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While many with PCOS grow thicker hair on their face and body, some experience hair thinning and hair loss, which is referred to as female pattern hair loss.
The female body produces male hormones, also called androgens. This includes testosterone. Androgens play a role in triggering puberty and stimulating hair growth in the underarms and pubic areas. They have other important functions as well.
PCOS causes extra androgen production, resulting in virilization. This refers to the development of more masculine features, including excess hair in places where it doesn’t usually grow, such as the:
These extra androgens can also cause the hair on your head to start thinning, especially near the front of your scalp. This is known as androgenic alopecia or female pattern hair loss.
Any hair that you lose due to PCOS won’t grow back on its own. But, with treatment, you may be able to stimulate the growth of new hair. Plus, there are several things you can do to mask PCOS-related hair loss.
PCOS hair loss is caused by a hormonal imbalance, so hormone regulation is an important part of treatment. This can be done with a variety of medications.
Keep in mind that you may need to try a few medications before you find one that works for you. And most people have the best results with a combination of medication.
Here’s a look at some common treatment options for PCOS-related hair loss.
Oral contraceptive pills
Birth control pills can lower androgen levels, which may help to reduce excess hair growth and slow down hair loss. It also helps with other PCOS symptoms, such as irregular periods and acne. An anti-androgen drug is often prescribed in combination with oral contraceptives for PCOS-related hair loss.
Spironolactone is an oral medication that’s known as an aldosterone receptor antagonist. It’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a diuretic to treat fluid retention. However, it’s also effective for treating androgenetic alopecia. This is what’s known as an off-label use.
It blocks the effects of androgen on the skin and is usually prescribed together with an oral contraceptive.
Minoxidil is the only FDA-approved drug for treating female pattern baldness. It’s a topical treatment that you apply to your scalp daily. It promotes hair growth and can even give it a thicker appearance.
Finasteride (Propecia) and dutasteride (Avodart)
Both finasteride and dutasteride are approved by the FDA for treating male pattern hair loss. While they haven’t been approved for female pattern hair loss, some doctors still prescribe them to those with PCOS.
While there’s some evidence that these drugs can help with female pattern hair loss, many experts don’t consider them a good option based on mixed results in other studies and known side effects in women.
10.5812/ijem.9860 Consensus on women’s health aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (2012). DOI:
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure used to implant hair on the scalp. Hair and hair follicles are removed from one area with a lot of hair and transplanted into the area of thinning or baldness. It usually requires a few procedures.
A hair transplant can cost up to $15,000. It isn’t covered by insurance providers because it’s considered a cosmetic procedure. There’s also no guarantee that it’ll work.
If you’re looking to go the more natural route, there are some home remedies that may help to reduce androgen levels, lessening their effect on your hair.
Taking a zinc supplement may help with PCOS-related hair loss, according to a 2016 study.
You can purchase zinc supplements on Amazon.
There’s significant evidence that losing weight can lower androgen levels and reduce the effects of excess androgens in women with PCOS.
Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can significantly reduce PCOS symptoms. Get started with 13 tips for losing weigh with PCOS.
Biotin is a popular supplement that’s often used for hair health and growth. There’s not much evidence that it helps specifically with PCOS-related hair loss, but it may be worth a try.
A 2015 study found that taking a marine protein supplement containing biotin for 90 days resulted in significant hair growth.
You can buy biotin supplements on Amazon.
There’s certainly no medical need to treat PCOS-related hair loss. And in many cases, you can minimize the appearance of PCOS-related hair loss with some changes to how you style your hair.
For a widening part, try:
- experimenting with parting your hair in other areas
- getting bangs that start further up on the top of your head
- applying a root cover-up powder on your scalp, like this one, which is waterproof and available in different shades
For thinning hair, try:
- wearing a partial wig, sometimes called a wig fall, to cover your thinning hair without damaging glue or clips
- using volumizing hair products to add lift and make your hair appear fuller
- getting shorter, layered hair style to add volume and fullness
For bald patches, try:
- a hairstyle that will keep hair over the bald area, such as a top knot or low ponytail
- a hair band or scarf wide enough to cover the spot
- a partial wig or wig fall
PCOS can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, especially when it causes visible symptoms.
Connecting with others who know what you’re going through can be a big help. Online support groups and forums offer a chance to both vent and get real-life insight on which treatments and remedies seem to work best. You might even pick up a few new tips.
Check out these online support communities: