Overview

Thyroid conditions occur when your thyroid gland either doesn’t produce enough or produces too much of certain hormones.

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, can cause many symptoms, from weight gain to fatigue. Many people don’t develop symptoms of hypothyroidism until months or years have passed because it develops slowly. Hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid, may cause anything from weight loss to nervousness.

Both conditions can cause dry, brittle hair or thinning hair on your scalp and body. Read on to learn what you can do if your thyroid condition is affecting your hair.

What’s the connection between your thyroid and your hair?

Thyroid conditions can cause hair loss if they are severe and go untreated. Understanding how these conditions cause hair loss involves understanding how hair grows.

  1. Hair starts growing at the root in the bottom of your hair follicle on your scalp.
  2. Your scalp’s blood vessels feed the root, creating more cells and making your hair grow.
  3. Hair pushes up and out through your skin. It passes through oil glands that help keep it soft and shiny.
  4. Hair grows for a while but then falls out as each new regrowth cycle begins.

When hormone production is disrupted, specifically of hormones T3 and T4, it affects other processes in the body. This includes the development of hair at the root. Hair falls out and may not be replaced by new growth, resulting in thinning across your scalp and other areas such as your eyebrows.

Alopecia is an autoimmune condition often seen with thyroid conditions. It causes patches of hair loss in more discrete areas. Over time, though, this condition may cause baldness. Other autoimmune diseases that may lead to hair loss and are often linked to thyroid issues include polycystic ovary syndrome and lupus erythematosus.

Certain drugs used to treat thyroid conditions may also contribute to hair thinning. Carbimazole and propylthiouracil are antithyroid drugs that may, in rare cases, lead to hair loss. It can also be hard to tell if the drug or your thyroid condition is causing your hair to thin due to hair’s long life cycle.

Symptoms of thyroid-related hair loss

Hair loss may develop slowly with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. You won’t necessarily notice patches missing or bald spots. Instead, your hair may seem thinner all over.

You lose between 50 and 100 hairs from your head each day. If normal hair growth is interrupted, hairs aren’t being replenished, and a uniform hair loss may occur.

The good news is that hair loss caused by thyroid conditions is typically temporary. You may experience hair loss even after starting drugs to help with your condition. Some people worry the drugs are causing hair loss, but it may have more to do with the life cycle of hair.

Treating the cause

Mild forms of thyroid conditions don’t generally lead to thinning hair. As a result, working with your doctor to keep your condition under control with medication may keep your hair thicker or regenerate growth. Results will likely not be immediate because hair takes some time to develop and then grow.

Possible medications include:

  • levothyroxine (hypothyroidism)
  • propylthiouracil and methimazole (hyperthyroidism)
  • beta blockers (hyperthyroidism)

Your doctor will monitor your thyroid levels while you’re on medication. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

With treatment, hair growth may be noticeable within several months. Be aware that the new hair growth may differ in color or texture from your original hair.

Natural treatments and home remedies

Along with medication, there are different home remedies you may try to slow hair loss or regenerate hair growth.

Boost iron

Ferritin levels are associated with your iron stores. Low ferritin may contribute to patterned hair loss.

A study on hair loss and iron stores did exclude people with thyroid conditions. The reasoning behind this exclusion is very interesting. Researchers explain that thyroid issues can affect the body’s ferritin levels. Consider having your iron and ferritin tested and supplementing as your doctor suggests.

Treat nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can contribute to hair loss even without a thyroid condition. Specifically, researchers explain that levels of the following may play a role in hair retention and hair loss:

  • vitamins B-7 (biotin) and B complex
  • zinc
  • copper
  • iron
  • vitamins C, E, and A
  • coenzyme Q10

A multivitamin may help boost your stores. Beware that too much supplementation may lead to hair thinning.

Eat well

Eating a diet of whole foods is key for your health.

If you eat foods rich in calcium and are being treated for hypothyroidism, try timing them at least four hours after your levothyroxine for the best absorption.

Processed foods, such as sugars, red meat, and fried foods, may cause an inflammatory response. Caffeine and alcohol may contribute as well. Inflammation may worsen your thyroid symptoms, including hair loss.

Add anti-inflammatory foods

Ginger and turmeric are anti-inflammatory foods that may improve endocrine function. Your thyroid is part of the endocrine system, so supporting it may help with symptoms of thyroid disorders.

Try incorporating fresh ginger or turmeric root into cooking. They taste great in anything from stir-fries to smoothies. Discuss supplementation with your doctor.

Consider herbs

Some branches of alternative medicine use specific herbs to treat hair loss from conditions like alopecia. These herbs are taken orally and include:

Discuss herbal therapies with your doctor before trying them on your own.

Try essential oils

While there aren’t many studies in this area, researchers have discovered that eucalyptus oil and other plant extracts may reduce hair fallout and improve hair density.

Other oils to try include:

  • Arnica montana
  • Cedrus atlantica
  • Lavandula agustifolia
  • Oscimum sanctum
  • Pilocarpus jabarondi
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Thyme vulgaris

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your doctor before you begin using essential oils and use caution when choosing a quality brand. You should also always do a test patch before using and dilute any essential oil in a carrier oil before use.

Watch iodine intake

People with autoimmune thyroid disorders should watch their iodine intake. The body uses iodine to make thyroid hormone, so too much may lead to imbalances.

Kelp and other kinds of seaweed are high in iodine and may worsen symptoms, including hair loss. Certain multivitamins and cough syrups may also contain iodine, so read labels carefully.

Treat hair gently

You can slow hair loss by treating your hair with care:

  • Avoid pulling hair into tight braids, buns, or ponytails.
  • Resist twisting or pulling your hair.
  • Use a wide-toothed comb versus harsher brushes when loosening knots.

Changing your routine up a bit may help you from pulling out hair before it would otherwise naturally fall out.

Have patience

It may take several months to notice regrowth. While this may be frustrating, you may consider wearing a wig or other head covering in the meantime.

Emotional support is also important, so ask your doctor about counseling or support groups where you can meet people going through similar situations.

The takeaway

Before attempting to treat your hair loss at home, speak with your doctor. Thyroid conditions generally don’t lead to hair loss until they are more severe.

Hair loss may also be the symptom of another underlying medical issue. You may need medication along with home remedies to see regrowth and to treat other symptoms you’re experiencing.

With proper treatment, you should see fuller hair within a few months.