Information and Solutions for Men and Women

Protective Role of Estrogen in Hair Loss

Estrogen levels affect hair thickness, hair growth, and hair loss.

Compared to androgens, there has not been as much clinical research on estrogen’s regulatory role in hair growth and loss—so its exact role is unclear. However, it is known that hair follicles contain two types of estrogen receptors, and evidence indicates that the female sex hormone estrogen exerts pro-hair growth effects. For example, higher rates of several different types of hair loss are linked to the menopausal and post-menopausal decades of a woman’s life, when estrogen levels are much lower. During menopause the ovarian production of estrogen stops, leaving only the estrogen metabolized from adrenal hormones. And drugs for breast cancer that inhibit estrogens frequently cause hair loss. Conversely, the higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy is thought to be one cause of the thicker and faster-growing hair many women experience—and the post-pregnancy hair thinning post-pregnancy hair thinning that occurs when estrogen levels drop back to normal.22, 103

Men also produce a small amount of estrogen as well as the aromatase enzyme needed to convert testosterone to estrogen, although typically the hair follicles on male scalps have a lot less aromatase than in females. When comparing men and women with AGA, women produce more aromatase in the front scalp area, which explains why men with AGA are more likely to lose their hairline then women with the condition.30

However, examination of estrogen levels in women with thinning hair suggest that low estrogen levels may not by itself be a direct indicator of potential hair loss. According to one clinical study, it may actually be the decreasing ratio of estrogen to androgenic hormones in women that affects hair growth and loss, rather than simply elevated levels of testosterone or low levels of estrogen.86

Researchers measured various hormone levels in premenopausal women with androgenetic female pattern hair loss (FPHL) between the ages of 18 and 52 against a non-balding control group of similar ages. They found that the ratios of estradiol to free testosterone were much lower in women with FPHL than in women without any hair loss, supporting the theory that estrogen protects against the conversion of excess testosterone to DHT—the more potent androgen which binds to hair follicles and can trigger hair loss. Estrogen also stimulates the production of the testosterone-binding protein SHBG, further corroborating estrogen’s impact on overall hormone ratios that can influence hair loss.86-87

In addition to estrogen’s effect on hormone ratios, it also appears to offer significant protection against oxidative damage in skin cells, including hair follicles. Lower levels of estrogen with increasing age may also mean decreased protection from oxidative factors such as UV radiation from sunlight.82

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Alpha and beta estrogen receptors (predominately beta ERs).
Known as postpartum alopecia, which may be worsened by iron deficiency from delivery-associated blood loss.
An estrogen.