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3 Ways Hormonal Hair Loss Differs From Other Forms of Alopecia

By Stefanie Sandler Billette, MS, ACE-CHC
Medically Reviewed by Rawaa Almukhtar, MD on April 12, 2021
Find out more about hormonal reasons for hair loss and how it is different from other types of alopecia.

If your hairline is receding or your hair is thinning, there may be hormonal reasons for your hair loss, according to Harvard Health Publishing. This means that hormonal hair loss symptoms may differ from other forms of hair loss. 

The following are ways that hormonal hair loss causes, symptoms, and treatments differ from other types of hair loss.

Hormonal Hair Loss: Abnormal Hormone Levels

The most common type of hair loss in both men and women is androgenic alopecia, also called androgenetic, or male or female pattern hair loss. According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, androgenic hair loss begins after puberty. Androgenic alopecia can be genetic but it’s also hormonal.

According to the American Hair Loss Association, the following hormones can cause hair loss:

  • High testosterone
  • High cortisol 
  • High or low thyroid hormone

“By far, the worst, and very common hormone responsible for hair loss is cortisol — by way of stress. Stress can cause telogen effluvium, sending all hairs into the resting phase, followed by shedding. This is also seen after delivering a baby, surgery, or rapid weight loss, as the body views these as stressful events,” Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, MD,  founder and medical director at Visage Dermatology and Aesthetic Center in Maryland, and assistant professor of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Your doctor can check your testosterone, cortisol, and thyroid blood levels to determine if one of these hormone imbalances could be causing your hair loss. 

Hormonal Hair Loss: Gradual Thinning Of Hair 

A 2020 study in Experimental Dermatology showed that androgenic hair loss in men leads to a receding hairline and often progresses to baldness. In women, androgenic alopecia begins with a gradual widening of the part line, followed by increased thinning starting at the top of the head. 

“A patient may begin to notice a thinner ponytail or may say ‘I see more of my scalp,’” St. Surin-Lord says.

According to the American Skin Association, alopecia areata is the most common type of non-hormonal hair loss. It can affect children as well as adults. According to Harvard Health Publishing, alopecia areata occurs suddenly and the hair falls out in round or oval patches as opposed to hormonal hair loss that tends to be more gradual. 

Hormonal Hair Loss: Improvements With Topical Minoxidil

With hormonal hair loss, the hair follicles are not being attacked by the immune system so hormonal hair loss is not an autoimmune disorder.

According to the American Skin Association, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the hair follicles are damaged and often destroyed. “There can also be short hairs that look as if they have broken off, called exclamation point hairs,” St. Surin-Lord says. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, topical minoxidil is the most common treatment for androgenic alopecia or hormonal hair loss as opposed to corticosteroids for non-hormonal hair loss treatment. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and lower the immune response in alopecia areata. 

You Can Start Your Journey to a Healthier Head of Hair Today!

The earlier you address the symptoms of hair loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.