Who hasn’t gotten a pimple during their period? We’ve come to terms with the many ways our body changes during that time of the month, from bloating and cramping to fatigue, but we usually don’t group changes in our hair to this category. However, our hormones control everything–and the look and feel of our locks is no exception. The takeaway is, your period affects your hair. Although you might not be affected as much as the girl to your left, there is a definite correlation between the 28 day cycle and the way your tresses are treating you. We consulted the pros to find out how changes in hormones affect hair growth and loss, what birth control means in all this, and what to expect when you’re expecting.
HOW YOUR PERIOD AFFECTS YOUR HAIR
“Think of the scalp as an extension of the skin,” says Stephen Pullan, Trichologist at NYC Philip Kingsley Clinic. Just as oil affects the way the skin looks, it can also affect the hair. It might be greasier during the time leading up to your period, due to hormones causing an increase in oil production. In the same respect, less oil can lead to a drier scalp which can change the way the hair follicle appears–making it look finer, duller or limper. To keep strands ahead of your cycle, he recommends the Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner (to keep oil at bay) and Philip Kingsley Body Building Shampoo, to treat limper-looking strands.
This is echoed by Dr. Nita Landry, OB/GYN and co-host of the talk show “The Doctors,” who breaks down these changes by the time of the month. “The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. In a 28 day cycle, day 1 is the first day of your menstrual period, and you ovulate around day 14,” she explains. “After ovulation, your body makes a lot of progesterone and testosterone–those hormones cause your scalp to become oilier than usual.”
How can you make these changes work for you? “It is a good idea to dye your hair after ovulation and before the first day of your period. During that time frame, your hair is oilier, and that extra oil will protect your scalp from damage,” she advises.
Dr. Brian Ginsberg, Dermatologist at Chelsea Skin & Laser, acknowledges that research on exactly how menstruation affects hair is still being worked on. However, he explains, “what is known is that hormones can drive the production of oil and affect skin turnover, which has effects on how the skin looks and feels.”
In spite of this, Pullan emphasizes that the correlation between your period and hair is often subtle and, no–there is no perfect time for a haircut. It’s important to note that most women will only notice a real difference in the hair (including hair loss) if there’s an overall hormonal imbalance or a systemic health issue.“Some girls might get a pimple on the scalp and that’s it,” he explains. Logically, this is because the hair that you’re noticing has already occurred–the new growth is at the scalp. It’s important to remember that if anything deeper, such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is occurring, you will most likely experience an irregular period.
WHAT ABOUT THE PILL?
So how does birth control enter into the conversation? Again, just as hormones are super-individualized, the effects of birth control are entirely dependent on how your body responds to it. But, if you feel your hair getting too greasy and your period is to blame, Dr. Nita notes that the pill is a definite option. “By regulating your hormonal fluctuations, birth control pills might prevent oilier hair during your menstrual cycle” she lets us know.
While birth control can be a remedy, it’s important to know your health history and find the right pill for you. “Many types of birth control have been associated with female-pattern hair loss, while on the other hand, hormone-related treatments that block androgens may be used to treat female-pattern hair loss,” Dr. Ginsberg explains of the two-fold nature of the pill.
To account for this, Dr. Nita emphasizes the importance of keeping your doctor in the loop if you think birth control is right for you. “If you have a family history of hair loss you should tell your doctor before starting hormonal birth control. Also, if you notice hair loss while you are on birth control, let your health care provider know. In either of those cases, you don’t have to say ‘goodbye’ to hormonal birth control, but your doctor can recommend birth control options less likely to result in hair loss,” she offers.
If you are on the pill and decide to go off it, Dr.Nita tells us that “stopping hormonal birth control has also been known to cause temporary hair shedding,” which is good to keep in mind. All the doctors agree, if you feel like anything is out of the ordinary, you should go see a medical professional stat!
HOW WILL HAIR CHANGE DURING PREGNANCY?
And what if you get pregnant? Your estrogen is in overdrive during this time, and that can lead to thicker strands… As Pullan breaks it down, male hormones are bad for hair (these are associated with hair loss) but the opposite is true for the female ones. Dr. Nita explains that some women are in “hair heaven” during pregnancy because hair sheds less. Unfortunately, this is only temporary and once hormones return to normal levels, there is an extreme amount of shedding, which Pullan describes as “alopecia-like,” – yikes
Dr. Nita tells us why this is. “It will look like you are losing a lot of hair because you are shedding the hair that would normally be shedding at that time PLUS the hair that did not shed during pregnancy,” she says. Luckily this stops as hormones regulate. “Hair loss usually diminishes within 3-4 months after delivery, and hair loss returns to normal within 6-12 months,” she adds.
Overall, our hormones regulate everything in our body and this very much includes our hair–during all phases of life. To keep hair healthy, it’s important to routinely monitor your overall health and do what works for you!