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How To Handle PCOS Hair Loss

How To Handle PCOS Hair Loss

Written by Yoppie

21 Mar 2022

I have PCOS - what’s happening with my hormones?!

Why is hair loss one of the symptoms of PCOS?

What can I do about PCOS hair loss?

Can my doctor help with PCOS hair loss?

My PCOS hair loss is really getting me down - what can I do? 

If you’re struggling with hair loss due to PCOS, you’re not alone. It’s a common symptom, with studies in 2011, 2014 and 2016 finding that between 16% and 36% of patients suffered from ‘androgenic alopecia’, aka PCOS-related hair loss. Let’s take a look at why this happens, how to cope with it day-to-day, and what treatments your doctor might suggest. 

I have PCOS - what’s happening with my hormones?!

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where hormonal imbalances caused by the ovaries create excess hormones called androgens, leading to unusual symptoms such as irregular periods, acne, obesity, cysts, fertility issues, and more. 

Perhaps the strangest symptom of PCOS is that in some people it can cause abnormal hair growth all over the body (such as the arms, chest and stomach), while others will experience thinning hair on the head. Two entirely opposite (and frustrating!) symptoms, and yet they are commonly reported in cases of PCOS. 

Why is hair loss one of the symptoms of PCOS?

The ‘male’ hormones produced - androgens and testosterone - work to trigger puberty and stimulate hair growth under the arms and in the pubic areas when we go through puberty, but when PCOS causes an excessive amount of these hormones, people with periods may notice hair growing in places it usually wouldn’t, like on the face, neck, chest or stomach. 

Alternatively, these extra androgens may cause hair on the head to thin, particularly at the front. In women, this is often referred to as ‘androgenic alopecia’. There’s no telling whether your particular brand of PCOS will lead to hair growth or hair loss - it’s luck of the draw, and everyone experiences different symptoms. 

What can I do about PCOS hair loss?

Hair lost due to PCOS is unlikely to grow back without intervention, but there are some things you can try out to stimulate growth, slow down further hair loss, and mask thinning hair if you want to. Let’s start with what treatments might slow down hair loss…

  • Contraceptive pills - Since PCOS is a hormone-related condition, hormone management is important, and birth control can help with this by lowering androgen levels to slow down hair loss on the head
  • Anti-androgen medications - These can often be prescribed alongside oral contraceptives to balance androgen levels and help reduce hair loss

There are also some treatments you can try for additional hair growth, such as:

  • Minoxidil (known as Regaine or Rogaine) can be used to promote hair growth and is sometimes effective in people with PCOS-related hair loss. It can be bought over the counter and comes as a daily scalp treatment to give hair a thicker appearance. 
  • Hair transplant - In some cases, people may consider a hair transplant; a surgical procedure to redistribute healthy hair follicles by removing them from one area of the scalp and adding them to another - it’s expensive, so won’t suit everyone!
  • Laser therapy - This method has not yet been studied enough, but some people have seen results using low-level laser therapy to stimulate hair growth

And even some natural remedies you can try at home, like:

  • Scalp massage - This method is thought to stimulate the follicles in the scalp and encourage hair growth 
  • Zinc supplements - One 2016 study found zinc could help with PCOS-related hair loss, finding that 50mg of elemental zinc daily for 8 weeks had positive effects
  • Biotin supplements - This popular supplement is known for its positive impact on the growth of hair and nails, and while it hasn’t been tested specifically with PCOS-related hair loss, this could be something that works for you
  • Weight loss - There is evidence that a reduction in weight can lower androgen levels and, as a result, reduce hair loss
  • Supplements - find out more about Yoppie's Poly Complete Support that helps support hair loss and other PCOS symptoms.

Remember you may need to try a few of the above treatments until you find one (or a combination of a few) that works best for you. 

Can my doctor help with PCOS hair loss?

If your hair loss is caused by PCOS then it’s not just an aesthetic issue, so your doctor should be able to discuss possible treatments to stop further thinning, as well as treatments for the underlying PCOS itself. As above, there are many options available and some of these will need to be prescribed by a doctor, so see your GP to find out what’s best for you. 

My PCOS hair loss is really getting me down - what can I do? 

Thinning hair can be a difficult symptom to deal with, especially for those who identify as women… let’s not pretend there aren’t societal beauty standards at play! Understanding the cause (PCOS, for example) and exploring the options can help. Should you try medications? Natural supplements? Cover up with a hat? Try a wig or thickening spray? Or just embrace it? Whatever you decide, what matters most is that you feel confident in your appearance.

And don’t underestimate the power of talking! Sometimes the worry that people will stare or ask questions is the worst part, so take control of the situation and discuss it with friends and family so they understand your insecurities. You may find most people don’t even notice. 

Got more questions about PCOS or hair loss? We’re always happy to answer any queries you have. You can chat to us and others in our Full Stop FB group, or get in touch with us directly on Instagram at @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised menstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PCOS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, to help keep at least some of that PCOS pain under control each month.

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