The Science of Aging Hair: What’s Going On and What to Do

Help! My hair is falling out by the handful. “When progesterone levels fall as a result of ovarian follicle failure (lack of ovulation or simply by follicle dysfunction), the body responds by increasing its production of the adrenal cortisol steroid, androstenedione, an alternative precursor for the production of other adrenal cortisol hormones. Androstenedione conveys some androgenic (male-like) properties, in this case, male pattern hair loss. When progesterone levels are raised by progesterone supplements, the androstenedione level will gradually fall, and your normal hair growth will eventually resume. Since hair growth is a slow process it may take four to six months for the effects to become apparent.” – John R. Lee, MD

What Else Could Affect Hair Health?

Natural, bioidentical progesterone can be a huge help to solving aging hair, but what else is going on? Sylvia Onusic, a board-certified nutritionist and researcher, explains more in-depth, “Aging is a complex process involving various genetic, hormonal, and environmental mechanisms. With aging of the body often comes graying hair and a decrease in hair production as a result of the decrease in melanocyte function and lower levels of the enzyme catalase. Oxidative stress may be the main mechanism contributing to hair graying and hair loss. Endogenous factors influence familial premature graying and androgenetic alopecia (hair loss). External factors include ultraviolet radiation (UVR), smoking, and nutrition.”1

Melatonin’s Role in Aging Hair

For hair loss in women with androgenic hair loss, a 0.1 percent topical melatonin solution applied to the scalp once daily for six months led to significantly increased hair growth in occipital hair compared to placebo. “The occipital hair samples of patients with diffuse alopecia and the frontal hair counts of those with androgenetic alopecia also showed an increase of anagen hair, but differences were not significant.”3 Anagen is the active growth phase of the hair follicles during which the root of the hair is dividing rapidly.

Melatonin is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects in humans: it is a direct free radical scavenger and anti-aging factor made in the pineal gland, originating with the base amino acid tryptophan in four steps, with production of serotonin at the third step.2

There is a melatonin-producing system in the skin. In healthy human subjects, topical melatonin effectively prevented the development of redness and blistering in skin exposed to UV rays. In studies, the antioxidative effects of melatonin were superior to those exerted by vitamin C. “Topical melatonin would seem to represent the first topical ‘antiaging’ product for the treatment of the aging scalp.”1

Melatonin is secreted into the blood during the dark period of sleep, thus highlighting the importance of sleep. Sleep quality and duration will be affected with aging because melatonin production gradually decreases, and an exogenous source, via diet or supplements, may be desirable.3 Melatonin is found in cherries, bananas, oranges, grapes, herbs (feverfew, St. John’s wort), olive oil, wine, tomatoes, and other fruits. Blood levels of melatonin significantly increase in humans consuming foods rich in melatonin.”2-3

Cholesterol is Necessary for Healthy Hair

A study on hair showed the clinical implications of cholesterol’s importance in hair biology, as well as lipid metabolism’s role in inflammation and hair growth. These results support the need for quality fat intake in modern diets.

Bottom line: Fat is good! Eating more naturally occurring fat helps women be the natural-born, glowing goddess they’re meant to be. Healthy fats include tallow, coconut oil, raw cheese, organic eggs, and avocado.

An Ancient Hair Secret

An ancient Egyptian esoteric hair secret for long, luscious locks: castor oil! It is documented that women would apply castor oil to roots, massage into scalp, then comb through to the ends. Many see hair benefits when they let sit for at least 30 minutes, and then wash it out. Castor oil is rich in Vitamin E which is known to fight free radicals and minimize inflammation at the scalp. Free radical damage has been linked to graying, and inflammation has been linked to flaking, dryness, redness, and hair loss.

The oil is quite thick and viscous, so some users report diluting it with jojoba or argan oil to make it easier to wash out. You don’t need a lot, just a few palmfuls!

Something to note: castor oil has a distinctly smokey fragrance. If you’re sensitive to scent, it may be best to skip this.

Other Ways to Promote Healthy Aging Parsed from the Weston A. Price Foundation:

  • Avoid industrial fats and oils, such as margarine, canola oil, sunflower oil, commercial dips, and other cooking oils. Use traditional oils like tallow, olive oil, and butter to cook with and to use in salad dressings.
  • For healthy catalase production, consider foods with lots of healthy sulfur like eggs, garlic, and crucifers.
  • Make sure you get plenty of fat-soluble vitamins from grass-fed butter and egg yolks, organ meats, and fatty fish.
  • Exercise, walk and maintain a happy, grateful mood during the day. Relaxation exercises and yoga lead to higher melatonin production, which benefits more than just your hair.

Do you need help navigating aging? Join the waitlist for Moment – a doctor-led, integrative health experience created specifically for women’s health.


  1. Trueb RM. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair. Int J Trichology. 2009 Jan-Jun; 1(1) 6-14.
  2. Tan DX et al. Functional roles of melatonin in plants, and perspectives in nutritional and agricultural science. 2012. J Exp Bot 63 (2): 577–97. doi:10.1093/jxb/err256. PMID 22016420.
  3. Why Hair Turns Gray Is No Longer A Gray Area: Our Hair Bleaches Itself As We Grow Older. Science News. ScienceDaily. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 4/15/14 http://www.sciencedaily. com/releases/2009/02/090223131123.htm
  4. Pohanka, M. Impact of melatonin on immunity: a review. Cent Eur J Med. 2013 8 (4): 369–376. doi:10.2478/s11536- 013-0177-2.
  5. Sae-Teaw M, Johns J, Johns NP, Subongkot S (October 2012). Serum melatonin levels and antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers. J Pineal Res. 55 (1): 58–64. doi:10.1111/jpi.12025.

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