Just when you think periods don’t wreak enough havoc on your body (cramps, mood swings, IBS, acne, insomnia) they can sometimes alter the condition of your scalp and hair too. So if you ever wonder why your scalp feels a little sensitive or your hair a little greasy at certain times of the month, your period could be the cause. MONPURE Resident General Practitioner Dr Simmy Kaur explains further…
How is the scalp and hair affected by our reproductive hormones?
The hair growth cycles are partially controlled by hormones and the extent to which your hair follicles respond to hormones is dependent on a number of factors, including genetics. These hormones can affect sebum production and cell turnover, which can affect how the scalp looks and feels.
How do these hormones change during menstruation and what effects can this have on the scalp and hair?
Prior to menstruation the hair becomes naturally oilier due to the high levels of circulating androgens (male hormones) – in particular testosterone. This can cause the hair to look ‘greasier’ in the lead up to your period.
During menstruation, the sudden drop in oestrogen can cause the hair to enter the shedding phase too quickly - causing a common, temporary type of hair loss called ‘telogen effluvium’ (TE). The hair does however grow back.
Some women may notice that their scalp becomes oilier after ovulation - there is some truth in this as the body releases more progesterone and testosterone during this time which can cause excess sebum production.
Should we avoid wearing tight hairstyles and using harsh chemicals on our hair during this time and instead use gentle products e.g. sulphate-free shampoo?
Wearing tight hairstyles can cause something called ‘traction alopecia,’ whereby the hair falls out as a result constant pulling. This can happen at any time of the menstrual cycle but it can be more apparent during your period due to the decrease in circulating oestrogen at this time.
It’s always good to avoid the use of harsh chemicals on the scalp and to use a sulphate-free shampoo. Sulphate free shampoos are much gentler on the scalp and prevent excess stripping of natural oils which are essential for healthy hair growth.
Is there anything we can do to prevent hair loss during menstruation?
The regular use of a scalp serum such as MONPURE’s Follicle Boost Hair Density Serum can be helpful at any time of your cycle. It’s good to use it regularly, a few times per week. This serum contains pumpkin seed extract which has been scientifically proven to block an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, helping to prevent hair loss. In addition to this, it contains fatty acids, antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties that are essential for good hair growth.
Can some period-related conditions such as endometriosis and menorrhagia (painful/heavy periods) cause hair loss?
Increased blood loss during heavy periods can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency can subsequently contribute to hair loss, so yes, this is possible. It’s important to contact your doctor if you feel that this may be happening to you as it is treatable with medication.
What else can women do to maintain optimum scalp and hair health throughout the month?
Taking a multivitamin and vitamin D can be helpful. Biotin, iron, folic acid, b12, vitamin C, zinc, and collagen supplements have also been associated with good hair growth, but it’s equally important to have a good healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and protein.
It’s also really important to make sure that you get enough sleep and have time to relax and recoup. When we don’t sleep well or we are stressed, excess concentrations of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ can cause the cells of the hair follicles to age prematurely, resulting in hair loss. Make sure you allow time for relaxation techniques if you have a busy lifestyle.
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