You might be au fait with how hormones can influence your skin and mood, but hormones have far-reaching effects that are felt from top to toe, including your hair. Let’s explore what to expect at every age.
Women’s Hormones and Hair
Who among women is immune to the seemingly mystical powers of hormones? Whether it’s coming off (or indeed, going on) a contraceptive pill, the transitions their bodies make in middle age or just that time of the month when even adverts seem to make them weep, women have all experienced the strange influences that hormones have over them.
While breakouts, back pain, and fluctuating moods are more commonly discussed, hormones also play a role in determining the health, quality, and strength of hair. One or other sort of hair issue is being impacted by hormones – though not necessarily an imbalance.
The natural shifts of human hormones throughout their lives can bring benefits and detriments, from the luscious locks a woman may be lucky enough to enjoy in pregnancy, to the finer, more brittle hair that stress can bring.
Here’s what to expect at every stage…
In your twenties
For all the career anxiety, turbulent relationships, and late nights you may endure, your hormone levels should be fairly stable in your twenties. One thing doctors often see with clients in their twenties is the effects of the contraceptive pill. Hair health is largely determined by having the right balance of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and the contraceptive pill can impact these levels.
Of course, that’s not to say you should make your contraceptive choices based just on your hair. While hair loss is more largely associated with post-menopausal women, it can happen any time after puberty.
Another factor can be just the normal ups and downs of a woman’s cycle. A woman may find her hair gets greasier quicker when she’s premenstrual, just like her skin gets duller and more congested. A woman is also generally on the tail end of the hormonal upheaval that adolescence brings, so a bit of an oily, cranky, dandruff-prone scalp is somewhat expected.
Hair is more likely to be affected by lifestyle factors like stress, experimental crash diets and generally being run down in your 20s, though if you’re experiencing problems that persist longer than two months, see a specialist.
In your thirties
No two experiences of transitioning to your thirties are the same – as evidenced by the fairly wide spectrum of hormonal possibilities. If you’ve managed to get through your twenties without having any thinning, you might get some in your thirties. You might also get your first few grey hairs, which might spur you to color your hair more regularly, leading to damage.
On the other hand, you might fall victim to estrogen dominance. If you have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, you can develop estrogen dominance. It’s not an increase in the quantity of a hormone that causes an issue, it’s the percentage difference you end up with.
Maintaining the right balance of hormones to have healthy hair, and estrogen dominance can be developed after exposure to certain chemicals known as endocrine disruptors in plastics or in tap water. This lack of progesterone can manifest as finer, thinner hair that breaks more easily.
Should you become pregnant in your thirties (or indeed, at any age), the rise in estrogen and progesterone can make the hair gloriously luscious and thick, especially in the last few months of pregnancy.
Essentially, the increase keeps the hair in the anagen, or ‘growth’ phase for longer. After childbirth, or after you stop breastfeeding, 50% of women experience what feels like a cataclysmic loss of hair, but it’s just the result of not shedding for so long. It’s usually self-limiting, and while distressing, should stop after three months or so.
In your forties
Your forties bring a mixed bag. You might become perimenopausal, decreasing your estrogen and progesterone, but stabilizing your iron levels when your periods ease up. Your scalp will become generally less oily, meaning hair washing is needed less frequently.
With less progesterone and estrogen, there’s little to inhibit the production of testosterone, meaning hair thinning does become more common from your forties onwards. If you are starting to notice thinning at any age, you should talk to the person who knows your hair best – your hairdresser. In the case of severe hair loss conditions, it is better to contact your GP or a trichologist.
In your fifties
With menopause likely in full swing, among other changes, your hair will most likely switch into the telogen “resting” phase somewhat permanently, which means you’re predisposed to shedding. It’s not that you produce more testosterone, it’s that you have less estrogen and progesterone to counter it.
Also, as your hair begins to lose its natural pigment, you’re more susceptible to sun damage. Melanin in the hair plays a role in defending against the sun. It’s even more important to use sun protection on your scalp and hair at this stage, as well as keep a close eye on your thyroid function.
Keep notes for around six months about your hair health before escalating to a specialist – though if you’re particularly concerned, go as soon as you wish.
In your sixties and beyond
You should be, post-menopause, at the most hormonally stable in your life – finally! The other hormonal factor that can affect hair is stress. Essentially, the excess cortisol and adrenaline, through a rather convoluted route, increase a woman’s testosterone function, which can lead to hair shedding.
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At this stage, hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is an option you can discuss with a doctor, to help with all of the transformations of these decades – not just your hair. Contact us for a free consultation.