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Low Estrogen Levels Can Be Linked To Thinning Hair: Here’s What Can Help

Even just drinking your favorite tea can help

For all women, estrogen is essential for sustaining the hair growth phase and boosting hair density on the scalp. But owing in large part to genetics, the follicles of some women are particularly dependent on the hormone, says endocrinologist Geoffrey Redmond, MD. This means even slight declines can set off shedding. And for women whose follicles rely heavily on estrogen, problems tend to crop up around perimenopause, when the hormone breaks its predictable monthly pattern and begins a downward trend.

Unlike the in-your-face signs of menopause, indicators of waning estrogen are easy to miss. “Beyond increased hair shedding, the symptoms are very subtle,” says Dr. Redmond. “They might include lighter periods, a little bit of vaginal dryness, feeling a bit more warm than you did before — not enough to really register as a hot flash, just a little more warm.”

Though there are no official stats on how many women experience hair loss in response to estrogen decline, Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure, notes that 50% of women have hair loss at age 50, and reduced estrogen is thought to be among the top triggers. Diagnosis depends on careful detective work, says Dr. Redmond: Since blood levels of estrogen can fluctuate from day to day, there’s no reliable lab test. So it’s important to monitor your symptoms and give your doctor a full report.

mature woman looking at hair loss
Tatiana Foxy/Getty

You’re likely dealing with low estrogen if you’re losing hair and you…

  • Notice your periods are lighter than usual
  • Experience mild vaginal dryness
  • Have fleeting sensations of feeling overheated

These easy strategies can help

1. Try an estrogen patch

For 90% of his patients who fit this low-estrogen profile, Dr. Redmond prescribes transdermal estrogen in the form of a gel or a patch. “Compared with pills, transdermal estrogen delivers more consistent blood levels,” he explains. “It’s also derived from a plant source, and it’s natural in the sense that it’s identical to what the ovary makes.” He adds that estrogen delivered through skin is less likely than oral forms to cause blood clots and other side effects. FDA-approved estrogen patches include the brands Alora, Climara, Estraderm, Menostar and Vivelle. Gels include Divigel, Elestrin and EstroGel. Your gynecologist can advise you on what type is best for you.

In the majority of cases, estrogen replacement stops hair shedding, says Dr. Redmond. One study in the journal Dermatologica looked at patients who had lost at least 20% of hair volume and found that a modest concentration of topical estrogen (.025%; for comparison, EstroGel contains .06%) stabilized shedding in 63% of volunteers within six months. Estrogen often restores lost hair too, says Dr. Redmond. Just understand that the dose may need some tweaking along the way. Because hair is a nonessential tissue, says Dr. Redmond, stopping the loss sometimes requires a larger dose than it takes to ease hot flashes and sexual symptoms.

If the hormone works for you, you’ll have to stay on it to maintain results. But if your hair loss tends to be gradual — which is not unusual in this scenario — even a few years on estrogen can make a positive difference in how you look years down the road.

2. Eat phytoestrogen-rich foods

Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants and plant-based foods that mimic estrogen in the body. Nutritional experts explain that when they enter the body, they are recognized by the body’s estrogen receptors. Although their effects may be weaker, their similarity to estrogen makes them beneficial in helping the body during times when estrogen deficiency may cause health concerns.

Where to find them:

bowl of dates

In soy: Soy contains compounds called isoflavones, which, when consumed, help boost falling levels of estrogen. The recommended dose: at least 50 mg. a day — the amount in a 7-oz. serving of tofu, 12 cup of miso soup or 23 cup of cooked edamame.

In dried fruits: Nutrient-rich and easy to enjoy as a snack, dried fruits like dates, prunes and apricots are packed with phytoestrogens that have been shown to increase estrogen levels. Get the benefits by eating 14 cup of dried fruit daily.

In sesame seeds: Rich in phyto­estrogens, among other important nutrients, one study found that the consumption of sesame seed powder can boost estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. In fact, in another study, women who consumed 14 cup of sesame seed powder daily for five weeks not only had increased estrogen activity but also had improved blood cholesterol.

3. Sip on green tea

woman holding cup of green tea

Age-related declines in estrogen can lead to an excess of testosterone, including hair shedding on the top of the scalp. The good news? Drinking three cups of green tea daily can spur regrowth in thinned-out areas! How? According to scientists at Korea’s Laboratory of Cutaneous Aging and Hair Research, green tea contains compounds that reduce testosterone activity, allowing thinning areas to grow back.

Even more reasons to get estrogen levels in check

Balancing the body’s stores of the hormone does more than just thicken hair. Here, how it can help with other aging woes.

It eases knee pain

Women are 40% more likely than men to develop knee osteoarthritis, as declining estrogen levels with age can increase joint pain. But maintaining estrogen levels will help ensure joints and bones stay healthy and lubricated, side­stepping aches and pains.

It keeps skin firm

A decline in estrogen in the body can slow the activity of fibroblasts (cells that produce collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin taut), causing the loss of skin’s elasticity. But increasing levels of the hormone will up fibroblast production so skin will stay smooth, supple and youthful.

It thwarts hot flashes

Declining estrogen throws off the internal thermostat of 75% of menopausal women. So when the brain detects tiny changes in body temperature as too hot, it triggers a flash of sweat to release heat. But restoring estrogen to premenopause levels will keep body temperature balanced to lessen the chance of hot flashes.

It banishes brain fog

At least 67% of us struggle with memory lapses and foggy thinking during menopause, as abrupt estrogen shortfalls make brain neurons more sluggish. Upping estrogen levels helps these neurons become more stimulated.

It wards off clumsiness

Waning levels of estrogen affect fine motor skills and can leave you feeling unsteady or off-balance. But increasing your stores will help “realign” the body.

It prevents UTIs

Research in the Journal of Molecular Biology finds urinary tract infections (UTIs) more than double after menopause, thanks to the drop in estrogen levels. Boosting them increases the presence of good bacteria in the urinary tract to ward off infection.

For more on hair loss, click through these stories:

Trichologist Reveals the Top Hair Myths and What to Do Instead for a Thick, Healthy Head of Hair

How to Protect Your Hair and Scalp From the Sun, Plus the Products That Make It Easy

Is Zinc Deficiency Causing My Hair Loss? Doctors Weigh in and Share How to Reverse It

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