Erin Andrews Wants to Remove the Stigma of Hair Thinning

The sportscaster opens up about how she believes multiple rounds of IVF and years of styling and hot tools impacted her hair health.

Erin Andrews

Sportscaster Erin Andrews has been candid about the emotional toll multiple rounds of IVF (in vitro fertilization) have taken on her in the past. Now, she's talking about one unexpected physical effect of her fertility journey — and like infertility itself, it's something that's far more common than many realize: hair thinning and loss.

Andrews noticed changes in the health and thickness of her hair after multiple rounds of IVF, she tells Shape. ICYDK, IVF is a fertilization process in which eggs are extracted from the ovaries and manually combined with a sperm sample before an embryo is transferred to the uterus. Treatment includes taking "a ton of hormones," says Andrews. "[That's] not the best when you are trying to have healthy hair," she explains. "It does a lot of things to your body."

Specifically, the first step in an IVF cycle is receiving synthetic hormones, such as a follicle-stimulating hormone, a luteinizing hormone, or a combination of both, to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Andrews made a connection between her own hair thinning and the numerous IVF cycles she went through after listening to an episode of Heather McMahan's podcast Absolutely Not, in which the comedian discusses how her own fertility journey caused her to lose hair, the sportscaster tells Shape. However, experts are divided on whether or not IVF is directly connected to hair thinning and hair loss.

"IVF treatment does involve hormone medication, but you’re only on hormone medications for a week and a half, so we don’t see an impact on hair loss at that time," says Jennifer Kulp-Makarov, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., a board-certified ob-gyn, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist with New Hope Fertility.

Some women with infertility (defined as not being able to conceive after one year or more of unprotected sex) may experience hair loss due to hormone imbalances, though. For example, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid disorders — both of which can cause infertility — may experience hair loss, explains Dr. Kulp-Makarov. "So, women with infertility are at increased risk of hair loss and thinning, especially if they have one of those two conditions, but IVF in itself does not cause hair loss," she says.

Alternatively, some do see more of a direct connection between IVF treatments and hair thinning or loss. "During IVF treatments, there are fluctuations in hormones that directly impact the hair growth cycle," says Julie E. Russak, M.D., FAAD., a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and medical director of Russak Aesthetic Center, who's also one of Nutrafol's physician partners.

Because hair follicles are organs, they are impacted by the function or dysfunction of other systems, explains Dr. Russak. "The hair growth cycle is sensitive to hormonal changes that occur during a process such as IVF treatments, which directly and indirectly impact hair thinning," says Dr. Russak. For instance, the hair follicle has receptors for androgen hormones, which can cause hair follicles to shrink, leading to hair thinning, she adds.

"Those undergoing IVF also experience secondary effects of the influx of hormones, which can impact the adrenal glands and stress response," continues Dr. Russak. "This can lead to an increased production of cortisol, a primary stress hormone, which can cause the hair follicles to prematurely shift out of the growth phase, resulting in shedding and thinning."

The Fox Sports sideline reporter has also spent years regularly getting glammed up for an on-camera career (which involves lots of hair color treatments, extensions, and heat styling), which she theorizes has also compounded her hair health issues, she explains. "I had a head full of extensions until the pandemic," Andrews tells Shape. "That's when I decided to give my hair a break."

After noticing her hair was "breaking," Andrews started using Nutrafol, a hair growth supplement brand, at the recommendation of her stylists. Its products are designed to address common hair thinning and loss triggers in women, including stress, a hormone known as DHT, micro-inflammation, and poor nutrition.

Now, Andrews has partnered with Nutrafol as part of its "Shed the Silence" campaign. The campaign was created to normalize conversations about hair struggles among women, something Andrews is passionate about.

"I've been very open about going through cervical cancer, I've been very open recently about my IVF journey, and I've been very open about using Nutrafol," she says. "The more you can talk about stuff like this, it becomes a normal thing, and you don't feel embarrassed about it."

She wasn't always so vocal about her experiences with fertility treatments, though. "I had been quiet about [my experience with IVF], but it's kind of the elephant in the room, right?" says Andrews. "I'm 44, I'm married, we want kids."

She learned the value of speaking out about these stereotypically taboo topics after offering words of support to a woman she heard crying at her doctor's office ahead of a fertility treatment. That's when it clicked. "Why am I ashamed of this shit," Andrews remembers thinking at the time. "There are so many people who go through [fertility issues] and nobody talks about it. This has to start becoming a normal conversation."

For other people navigating hair thinning and loss, Andrews has a few pieces of advice: Give your hair a break from time to time, avoid placing hot tools on the ends of your hair, use scalp masks, and try not to color your strands excessively. (See: Does Using a Heat Protectant for Hair Actually Prevent Damage?)

And for anyone in the thick of fertility treatments, Andrews has just one tip. "Talk to people who have been through it," she says. "Don't keep it to yourself, because I think once you start talking to others who have been through it, you feel like you're not alone. And I know that's so cliché, but it's amazing to know that other people have gone through it," she continues. "Other people have felt this crappy. Other people have felt this helpless. Other people have felt like they're the only ones this happens to."

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