Hi. I have been receiving your newsletter and have found it very informative. There is something however that I would like assistance with that has not been covered by the newsletter. It is perhaps trivial but I find it to be a stumbling block in purchasing day-to-day items.
I have been trying to find natural personal care products in order to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals; however I'm having trouble deciding what is 'safe' in the world of natural ingredients.
I have read that Gotu Kola, Ginseng and Rosemary have been used in the past and are used today to promote hair growth and darken existing hairs.
Extracts of these products are found extensively in natural skin care products. I'm aware that these extracts have been used in the scalp area, but I was just wondering if they have a similar effect on the hair follicles in the skin, particularly for women with hirsutism whose follicles seem to be super sensitive to hair growth.
In regards to the rosemary, it has been the oil used for this purpose, but I was wondering if rosemary leaf extract is different to the oil in its composition and effects since many natural products tend to use this as an antioxidant and not as an oil like other essential oils.
So I guess my question is that are there oils or extracts that women with hirsutism or androgen disorders should be wary of in natural personal care products that may exacerbate their hair condition, and in the same vein, are there any we could use to help it?
Androngenetic alopecia and hirsutism are, to my mind, driven mostly by mostly the same factors. There are a number of common factors, but perhaps the most prominent one is the androgen dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. So you will see hair growth products containing ingredients that are thought to inhibit DHT.
Beyond the direct inhibition of DHT, we get into murky territory, whether it's hirsutism or scalp hair thinning. The possible causal mechanisms of these disorders are extremely complex and not well understood.
I cannot give you a definitive answer regarding gotu kola, ginseng or rosemary. To the extent that they are anti-inflammatory or antioxidants or are thought to reduce 5-alpha reductase, they should pose no harm and could be mildly beneficial.
5-alpha reductase is one of the enzymes that converts testosterone into the more active DHT. For example, ginseng inhibits 5-alpha reductase in lab animals. So, in this case, it should both help with androgenetic alopecia and hirsutism.
In general, I suspect most ingredients in care products are there for marketing purposes. The amount of any nutrient needed for a clinical effect is usually much higher than what is in the product. In addition, herbal ingredients in personal care product vary greatly in their potency. Standardized, high-quality herbal extracts are quite expensive and are thus unlikely to be found in these products. So, I suspect that most personal care products are not going to stimulate hirsutism.
As for extracts vs. oils, their components and effects can be quite different.
As for natural products that work for hirsutism, I notice that saw palmetto extract is our second most popular product. I think the reason it is so popular is that it is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor and thus inhibits the production of DHT and so might be helping some PCOS women with their hirsutism. It is taken orally, not applied to the skin.
From a broader perspective, there are a bunch of other things to consider. Just to name a few: vitamin D, progesterone and diet. Progesterone is thought to inhibit 5-alpha reductase. A poor diet can lead to insulin resistance and reduced sex hormone binding globulin, which encourages androgen production. This in turn promotes scalp hair loss and unwanted hair growth in other areas like the face.
Vitamin D works like a hormone. Like any other hormone, it needs to be at optimal levels. If not, you will have problems. Everyone who has PCOS should get a vitamin D test to find out what their level is.
One final thought about products applied to the skin. If the product is going to have an effect, it will be in the area where the product is applied. It's unlikely there will be any significant systemic effect, unless applied to a large area of skin.
So if you have facial hair problems and apply a product to the face, the hair follicles could be affected. As I say, it depends on what the material is, and its potency and amount.
I'm guessing that most natural products applied to the face will not stimulate hair growth. But that's just a guess. On the other hand, I think the regular use of ordinary cosmetics is ill-advised for anyone with PCOS, since there is some evidence to suggest they may contain substances that are endocrine disrupters. Whether these substances stimulate or retard facial hair growth is unknown to me. However, they contribute to your overall body burden of hormone disrupters.
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