Hair and Hormones Explained

Ever noticed your hair is limp or oily when you’re on your period? Or maybe there are certain days of the month when you feel as if you’re having a really great hair day. In this post, we’re going to unpack the link between hair and hormones and tackle topics such as oily hair causes and how hair changes during the menopause, pregnancy, and with certain cycle conditions.

photograph of shiny, flowing hair

How does hair change throughout the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is regulated by certain sex hormones that can have a direct effect on the way we look and feel. The way your hair behaves is very individual and how oily your hair is to begin with may affect how it changes throughout your cycle - there are also other factors such as environment, stress, and diet that can impact changes to hair. 

Research around hair and the menstrual cycle is limited, but we do know hormones can impact how we feel, and there is evidence to suggest they can also impact our hair’s appearance and even cause dryness or oiliness.

Period hair care

Right at the beginning of your cycle, in the first days of your period, you may find your hair is oilier than usual. One study found that participants reported the most amount of bad hair days in the week of menstruation. However, the study also showed that there was no increase in sebum (an oily secretion found on the skin) during this time. One explanation for this could be our own mood and perception of how we look during our periods. Whether these oily hair causes come down to self-image or basic biology, you may want to adjust your period hair care to suit.

Thankfully towards the end of the period and in the days following, estrogen levels increase This important female sex hormone is associated with feelings of confidence and increased energy. Hair should no longer be oily and may tend to be more on the dry side. You may find that you don’t need to wash your hair as much during this first part of the cycle.

Ovulation hair

As ovulation approaches, we tend to look and feel our best. A good hair day may be down to an increase in hormones or just the feel-good vibes of ovulation, either way this is a good time to take on new challenges and make the most of those positive feelings. 

During this phase in the cycle we tend to feel most confident, energetic, and have an increased sex drive. Hair may start to become a little oilier at this point in the cycle too.

PMS hair

As the cycle comes to an end, our mood tends to dip, breasts can feel tender and we’re more sensitive to pain in general. One study found that the most sebum was released in the week before menstruation, causing hair to appear greasy and lifeless, this is also the time when we’re more prone to breakouts due to oily skin - that’s right, there’s also a direct link between your skin and your cycle

These unpleasant symptoms are caused by high levels of the hormone progesterone - also responsible for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Progesterone levels stay high until you get your period and a new cycle begins. 

Hair and puberty 

Did you experience more breakouts as a teenager? Did your hair also feel greasier too? These are both likely caused by the sex hormone testosterone, which is a major player in both female and male reproductive development. Testosterone is thought to increase the production of sebum which is the substance that can make both skin and hair feel oily.

Pregnancy hair

Many report an increase in the thickness of hair during pregnancy. This is due to the hair follicle itself having an increased life cycle. This amazing hair preservation is caused by the hormone estrogen. After giving birth it’s common to notice more hair loss, but this shouldn’t be cause for concern as the accumulated hair growth falls out as your hormones return to previous levels. 

While some may experience thicker-feeling hair, others may experience hair loss during pregnancy. In this case, growth should return once the hormone levels rebalance a few months after giving birth. 

Hair and menopause

There are several changes to hair that can happen during menopause. Shifts in hormone levels can lead to both excess hair growth (hirsutism) and hair thinning. Some may also experience female pattern hair loss due to changes in the body at this time. While some report hair feeling more brittle or thin, it’s not 100% clear how much of this is due to the menopause itself and how much is down to aging more generally. 

Keep in mind that other factors such as stress can also have an impact on hair during menopause. If you are experiencing menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms, that are interfering with your every day life, or affecting your wellbeing, talk to your healthcare professional for advice and treatment options. 

Hair and diet

Remember it’s not just hormones that can have a direct impact on your hair. Diet also impacts hair growth. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can promote healthy hair and well-being more generally. Hair loss can be a sign of an imbalance diet or a symptom of malnourishment caused by conditions such as eating disorders. 

Hirsutism and PCOS

Cycle conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also cause hirsutism - making hair grow thicker and darker on the body and face. This extra hair growth is caused by excessive production of hormones called androgens which are produced in the ovaries. If you have questions or concerns about PCOS or hirsutism, talk to a healthcare professional to learn more.

Because every cycle is unique

Thanks for reading up on hair and hormones. It’s important to remember that all our bodies are different, and while our hormones may contribute to how we look and feel, there are many other factors at play, including stress, aging, our mood, and our environment.

At Natural Cycles, we’re dedicated to closing the knowledge gap when it comes to female health, one topic at a time. Our FDA cleared app offers users the chance to plan or prevent pregnancy completely hormone-free, all while learning more about their bodies. Why not find out if Natural Cycles could work for you today?

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.

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