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.
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.
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.
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…
There are also some treatments you can try for additional hair growth, such as:
And even some natural remedies you can try at home, like:
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.
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.
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, PMS 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.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter