Hair Loss & PCOS
PCOS Hair Loss and Hair Care
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders in women, affecting 5-10% of reproductive-aged women. Diagnosis is generally made based on the presence of irregular menstrual periods, elevated male hormone levels (androgens), and polycystic ovaries. PCOS is associated with obesity, insulin-resistance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These metabolic and reproductive abnormalities predispose women to developing infertility and endometrial cancer, which is why early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are so important.
PCOS Side Effects
PCOS-related hair loss is most commonly associated with a genetic predisposition and follicle sensitivity. PCOS can cause hyperandrogenism, a state in which the body produces too many androgens (male hormones). If hair follicles are androgen-sensitive, this can decrease the growth of hair on the scalp and increase the growth of body and facial hair (called hirsutism), especially when androgen levels are excessive. Other dermatological symptoms of PCOS include acne and areas of dark, velvety discoloration in body folds and creases (called acanthosis nigricans). A study on 100 women with PCOS showed 78% had hirsutism and 31% had female pattern hair loss (FPHL). PCOS is the most common endocrine-related cause of FPHL.
PCOS Hair Care: Treatment & Tips
There are currently no FDA-approved anti-androgens drugs for PCOS, however, ask your doctor about medications if you’ve been diagnosed with hyperandrogenism. Treating this condition with anti-androgens or androgen receptor blockers can help prevent excessive facial and body hair, although these drugs do little to help scalp hair grow back.
The only approved treatment for FPHL, women need to apply a dose of 1ml. twice a day of 2% topical minoxidil for a minimum of 12 months. Minoxidil induces telogen hairs to enter the anagen phase, thereby prolonging anagen duration. Although minoxidil has proven efficacy in increasing hair count and weight, the exact mechanism of action is not completely understood. In the first months of treatment, results may not be evident and hair may continue to shed. It’s important not to give up because it takes at least a year to assess whether the treatment is effective.
Side effects such as allergic or contact dermatitis can occur, but are uncommon. This is related to propylene glycol, but can be avoided by using the 5% foam, which doesn’t have this ingredient. A recent study on females showed applying 5% foam once a day was as effective as using the 2% solution twice a day. One must be careful not to get it on the face or forehead, because accidental spillage may cause unwanted hair growth in these areas.
Birth control pills:
These help increase two naturally occurring hormones in females: estrogen and progestin. In addition to reducing hair loss, they can help regulate menstrual periods, reduce the level of androgens produced by the ovaries, and decrease acne.
Medications like metformin increase the body’s receptiveness to insulin, keeping glucose levels in balance. Other benefits include reduction of acne and unwanted hair growth, stimulation of scalp hair growth, weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, more regular periods, and a decrease in infertility problems commonly associated with PCOS. About 25% of women taking metformin experience side effects such as abdominal discomfort, cramping, diarrhea, and nausea.
Saw palmetto helps suppress testosterone levels. Taking 320 milligrams daily for 6 weeks or longer can help, but this should not be taken if you are pregnant or nursing. Seven to nine milligrams of biotin daily is thought to help promote hair growth. N-acetyl Cysteine has been shown to reduce testosterone and improve insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
Eat a healthy diet with few artificial foods, a bevy of greens and vegetables, and a good balance of carbs and proteins. Reduce stress because it can lead to increased cortisol. This hormone worsens hair loss and is linked to more serious health issues such as increased weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart disease, as well as lower bone density and immune function. Exercise helps reduce hair loss because it reduces testosterone. It is also important to get adequate sleep every night because chronic insomnia can add to hormonal imbalances and cause weight gain.
Hair products and styling:
Do not perm, dye, or bleach your hair and limit the number of products you use, especially those containing alcohol or sulfate. These ingredients can deprive your hair of essential oils and impede healthy growth. Jojoba oil is believed to be effective at improving the quality of hair, preventing hair loss, and helping hair regrow. Before taking a shower, warm about 1 tbsp. of jojoba oil and massage it into the scalp. Wash it out of your hair just like shampoo. You should also not pull your hair back because this can cause additional stress on the scalp and bald patches if you are already suffering from FPHL.
Concealing Hair Loss
For partial hair loss, hair toppers are a good way to fill in areas of sparse hair and offer a welcome alternative to wearing a full wig. They come in different sizes and configurations so that you can target your specific area of hair loss. They clip right into your own hair and can be integrated for a seamless look. Cute beanies, stylish hats and pretty head scarves are a fun, fashionable way to conceal areas of thinning hair and can cover any degree of hair loss.
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