There's a reason why your hair feels gross when you're on your period
Just when you think your uterus has waved the white flag, you find out otherwise. Because hormones.
As you know, hormones are constantly coursing through our bodies – even when we least expect it. Why is this important, you ask? Well, this means that our menstrual cycle-related hormones are essentially affecting everything about our bodies. Even our hair.
“Although we mostly think of skin as being most reactive to the hormonal, and other, changes of the menstrual cycle, the fluctuations of the menstrual cycle can, in some cases, directly and indirectly affect the scalp and hair,” dermatologist Dr. Sophia Kogan told Refinery29, noting that those on birth control may not experience such effects because their hormones are regulated.
Ovulation and Pre-Period
About 14 days before menstruation begins, you’re ovulating, your body is producing more estrogen, and the luteinizing hormone is being triggered. Since this substance causes a surge in oil production, your hair should be looking and feeling moisturized.
However, as you get closer and closer to menstruation, “The levels of estrogen decrease and the levels of progesterone and testosterone increase about a week before your period,” Dr. Kogan explains. “This leads to increased oil production in the skin glands.” In other words: You should make sure you have dry shampoo on hand because oily, stringy hair is (unfortunately) common during this time of the month. Also, frequent showers will definitely help the cause.
Interestingly enough, this is also the perfect time to book a hair-dyeing appointment. “There are myths that say oily hair can affect processing results, but this is untrue,” reveals hairstylist Anna Costa. “Having slightly oilier hair actually can help protect the delicate skin of the scalp from the chemicals as they sit on your hair.” (Plus, getting your hair done may actually help distract you from the fact that your period is making its way downtown.)
During Your Period
And then… you get your period. “During this period of time we tend to feel tired, run down, and our bodies are more sensitive,” Dr. Kogan says. “Some women report that their hair looks duller, and some even say their scalp feels more sensitive when they have any hair-processing done. This can be explained by the extra prostaglandins that are circulating in the system.” Note: prostaglandins are the hormone-like substances that trigger period cramps, but they can also travel to other areas of the body.
Whilst you’re menstruating, Dr. Kogan says that you should cancel any hair appointments that may cause your scalp discomfort (dye jobs, hair extensions, anything involving chemicals, etc.). Instead, you should use dry shampoo when needed, rest, and avoid vigorously scrubbing your scalp when showering.
After Your Period
Now that your period has left the building, Dr. Kogan states that your estrogen levels will start to increase and testosterone will decrease. Overall, this can cause your hair and scalp to feel dry. (Ugh.)
“If [your hair is normally dry], you may need to condition more in the post-menses phase, and possibly the latter part of the menses, before the oil production kicks up,” advises dermatologic surgeon Dr. Sejal Shah. The solution: deep conditioning. Also, you definitely don’t need to wash your hair every day if you’re experiencing these hormone symptoms.
Though menstruation can be super annoying, it’s always a good idea to remain informed. That way, you can prepare for that time of the month (and all the times before and after) like a period pro.