Hair thinning, balding and abnormal hair loss in women is called female pattern hair loss, androgenetic alopecia or hormonal hair loss. This is due to fact that excess male hormones or androgens in women can affect the health and normal growth of hair.
Androgenetic Alopecia is fairly commonly observed in PCOS hair loss.
In addition, women may also notice hair thinning, loss and balding in their 50s or 60s or around menopause. It usually is a sign of hormonal shifts and natural aging process.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore! Every morning, I wake up and find more of my hair on the pillow.”
“My hair has become so thin that my scalp is clearly visible through the fine lines of my leftover hairline. I feel embarrassed and always trying to hide my hair under a scarf or cap”.
“I’m afraid to comb my hair, because each time I do, I feel like I lose half my hair.”
“I can’t even wash my hair these days because it just clogs up the drain!”
“I need to reverse this hair loss!”
These are some of the most common concerns that we hear from our patients. Yet, these are not the stories of a hair fall that is “normal”.
Such extensive hair loss in women is extremely damaging to her self esteem and mental wellness. The anxiety and stress that results due to concerns of looks further aggravate her existing hormonal imbalances.
This post is dedicated to all those women, who are struggling with constant hair thinning, hair loss and balding.
We will dig deeper into the root cause of a androgenetic alopecia and Hair Loss in women. Also, we will go through Ayurvedic natural solutions, diet and herbs to support hair health. Let’s get started!
What is Androgenetic Alopecia (Hormonal Hair Loss)? Is it Common in Women?
Thinning, balding and loss of hair is called alopecia. When it is related to hormone imbalance and genetics, it is known as androgenetic alopecia.
Alopecia Totalis is total or complete balding.
Men are 3 times more likely to observe androgenetic alopecia than women. Usually for men, the hair loss starts from the temple and takes a typical “M” shape at the center of the head, leading into a receding hairline.
Also, the extent of hair loss and balding in men is observed in wider areas of the head. That’s why hair loss in men is often termed as male pattern hair loss or balding.
The type and intensity of hair loss that women go through due to androgenetic alopecia is termed as Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL).
Androgenetic alopecia in women doesn’t usually result in receding hairline but there are of course exceptions.
Usually FPHL causes extensive hair thinning and hair loss, specially at the center of the head and around the central parting.
FPHL is Internationally measured on Ludwig scale as shown below.
- Stage 1: Low level thinning and hair loss. This can usually be hidden with hair styling.
- Stage 2: Moderate level loss of hair and thinning. The scalp is starting to become visible.
- Stage 3: Significant hair thinning and loss. Balding is evident on major frontal portion, top and on the sides
The excess circulating androgens, specifically dihydrotestosterone (DHT), affect the hair follicles causing miniaturization of the hair.
As a result, thicker, pigmented, longer-lived “terminal” hairs are replaced by shorter, thinner, non-pigmented hairs called “vellus.” This means that the hair that grows back in each cycle is thinner.
Thus, the affected hair strands grow back thinner with each cycle till they no longer grow back leaving areas devoid of hair.
Hair Loss and Balding
Generally, it starts with you shedding some hair, and then it gets worse. Then the crown of your head starts to become more visible as hair loss continues and it gets worse and worse. You may observe one or all of the hair loss symptoms:
- Hair loss in the front portion and or the sides
- Hair thinning and loss from the parting, thus revealing your scalp significantly
- Receding of hairline above the temples, thus making your forehead look out of proportion
Hormones and Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) in Women | The Relationship
Female Pattern Hair Loss is of the most common hair health complaints of women struggling with PCOS, Menopause symptoms and severe hormone imbalance.
It has been observed that hair thinning and baldness greatly affects 75% of women post menopause, primarily in the age group of more than 65 years old.
Here’s what happens:
PCOS Hair Loss
Women with PCOS have much higher levels of androgens circulating in their blood. This is actually one of the triggers of polycytic ovaries in the first place.
Now, the androgens are present in female body in 2 forms: Testosterone and DHEA.
PCOS Women, who struggle with female pattern hair loss tend to convert testosterone into DHT at a higher rate than others.
And/Or her hair follicles are more sensitive to DHT due to genetic predisposition.
As we saw above, DHT can cause significant thinning, shorterning and loss of pigmentation of the hair.
That’s why some women with PCOS tend to lose excess hair as one of the health symptoms.
Hair Loss in Menopause
During perimenopause (from your early 40s to late 40s), the production of female hormones estrogen and progesterone significantly goes down.
Now, both of these hormones are essential for hair growth, hair thickness and their life cycle (meaning how long it stays on your head). When they go down, what happens is that:
- You grow less hair
- Your existing hair falls of faster
- And your hair becomes thin
That’s why one often struggles with hair loss in menopause.
Hair Loss after Pregnancy
Usually, hair falls out at a rate of 50-100 strands daily, which is normal. During pregnancy however, hormones keep hair in the telogen stage of hair growth, and hair cannot fall out at all.
As a result, the hair seems fuller. At childbirth however, as the hormone composition of the body reverts back to pre pregnancy levels, the hair that has been kept from falling now begin to fall out in clumps.
So, if you’re experiencing hair loss right after a childbirth, you need not worry much but take care of your nutrition and stress levels in specific.
If there’s no other underlying cause as hormone imbalance, it will stop eventually, and revert back to the 50-100 strands a day.
The Underlying Causes of Hair Thinning, Balding and a Receding Hairline in Women
1. Nutritional Deficiency
Balanced nutrition consisting of proteins, vitamins and minerals is required to maintain the hair follicle cycle.
These nutrients participate in hair growth and development as enzyme co factors, hormones, antioxidants, and immunomodulators. The right nutrients in the right proportions is essential. This is another reason it is essential to maintain a balanced diet.
That’s why it is important that you taken in a nutrient dense diet to support and nurture hair follicles, which in turn will be reflected in hair volume.
Some of the common nutritional deficiencies that directly affect hair growth are:
- Minerals: Zinc, Iron, Selenium and Calcium
- Vitamins: Vitamin D, C and E and B Vitamins that include Biotin (B7) and Choline (B4)
2. Excess exposure to Chemicals
If too many chemicals are lathered onto the hair in the form of shampoos, relaxers, perms, etc, it begins to damage the hair.
These chemicals also irritate the scalp and create imbalance in the follicles. Using natural products as shampoo, conditioner and hair mask is recommended any day to avoid this.
3. Tight Hairstyles and Constant Hair Pulling
When your hair is worn too tight, it irritates the scalp and in the long run it can also damage the follicles.
Also, for a person that is into the habit of pulling out their hair, the follicles will be injured. They might not grow out another hair.
If that happens, there’s the chance that the new strand of hair will be thinner and finer, leading to hair thinning. The hair can also be gray when it grows back.
Sometimes, hair loss is hereditary. Someone who is losing hair might have a close relative as an aunt, grand parent or sister or even mother who also struggled with androgenetic alopecia.
5. Insufficient Circulation
Poor circulation of blood to the follicles. If there isn’t enough blood circulation to the scalp, then it leads to scalp dryness and starvation of the hair follicles. This further affects the hair growth cycle and may lead to hair loss.
6. Other factors that cause Androgenetic Alopecia
- Inflammation that affects the scalp. It can also lead to hair loss, such as seborrhea, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
- Uncontrolled stress, anxiety, depression and disorders that affect your mental health.
- Eating disorders, which eventually cause nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalance symptoms in women.
- Medications that disrupt the hair growth cycle.
Modern Medicine and Cosmetic Treatments for Hair Loss in Women
In modern medicine, there is no proper treatment for androgenetic alopecia.
Based on your discussion with your doctor and your choice of treatment, you may be advised to apply or ingest steroid based medications as intralesional corticosteroids and systemic corticosteroids.
These medications artificially suppress the excessive androgens.
Or you could take other medications as may Minoxidil and Dithranol. Additionally, there are some cosmetic treatment options as described below.
However each of them has a lot of side effects like obesity, hypertension and skin thinning. Also, since these medications do not remove the cause, it often results into return of hair loss in women after she stops the treatment.
1. Hair Transplant
Hair transplant involves removing follicles from the healthy parts of the scalp where there is enough hair, and implanting them in the bald region.
The issue here however is that balding usually occurs throughout the scalp, and there might not be enough donor follicles.
Aside, it is expensive and causes scarring of your scalp. Also, the certainty of its efficiency varies widely among individuals. It works well in some, while it doesn’t in others.
2. Laser Treatment
Laser uses focused high intensity light on the scalp to stimulate circulation.
3. Minoxidil (Rogain)
It’s an approved drug for treating balding. It takes long before you start seeing results. If you stop using it however, before long, you will find that your hair is falling out again, going back to the way it was. That means you would have to use it for the rest of your life for it to remain effective.
The problem with Minoxidil is that it costs an arm and a leg, and still it turns out to be an undesirable liability. Rogain can also cause the undesirable effect of unwanted facial hair growth and progression of hirsutism in some women.
The use of wigs is purely cosmetic, whether partial or full wigs, and they can quickly hide those patches.
Hair Loss in Women | An Ayurvedic View
Hair loss in women due to Androgenetic Alopecia can be compared with “Khalitya” in Ayurveda. It is commonly observed as a sign of hormone imbalance like in PCOS and due to aging like in menopause.
This is because, as we age, the vata dosha becomes dominant. It is the primary dosha, which regulates circulation and growth of the hair follicles.
Thus, if one struggles with vata imbalance as a result of aging or hormone imbalances, then it leads to drying of the scalp. This drying leaves the hair follicles exposed and vulnerable. Eventually, they can get damaged. When this happens, it is only a matter of time that hair begins to fall out.
Aside this, pitta dosha imbalance can also cause inflammation to the scalp from inside. This acts in the form of hormone imbalance, which directly affect the hair follicles.
Additionally, if kapha imbalance is also there, then it can reduce circulation to the follicles. Also, it can clog up the hair follicles. This usually results into further aggravation of vata (dryness) and pitta (inflammation) of the scalp.
As a result, the hair follicles can get destroyed permanently, leading to extensive hair loss, which becomes irreversible.
Thus, all of the three dosha have a role to play in hair loss observed in androgenetic alopecia.
Ayurvedic Natural Remedies for Hair Loss in Women
Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to cure hair loss in Menopause, PCOS and in Androgenetic Alopecia. Ayurvedic treatment for hair loss includes practicing hair healthy diet, lifestyle, yoga, and physical therapies.
The sole focus of Ayurveda is directed towards improving your hair health and volume by treating the root causes of hair loss and health symptoms that are specific to you.
Thus, Ayurveda not only helps to treat the hair loss without any side effects (unlike modern medicine), but it also helps you to resolve other health symptoms that are you are struggling with as a result of high androgens and hormone imbalances.
Ayurvedic Herbs and Remedies to Stop the Hair Loss in Women
Here is a list of Ayurvedic herbs and therapies with benefits and directions of use. Each of them alone is capable of improving your hair health significantly. You can also apply them in combination or as directed by your Ayurvedic Doctor.
It is very useful and precious herb for growing and thickening the hair. Bringhraj (false daisy) soothes the scalp, strenghtens and nourishes the hair follicles and the hair itself.
It also treats the dry and damaged scalp. As an added bonus, it reduces cortisol levels. Thus, it relieves stress and improves mood.
You can make bhringraj oil from the dried leaves by heating them with coconut oil for ten minutes.
When ready to use, apply it to scalp and leave it for half an hour so it can be absorbed and then wash it away. Another benefit of Bringhraj oil is that it is useful for treating various other problems associated with skin and hair also.
Amla is loaded with vitamin C. This vitamin does the hair loads of good. It strengthens the hair and removes dandruff.
Amla oil when massaged into the scalp helps to boosts blood circulation. This leads to an increased supply of nutrients to the follicles, and to the hair in turn.
It also takes care of dandruff, balances pH, and performs antioxidant function due to its richness in vitamin C.
Alternatively, you can take amla juice in the morning for your health as a whole.
It takes care of a variety of hair problems including hair loss, bristle hair, dried scalp/hair, dandruff. As a bonus, it relieves stress and clears the mind.
Massage the scalp with brahmi oil and see the wonderful results.
4. Onion Juice
An application of onion juice to the scalp was demonstrated (in a research study) to significantly improve hair growth within 8 weeks of application in 87% of the people.
The sulfur compounds present in onion help to pacify vata and kapha dosha simultaneously. It also helps to clear up the blocked channels of the scalp and of follicles.
This involves inserting pure oils (sesame oil or coconut oil) or medicated oils to both the nostrils. You can add 1 drop to each of the nostril before you sleep in the night or after waking up.
Nasya lubricates the nasal pathways, removes dryness and soothes the nervous system. It prevents hair fall and accelerates hair growth.
Also, nasya is highly beneficial to prevent nasal blockade and problems of sinusitis.
6. Hair wash
According to Acharya Sushruta, the hair and head should not be washed with hot or very cold water. That could lead to a consequent reduction in the strength of the hair and eyes.
To keep your scalp clean and fresh, you should wash your hair once or twice a week with shampoo. It should be mild and free of chemicals.
You can also add these herbs that promote hair health to your shampoo:
- aloe vera
- fenugreek seeds
Ayurvedic Lifestyle to Prevent Hair Loss
Ayurvedic lifestyle guidelines include adopting a healthy daily routine that will support your hormone balance, regular digestion and thus growth of healthy hair tissues.
1. Make Sure that You are Getting Good Sleep
Good sleep for sufficient hours is a necessary element to balance the dosha, hormones and keep your digestiv fire intact. When you lack sleep, it increases stress levels , slows down your digestive fire and leads to build up of toxins (inflammation) in the body.
This further aggravates the problem of hormone imbalance and poor circulation. It also reduces your levels of Melatonin and Growth hormones, essential for hair health.
Thus, always make sure that you follow Ayurvedic guidelines to better sleep and improve your sleep quality.
2. Healthy Lifestyle Practices to Prevent Hair Loss
- Do not pluck at your hair.
- Minimise the use of hair dyes, hairdryer and curling.
- Use hair masks that rich in essential oils.
- Avoid wearing hairstyles that strain your scalp with tight braids or ponytails.
- Regularly massage the hair and scalp to improve circulation.
- Avoid harsh chemical products. It is advisable, in fact, best, to stick to natural products alone.
- Use natural shampoos, i.e. shampoos made from natural products.
- For cosmetic purposes (i.e, while you are taking the other measures to regrow your hair), you can wear your hair in a body wave to make your hair appear thicker and hide the patches or make other hairstyle that can achieve similar results.
3. Manage and Reduce Your Stress Levels
Stress, tension and anxiety are the primary causes and symptoms of high androgen build up and hormone imbalance that triggers androgenetic alopecia.
That’s why you should practice relaxation techniques and regular meditation to reduce your stress levels. This will help to treat the hair loss and hair fall at the root cause.
4. Exercise to Support “Asthi Dhatu” and Healthy Hair
Regular exercise (not excess) has immense health benefits for hormone balance and to strenghten the “Asthi dhatu” or the bone tissues.
It stimulates growth of healthy hair and prevents hair loss.
Exercise also helps you to balance your hormones naturally and improve circulation through out your body.
Conduct relaxing physical activities such as walk, yoga and strength building activities that will help you to tone up your muscles and increase the bone density.
All of this will have really positive effects for your hair health.
Foods and Diet for Hormonal Hair Loss and Hair Thinning
The strength of our digestive fire controls the availability of nutrients to our body tissues, including the hair.
That’s why, the health of your hair begins with the nutrients in your food and your body’s ability to make those nutrients available to your hair tissues.
Here are the guiding principles of a nourishing diet that will help you to address the nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalances.
- Your diet should pacify vata and pitta dosha to provide nutrition and moisture to your follicles.
- It should be anti-inflammatory in nature to prevent and reduce the existing inflammation in the body.
- The foods you eat should help you to naturally detoxify (bust the Kapha imbalance) and hence clear up the blockade in the follicles.
- You should also focus on circulation promoting foods that will help the nutrients in your food reach your hair follicles.
- Include foods that will help you to reduce the androgens and naturally balance your hormones.
1. Best Foods to Nourish the Hair and Promote Hormone Balance
- Take a balanced diet with sufficient proteins to build up your hair cuticles.
- Indulge in gourds and squashes as cucumbers and pumpkin. They are abundant in vitamins A, C and E, Minerals and Antioxidants to nourish the hair. They also pacify the vata and pitta dosha.
- Green leafy vegetables are dense sources of required minerals as iron, calcium, zinc and copper that support the growth of hair follicles and stimulate blood circulation. They also help to reduce excess androgens.
2. Foods and Diet to Reduce Androgens
- Eat vegetables and fruits that help to balance hormones and reduce excess andogrens. Some examples are: Apricots, green banana, cherry, coconut, kiwi, lemon, carrots, green beans, leeks, spinach, oats, quinoa and rice.
- Oils to prefer are Ghee, Olive Oil, and Coconut Oil.
- Prefer Astringent and Bitter tasting vegetables, fruits, and grains.
- Do not hold off hunger or delay your meals. Always eat on the same time every day.
- Avoid or take in moderation animal products like meat, dairy and eggs.
- Prefer cooling and normal temperature beverages such as coconut water, still water, and herbal teas.
3. Reduce Inflammation with these foods
- Consume foods that promote your digestive fire and help you to reduce inflammation. Some examples are: apple, berries, mangoes, oranges, avocados, asparagus, zucchini, cucumber, cabbage, celery, garlic, onions, sprouts, barley, oats and wheat.
- Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated at all times.
- Take salads in moderation during lunch time or morning, but avoid salads in evening.
4. Worst Foods to Avoid for Hair Loss in Women
According to Ayurveda heavy to digest and excessively spicy, sour, sweet and salty foods can disturb your body’s balance. Hence, whole foods that are well cooked with cooling herbs and spices be consumed.
Additionally, you should avoid processed foods and all the stimulants that create toxins in the body. Here’s a list of foods and dietary habits that you should avoid:
- Eliminate foods with a hot potency and hot temperature such as chili and cayenne pepper.
- Reduce your intake of non-veg foods, especially red meat or foods that are high on fat.
- Lower your intake of foods that have a high glycemic index.
- Avoid excess salt, chilies, spices, sour foods, and pickles.
- Reduce the use of caffeine, stimulants, refined sugar, and cold drinks.
- Stop consuming junk food, and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid untimely meals, multiple meals, late night foods, and snacks.
- Stop the consumption of processed foods and packaged foods.
- Remove and avoid smoking, alcohol and nicotine.
Pranayama and Breathing Exercises to Support Hair Health
Pranayama acts like as panacea and quite beneficial for hair care and in curing of baldness. It also helps in stopping of hair fall. Here are some highly effective breathing exercises to prevent PCOS hair loss in women and that in Androgenetic Alopecia.
- Kapalabhati Pranayama or the Head Shining Breath: It energizes the mind and clears the frontal lobe of the brain by speeding up the blood flow to the brain.
- Anuloma viloma or Alternative Nostril Breathing technique: It refreshes your entire body organ, especially the brain part and helps in the strengthening the hair and the hair follicles.
- Sheetali Pranayama or Cooling Breath: It is highly effective to pacify pitta dosha and to reduce excess heat in your body. Regular practice of Sheetali also helps to promote the digestive strength.
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Hair Loss in Women
Essential oils derived from plants and herbs carry antioxidants and micro nutrients that relax the mind, boost circulation and hence clear up the blocked channels.
Aromatherapy can be conducted by steaming or by direct massage on the hair. Do make sure that the essential oils are diluted sufficiently as in concentrated form, they can irritate and inflame the scalp, thus creating more problems.
For massage, use jojoba, almond, grape seed, coconut or sesame oils as the carrier. And for steaming, just add a few drops in the water along with other herbs and essential oils.
Here’s a list of oils that are beneficial for pcos hair loss in women and for androgenetic alopecia:
- Rosemary oil
Yoga to Regrow Healthy Hair & Prevent Hair Loss in Women
Regular practice of yoga supports natural hormone balance and helps to support the growth of “Asthi dhatu”. Thus, yoga not only increases your fitness levels but also protects your hair and makes them internally stronger.
Yoga supports the growth of healthy hair as it increases blood circulation to the head and the scalp region. Here are some yoga poses that you should practice to prevent hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia.
- Vajrasana – the thunderbolt pose is useful to calm you mind and tone up your digestive system. It supports regular bowel movement and natural detoxification of the body. This reduces the problem of excess hormones in the form of androgens.
- Shirsasana – the headstand pose enhances blood circulation to the scalp, stimulates the blocked channels in hair follicles and promotes growth of healthy hair.
- Sarvangasana – Shoulder stand pose is quite effective in increasing blood supply to the scalp region, thus improving the supply of nutrients to the hair follicles.
- Bhujangasana – the cobra pose improves blood circulation in vertebral column. Thus, it supports nervous system health. This in turn helps to reduce your stress levels, calm your mind and tone up your endocrine glands.
- Some other yoga poses that are also useful in reducing of hair fall, hair loss and baldness are:
- Shashank asana (the pose of the moon)
- Ushtrasana (the camel pose)
- Pawanmuktasana (the knee to chest pose)
- Uttanasana (Bending straight forward pose)
- Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)
Before You Go!
Ayurvedic treatment is not based on testing your willpower but it nurtures you to develop “self love” and switch on your body’s natural healing mechanism with the right diet and lifestyle.
Also, do note that hair loss due to hormone imbalance is progressive in nature if you do not treat the underlying cause. But, you can prevent it by pursuing a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle. Act Early to Prevent Health Issues Later!
Now we want to hear from you. Do write to us for any queries and feedback. If you have tried any of the above natural approaches for hair loss, then do share your experience with us. We will get back to you the soonest.
Wishing you vibrant health!
- A MANAGEMENT MODEL TO PROMOTE HAIR GROWTH FOR ANDROGENETIC ALOPECIA CASES THROUGH YOGA & AYURVEDA
- Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Alopecia: A Comprehensive Review
- Androgenic Alopecia
- Male Pattern Baldness (by Scott Ryals C.A.S)
1. Is PCOS Hair Loss Reversible?
Yes, PCOS hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia can be reversed if the hair follicles are still in a good state.
In this case, it is a matter of rebalancing the hormones, promoting the circulation in the scalp and body and also addressing the root causes of your specific PCOS hair loss symptoms.
Along with hair loss some women also struggle with extensive dandruff patches, dry and frizzy hair, split ends and really brittle hair.
All of these problems can be addressed by improving your hormone balance and also by taking in a nourishing diet that supports healthy hair growth.
However, if you have lost the hair follicles, then it is really hard to reverse the hair loss. You will need to protect your hair and prevent further hair loss.