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Thinning Hair, Brittle Nails, and Dry Skin? This Common Deficiency Could Be the Cause


Mirror, mirror on the wall… what?! Seemingly out of nowhere, your time-tested beauty regimen isn’t doing the trick anymore. Maybe your skin is looking less than radiant. Or your locks have gone limp. Changes like this could be thyroid symptoms, especially if you’re over 35.

“As we enter the perimenopausal years, our hormones start dropping, fluctuating and changing in their ratios to one another,” explains Florence Comite, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City. “That can wreak havoc on multiple aspects of our appearance, from hair to skin to weight.” Then, as we approach menopause, the thyroid becomes sluggish, leading to lower levels of hormones that play an essential role in the formation of healthy skin and hair cells.

And while cosmetic symptoms may be the first we notice, they’re often the last to be taken seriously. “The tendency is for doctors to see these things as vanity issues,” laments Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Reset Diet ($12.48, Amazon). “Many physicians pat women on the hand and say, ‘Oh, you’re just getting older.’ But the truth is that our appearance is a reflection of what’s happening in our body. It’s an important message that should be decoded, not dismissed.”

Fortunately, it’s easy to reverse sluggish thyroid symptoms. Here’s how:

Beauty Bother: Thinning Hair

“In my experience, thyroid dysfunction is the number-one cause of hair thinning in perimenopausal women,” Dr. Gottfried reports. In fact, German scientists discovered that thyroid hormones are critical to forming the cells (called keratinocytes) that make up the hair shaft, as well as sustaining the growth phase of strands.

Easy Rx: The menthol in mint stimulates the scalp so follicles “stick up” for a root boost, plus it revs blood flow to promote hair growth. One study even found menthol to be just as effective as minoxidil at reversing thinning. To get the perks, steep 4 mint tea bags in 3 cups of boiling water. Once cool, pour onto damp hair, rub into the scalp for 5 minutes; rinse. Repeat twice a week for results in one month.

Beauty Bother: Weak, Brittle Nails

Hormonal shifts can cause nails to become fragile, leading to breakage. And several studies have linked a sluggish thyroid to weak brittle nails.

Easy Rx: Brush on a nail polish infused with kale, like Nails Inc NailKale Polish in Abbey Road ($9, Nails Inc). Available in many pretty hues, it delivers vitamins A, C, and K, which stimulate keratin production for stronger, healthier nails.

Beauty Bother: Sparse Eyebrows

“Eyebrow thinning is one of the most common complaints we get in the office,” says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, a dermatologist in South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts. And thinning on the outside of the brows is a key sign of a thyroid problem.

Easy Rx: Regain look of fuller brows by regrowing hair with castor oil like Aura Cacia Organic Skin Care Castor Oil ($9.61, Walmart). The oil is rich in ricinoleic acid (which increases the flow of hair-nourishing blood to boost growth), omega-6 fatty acids (which strengthen strands), and vitamin E (which moisturizes hair follicles for fuller-looking hair).

To do: Dip a cotton swab into castor oil and apply to clean eyebrows before bed. Massage the oil in for 1 minute per brow (this increases blood flow to further stimulate growth), then rinse of in the morning. Use nightly to see results in about 30 days.

Beauty Bother: Dull, Dry Skin

As we age, lower levels of thyroid hormones lead to a decline in new cell formation while low estrogen levels decrease cell turnover rate, explains Dr. Gottfried. This can lead to a buildup of old cells on skin that makes the face look sallow and skin feel rough.

Easy Rx: To rejuvenate dull skin quickly, Margarita Lolis, MD, a dermatologist who treats patients in New York and New Jersey, recommends mixing up a lemon and sugar face scrub. Lemon’s citric acid and vitamin C are natural brighteners that give yellowing skin a more radiant glow, and sugar’s granules and glycolic acid gently slough off dead skin cells without irriating thin, sensitive skin.

To do: Combine 2 Tbsp. of sugar, 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil (its fatty acids moisturize). Gently massage the mix onto damp skin using circular motions (to increase circulation for an even rosier glow) for 1 minute, then rinse. Use twice a week for results in as little as two weeks.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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