Hormones – like testosterone and estrogen – can play a key role in hair thinning and loss. However, progesterone is another such hormone, and low levels can lead to hair loss in both men and women.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the role that progesterone plays in hair loss. While it tends to play a bigger role in female hair loss, low levels of the hormone can affect males just the same.
I’ll discuss the common causes of progesterone-related hair loss, as well as the treatment most recommended by doctors.
In addition, I’ll touch upon FIVE ways you can naturally increase the levels of progesterone within your body. This will lessen the impact of progesterone-related hair loss, and may even enable you to regrow lost hair.
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a natural steroid and sex hormone that is produced within both female and male bodies.
It plays a more significant role in women (and is, therefore, present in larger quantities), but is also a precursor to testosterone in men and is necessary for their reproductive health.
Progesterone is typically produced by the ovaries at the end of the menstrual cycle. This helps to keep the cycle in check, and it also leads to the production of estrogen and cortisone.
How is Progesterone Linked to Hair Loss?
As a vital hormone, progesterone contributes to a number of important functions within the body. For women, this includes the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
A lack of progesterone (either partial or total) can lead to a variety of health issues, including hair loss. But why?
In the case of hair loss, progesterone is actually a natural inhibitor of 5-alpha-reductase. This is an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, and DHT is believed to be the main cause of pattern hair loss in both men and women.
Without the presence of progesterone (or with not enough), 5AR is able to perform its converting activities. This means more DHT is produced, triggering further hair thinning and loss in those with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).
Symptoms of Low Progesterone Levels
As treatment of pattern hair loss is most effective in the beginning stages, it’s important to know what to look for if you suspect low progesterone levels.
In females, symptoms include:
- Low sex drive
- Menstrual cycle irregularity
- Hot flashes
- Anxiety and depression
In males, the symptoms are as followed:
- Low libido
- Increased body fat (especially in abdomen and chest)
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Decreased facial hair
If you suspect low progesterone levels are causing your symptoms above, the it’s best to seek the help of a doctor.
With a few simple tests, more serious conditions can be ruled out and your doctor can help you to come up with a treatment plan.
What Causes Low Progesterone Levels?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common condition that affects women. The condition leads to the enlargement of ovaries and the presence of ovarian cysts, and it can cause irregular menstrual cycles and infertility as a result.
In women with PCOS, low progesterone levels are always present. This is because women with PCOS tend to ovulate irregularly (sometimes not at all), and progesterone is released during ovulation by the egg. If they don’t ovulate then there is no egg produced and consequently no progesterone.
In addition, women diagnosed with PCOS are also at greater risk of developing insulin resistance. This is because insulin resistance can also contribute to low progesterone levels, though the reasons for such a link are not currently known.
Illness and Medications
The body is a delicate system. As such, it’s possible for illnesses and medications to wreak havoc and cause irregular hormone production.
Medications that may cause low progesterone levels include steroids, hormone treatments, and oral contraceptives.
In many cases, such medications intentionally cause low progesterone levels; and, while this can treat certain conditions or prevent pregnancy (in the case of birth control pills), it can also lead to issues in women who already suffer from lower-than-average progesterone.
Chronic Stress and Anxiety
Hormones interact with human cells by docking to locations on the cells known as hormone receptors. In many cases, these receptors can accept a variety of different hormones.
This is true in the case of progesterone and cortisol, two hormones that dock to the same receptors within the cell.
In individuals with chronic stress or anxiety, coritsol levels increase within the body. This means that cortisol is taking up more receptors than usual, and it can lead to low progesterone levels as the hormone is unable to dock.
While this is a natural phenomena, it’s also one that can lead to low progesterone levels and, as a result, hair loss.
As ovulation ceases during menopause, the production of progesterone slows. This means estrogen becomes the predominant hormone, and this can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms.
Estrogen Dominance – An Epidemic
I mentioned above that estrogen dominance can occur during menopause. However, it can at other times, too; and, it can affect both men and women.
In recent decades, the use of estrogen-containing products has increased.
These products most famously include plastics (found in food containers) and parabens (found in cosmetics), but even the estrogen found in birth control pills and other medications is making its way to water sources and contaminating drinking water.
But what does this have to do with progesterone?
As mentioned previously, hormones work to balance each other. When estrogen is continually consumed, however, it can become difficult for progesterone to keep up.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance are similar to symptoms of low progesterone; but, they can also include:
- Water retention
- Weight/fat gain
- Mood swings
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Foggy mind
In addition to the above symptoms, hair loss can also occur.
Progesterone Therapy for Hair Loss
If it has been determined that low progesterone levels (or estrogen dominance) are the cause of your hair loss, then your doctor may recommend progesterone therapy.
When you undergo progesterone therapy, you receive either an oral or topical dose of progesterone (or both, depending on the severity of the issue and aggressiveness of treatment).
This will help to increase the body’s levels of progesterone, and bring the hormone levels back into balance.
As progesterone plays a larger role in the production of DHT in women, progesterone therapy is a common treatment method. It can have positive results in men, but progesterone treatment is typically not the first route recommended by doctors in males.
If progesterone therapy is prescribed by your doctor, a few brands that may be recommended include:
With the help of your doctor, you can choose the right medication.
Can Men Use Progesterone Therapy to Treat Hair Loss?
As mentioned above, progesterone therapy is typically recommended for women experiencing pattern hair loss. However, there are men who use this treatment – either alone or in conjunction with other methods – and see positive results.
Progesterone is a precursor to testosterone, but it can also help to inhibit the activities of 5-alpha-reductase (the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT).
If you do decide to go ahead with progesterone therapy, I recommend adding in a few other methods. For example, you could add other 5AR inhibitors to your hair care routine and diet, or even add in such practices as microneedling and scalp massage.
5 Ways to Naturally Increase Progesterone Production
If you believe you’re suffering from low progesterone levels, it’s best to consult your physician.
However, there are things you can do on your own to increase progesterone production and lessen (or even completely stop) the symptoms associated with this condition.
1. Avoid Estrogen-Increasing Foods
As mentioned above, when there is more estrogen present within your body than progesterone, this can lead to a condition known as estrogen dominance. If not kept in check, this can further lower the levels of progesterone and lead to further hair loss.
Phytoestrogens are naturally-occurring estrogens that are derived from plants. When consumed, these can lead to an increase in estrogen levels within the body.
Foods that contain high levels of phytoestrogen include:
- Sesame seeds
Does this mean you should avoid the above foods altogether? Absolutely not.
The foods listed above all include a variety of health benefits. However, it’s important to eat a balanced diet, and keep an eye on your intake levels of the above foods.
2. Take Control of Stress
The more stress you experience, the higher the levels of cortisol within your body. This then means that progesterone is unable to interact with your cells as required, and this can lead to hair thinning and loss.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to reduce stress levels.
One of the easiest – and most efficient – ways to reduce stress on a regular basis is controlled breathing and meditation.
Both practices enable you to take control of your body, and they can be practiced anywhere at anytime.
3. Consume Foods With the Right Vitamins and Minerals
As mentioned, a balanced diet can do much to decrease estrogen levels and bring your progesterone back into check.
However, if your low progesterone levels aren’t related to high estrogen, then there are more considerations to make. Let’s take a look, then, at the vitamins which can contribute directly to progesterone production.
Vitamin B plays a key role in the metabolism of estrogen in the liver. With improper metabolizing of estrogen, more would be present within the body. This would lead to hormonal imbalance and lowered levels of progesterone.
While this vitamin cannot be produced by the human body, there are a number of foods you can add to your diet to boost vitamin B levels. These include:
- Beef liver
- Ground beef
- Cottage cheese
The great thing is is that all of these foods can be easily incorporated into your regular diet.
Vitamin C is a vital human nutrient, and it contributes greatly to the production and repair of collagen.
In addition, vitamin C has been shown to increase the levels of progesterone within the female body, and is a great supplement for those with low progesterone levels.
Zinc is an antioxidant, but recent study findings also suggest it may be able to regulate the production of progesterone.
While further research is needed, the present study showed that depletion of zinc contributed to ovarian dysfunction in female mice.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put stress on the body, and this can lead to hormonal imbalances.
To bring your hormones back into alignment, then, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight.
For the majority of individuals, this can be done through exercise and healthy eating. However, it’s best to consult with your physician prior to the start of a new diet or exercise regimen.
5. Get Glucose Levels Under Control
With insulin resistance linked to low progesterone absorption, it’s vital that you get your glucose levels under control.
Avoiding refined carbohydrates and instead consuming lower glycaemic index foods will help. However this will likely require the help of an endocrinologist and perhaps even a registered dietitian.
If your hair loss is related to low levels of progesterone, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to live with the effects. There are many treatments that can help to increase progesterone levels, and this can put an end to pattern hair loss in both men and women.
While I do believe that the use of progesterone medications can be helpful for individuals combating progesterone-related hair loss, I do recommend you consider the natural methods outlined above.