There’s no sugar-coating it: hair loss is tough. It can be a major blow to your confidence and make you feel like you’re losing control of your body. If you’re struggling with hair loss, know that you’re not alone. Many women experience hair loss, especially during times of hormonal changes in their lives. One common cause of hair loss in women is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In this article, we’ll go over some of the causes of hair loss from PCOS and how you can take control and feel better.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is common. It affects around 5% - 20% of women in reproductive age, although many women remain undiagnosed. A diagnosis of PCOS can take a very long time, making it difficult for women to receive the right support. The three main features of PCOS are:
The exact reason why some women develop PCOS, and others don’t, is unknown. However, you are more likely to develop PCOS if this runs in your family. Women with obesity or insulin resistance are also more likely to develop PCOS.
If you have noticed signs of PCOS, contact your doctor so they can investigate this further and help you get the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Each woman with PCOS is affected differently – some are not bothered by the condition as they never develop any severe symptoms; others struggle to manage the condition and this starts affecting their confidence and mood. Some women are also at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes and insulin resistance - this means that your cells may become resistant to the effects of insulin and your body will try to compensate by producing more insulin. But this can cause your ovaries to produce more testosterone and as a result, you may gain weight, notice acne, increased facial hair, and hair loss from your scalp.
You may not require a treatment for PCOS but it is important to discuss this thoroughly with your GP so you can see how much the condition is affecting you and how to manage it. Your GP may refer you to a gynaecologist if you are planning for a family, or endocrinologist to help you manage the hormone imbalance. You may be recommended medication to regulate your menstrual cycle, help with insulin resistance, you may also be given anti-androgens to help you reduce the androgen excess in your body.
In addition, regular exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet can also significantly improve your symptoms, in some cases even hair loss. Looking after your mental health is equally important so make sure you have some downtime to unwind.
Hair loss is a very common symptom of PCOS and if this is why you came to this page, know that you are not alone. Two of the most common types of hair loss present in women with PCOS are female pattern hair loss and telogen effluvium.
Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is very common among women with PCOS and in fact, FPHL is more than twice as likely in women with PCOS compared to women without PCOS. This type of hair loss is quite complex as it has a genetic predisposition but is also heavily influenced by other factors such as your hormones, your diet, and your lifestyle. One of the key issues is the excess androgen levels, which interfere with the normal hair growth processes. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the androgenic hormone primarily responsible for this. DHT is a metabolite of testosterone, the main circulating androgen in the blood. Testosterone converts into DHT in the presence of a 5-alpha reductase enzyme that is found in the scalp. DHT then binds to cells in the hair follicles, weakening them and causing hair to fall out easily. The hair follicles miniaturise, becoming smaller in size and with a shorter growing phase, leading to thinner hair growth, and gradual loss of hair density over time. For many women, this is debilitating and can bring a deep sense of shame and embarrassment. Signs of FPHL include:
If you have seen signs of FPHL, it is always best to treat this early and you should contact a specialist.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is also sometimes present in women with PCOS. This may also be a secondary diagnosis to the FPHL. TE causes a disturbance in the normal hair growth cycle, making many actively growing hair follicles transition prematurely to their resting phase. This results in excessive shedding and loss of hair density all over your scalp. There can be many possible contributing factors to TE including iron deficiency, hormonal changes, starting or stopping some contraceptives, and increased levels of stress. Signs of TE include:
If you have seen signs of TE, rest assured that in many cases TE recovers within 3-6 months after the trigger event has been eliminated. For example, if you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, it is important to treat this with your doctor which can then reflect positively on your hair. However, if the TE continues for more than 6 months, it is considered chronic telogen effluvium in which case a hair loss treatment can be of great help. Additionally, if you have noticed signs of early FPHL, having TE at the same time may aggravate the condition further and it would be therefore important to treat this early.
Recognising signs of hair loss early and seeking treatment can help minimise hair loss and lead to better results. When it comes to taking control of hair loss from PCOS, there are many steps that you can take to help you take control of your hair loss and feel more confident about yourself:
The issue of hair loss from PCOS can be a difficult one to tackle, but it’s important to keep in mind that you are not alone and our hair loss specialists have helped many other women improve their hair density in similar situations. With the right treatment, the right specialist and the right attitude, it is possible to feel better and take control of your hair loss.
Minoxidil is the only medically proven treatment for FPHL although it has been found beneficial in numerous other types of hair loss, including chronic TE. Its exact mechanism of action has not been fully understood, but minoxidil has been known to increase the follicle size and therefore stimulate stronger and thicker hair growth. It also increases the blood circulation around the hair follicles bringing more nutrients and oxygenated blood, prolonging the growing phase of the hair growth cycle. This can overall help women slow down hair loss, and grow thicker and denser hair. The Belgravia Centre’s pharmacy prepares special formulations of minoxidil at different strengths and formulations, and with various additives to maximise effectiveness.
We also offer other natural and technological solutions that are combined to provide the optimum solution to prevent women’s hair loss, and an exceptional level of expertise. The HairMax LaserBand is a low-power laser therapy (LLLT) device that is cleared by the FDA to treat hair loss and has been designed especially for use on the scalp. These devices are suitable for home-use and are intended to promote stabilisation of hair loss and encourage healthy hair regrowth.
Hair Vitalics for Women is a one-a-day food supplement which contains a number of highly-targeted vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanicals required to make sure the blood being delivered to the follicles contains the nutrients needed for healthy hair growth. Some of the key nutrients included in Hair Vitalics for Women are selenium, biotin and zinc which help to maintain normal hair growth function, copper which helps to maintain the hair’s pigmentation, and the soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein – plant-derived phytoestrogens – which research has shown may reduce DHT in the blood.
Clinical treatment therapy can be booked in the clinic to help maintain the condition of the hair and scalp and stimulate activity in order to further encourage hair growth. Belgravia’s specially formulated shampoos and conditioners are designed for every hair type. They will not contribute towards hair loss stabilisation or regrowth but will help to maintain one’s hair and scalp in a healthy and vibrant state.
One of our 20 qualified hair loss specialists will be available to help you any time, at our Central London clinic or through a Zoom consultation if you live outside of London. They will examine your scalp and hair, and discuss your medical history, hair care routine, and lifestyle before they offer you a bespoke treatment plan tailored to your specific case.
If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. Take a look through our hair regrowth photo gallery which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world and contains over 1,000 sets of hair growth photos and verified reviews from patients of The Belgravia Centre.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.