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The Link Between PCOS and Hair Loss

Updated: Apr 10

Although no man likes to go bald, it’s usually something he expects … particularly if he had balding relatives. But as a woman, you’re shocked and dismayed when you start losing your hair. Why is this happening to you? PCOS may be the answer.

When it comes to your hair, you're baffled. You’re losing the hair on your scalp, but are extra hairy elsewhere. You may have a mustache, hair on your chin, long sideburns, or thick hair on your arms. Both balding and hirsutism (i.e., hairiness) in women are associated with a hormonal condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Approximately one out of ten women in their reproductive years has PCOS. About 10% of women with PCOS also have female-pattern hair loss (FPHL). Women of all races get PCOS, but you’re more likely to have it if your mom, aunt, or sister has it.

You’re also more likely to have PCOS if you’re obese. Women with PCOS have a range of symptoms, including FPHL and hirsutism. Black women are more likely to have excess hair than other races.

At Central Utah Dermatology, our medical dermatology experts treat all types of hair loss at our Richfield, Utah, office, including FPHL caused by PCOS. We make sure we identify all potential sources for your FPHL before customizing a treatment plan.

Are you struggling with hair loss? Here’s why PCOS may be the reason.

PCOS is caused by excessive androgen

Both women and men have the same sex hormones. They just have them in different proportions. If you have PCOS, your body produces more of the sex hormone testosterone (T) and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) than the average woman.

Too much T and DHT can affect virtually every system in your body. If you have PCOS, the excess androgens may:

  • Slow your metabolism

  • Make it hard to become pregnant

  • Affect your cardiovascular system

  • Create hair loss

  • Lead to excess hair on body and face

  • Make you prone to acne

When you have PCOS, your hair loss usually occurs at the top of your head, at your part, rather than at your hairline (i.e., top of your forehead).

How excess DHT affects your hair

Elevated levels of T and DHT circulate through your blood stream, affecting your organs and your skin.When it comes to hair loss, these excess androgens actually interfere with the follicles on your scalp that grow and hold hairs.

First, the follicles become thinner and smaller. These shrunken follicles aren’t able to produce or maintain hairs, so the hair falls out.

Next, due to the insufficiency of the follicles, your hairs grow through an accelerated cycle of growth and loss. The growth cycle of hairs consists of three phases:

  • Anagen (when the hair is growing) — 2-8 years

  • Catagen (transition phase) — 2-4 weeks

  • Telogen (rest) — 2-4 months

During the growth cycle, the hair starts as an onion-like object, which then produces a hair fiber. When the hair reaches the telogen phase, it no longer grows. As it reaches the end of the cycle, it falls out.

If you have PCOS, however, your growth cycle is shortened. It takes less time for your hair to stop growing, so that it falls out faster than normal. 

Hair loss treatments can help

If your hair loss is due solely or partially to PCOS, we may recommend hormone treatments to lessen the amount of circulating DHT. We may also recommend treatments that stimulate hair growth. Options include:

  • Birth control pills that contain estrogen and progesterone

  • Spironolactone to lower androgen levels

  • Finasteride to block conversion of T to DHT

  • Minoxidil to stimulate follicle growth

  • Hair transplants

If you’re losing more than 150 strands of hair a day, or notice your part widening, contact our Central Utah Dermatology office for hair loss treatment today. Call our friendly office team or use our online booking form.

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