger bones, and of course hair growth in the underarms, face, and pubic areas.
A hallmark of PCOS is abnormal androgen production which results in excess hair growth in places where hair is less welcome on women like the face, neck, chest, and abdomen.
At some point, this excess androgen production can lead to hair loss, especially near the front and crown of the scalp. This is what we refer to as female pattern hair loss or androgenic alopecia.
While this symptom is more or less physically harmless, it is not culturally celebrated to have thinning hair. If you have this, you must be asking “will it grow back?”
Dietary adjustments for PCOS and Hair Loss
The first and perhaps the safest way to reduce hair loss is to eat food with nutrients that can help hair grow back. Focus on including whole foods in your diet which include:
- Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for cellular growth. This includes hair, the body’s fastest growing tissue. This vitamin also directly affects skin glands and helps produce sebum, a type of oil it secretes. Sebum moisturizes the scalp and promotes healthy hair growth. Foods containing Vitamin A include pumpkins, spinach, kale, and carrots. It can also be found in eggs and yogurt (stick to limited amounts of Greek).
- B-Vitamins. B vitamins also in to how much hair we grow or how fast it grows. Biotin, especially, is thought to be linked to hair growth as studies show hair loss and biotin deficiency is deeply correlated. Biotin, as well as the other really good B vitamins, can be found in whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, and dark leafy greens. Vegans or vegetarians, and anyone taking Metformin or the birth control pill should consider taking B12 supplements since B12 is not as abundant in plants and is depleted by these medications.
- Vitamin C. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight against free radical damage. Free radicals can reduce hair growth and even cause hair to age or to not grow like normal (split ends, cracks, crumpled appearance, etc.). Also, vitamin C is also critical for collagen production, a protein important for hair structure. Sources include Strawberries, peppers, and citrus fruits.
- Vitamin D. Also known as the “sun vitamin,” vitamin D is produced by our body when we get sun exposure. We can also get vitamin D from fatty fish, cod liver oil, and even some mushrooms and fortified foods. Scientists are unsure just how important vitamin D is for hair growth, but it could help with creating new hair follicles.
- Vitamin E. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant and helps fight oxidative stress. Some studies agree that subjects with severe hair loss experienced a significant increase in growth after a few months’ worth of supplementation. You can source vitamin E from sunflower seeds, spinach, avocados, and almonds.
- Iron deficiency plays a role in hair loss, especially for women due to ovulation and menstruation. Women who give birth also often experience hair loss as they’re losing a substantial amount of iron which warrants the necessity of proper iron intake during pregnancy. Oysters, eggs, spinach, and lentils are all good sources of iron.
- Not many are aware of this, but zinc is one of the most vital minerals for human survival. It’s known to be a factor for hormonal balance and cellular growth, making it just as important when it comes to healthy hair growth. In fact, studies show hair loss as a common symptom of zinc deficiency, and similar studies suggest zinc supplementation helps reverse or slow down hair loss. The problem is, there is a danger to over supplementing zinc. It could be better to simply get zinc from whole foods like oysters, beef, lentils, and pumpkin seeds.
- Hair is ultimately made up of protein, and protein deficiency could be the reason why hair is thinning. This is a rare case for those who regularly eat meat, but could be a small issue for those on a plant-based diet.
Supplements to treat hair loss
Since we know the best nutrients that directly influence hair growth, getting some in supplement form makes sense. I suggest a high-quality multivitamin as a foundation. Also consider vitamin D, but be sure it includes K1 & K2 for better absorption. If you are wondering how to choose the right level of supplement or the right combination of supplements for PCOS, download my free PCOS Supplement Guide.
Essential Oils for PCOS Hair Loss
Essential oils are very useful in treating PCOS, but they can also help to stimulate the hair follicles and decrease the amount of hair loss. Remember that a major part of the hair loss is due to hormonal imbalance and higher levels of testosterone. Therefore, it is also important to utilize oils to balance out the progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone levels as well.
Exciting research has shown that individuals with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease of the hair follicle, had positive effects with aromatherapy. Patients were treated with essential oils like thyme, rosemary, lavender, evening primrose oil, and cedrus in a mixture of carrier oils such as jojoba, grapeseed, almond, lemon and soy oils versus the control group that only had the carrier oils. The study showed that aromatherapy was significantly more effective than placebo and safe in treatment of localized alopecia areata.
For more about how to use essential oils for PCOS as well as hair loss, check out Essential Oils for PCOS.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
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