Hair loss is a side effect of many common medications, including antidepressants, beta blockers, and others.
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If you take an antidepressant or start takinganticonceptive pill, you might be surprised to discover a nasty little side effect that no one warned you about:Hair loss.
But it is more common than most of us think.
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Certain medications can cause hair loss because they interfere with the normal growth cycle of hair follicles, he saysDebra Jaliman, MD,professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Leading New York Dermatologist.When hair follicles don't grow properly, hair can fall out.
The good news: Hair loss caused by medications is usually temporary, which means that once you stop using the medication, your hair will return to normal, says Dr. Jaliman. But it can still be disconcerting and lower self-esteem. Here's what you need to know.
Do not stop taking a medicine unless your doctor tells you to. Abrupt discontinuation of some medications can have serious health consequences if not done under medical supervision.
How does hair grow?
To understand how hair is lost, it can help to know how hair grows in the first place. Hair follicles move through the following four phases (with a few follicles in each phase at any one time), according to a February 2017 study inClinical, Aesthetic and Research Dermatology:
- anagen phase: During this phase, the cells of the hair root divide, leading to rapid hair growth. This lasts from three to five years.
- catagen phase: This is the transition period of hair growth. Hair follicles shrink, slowing hair growth. It lasts about 10 days.
- Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase of hair growth, which lasts about three months.
- Exogenous phase: During this phase, which lasts between three and five months, old hair is lost.
During the normal hair cycle, most follicles (around 90%) are in the anagen, or growth phase, according to Clinical, Aesthetic and Research Dermatologyfor study.
8 Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss
Medications can cause two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium or anagen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is the most common, he saysDra. Susan Massick, associate professor of dermatology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
"With telogen effluvium, your hair prematurely goes into the telogen/resting phase, stops growing, and then falls out, usually a few months after starting a medication," says Dr. Massick.
Anagen effluvium, on the other hand, occurs as a result of a toxic or inflammatory event in the scalp, for Statistics pearls.
Here are some of the more common medications that can cause both, depending on theAmerican Hair Loss Association.
1. Acne Medications
Acne drugs (a drug derived from vitamin A) may be good for acne-prone skin but bad for your scalp, says dermatologist and hair loss specialistMichael mayo, FRCS,director of the Wimpole Clinic in London.
The most common acne medication that creates this problem is accutane or isotretinoin.
"vitamin ait's a really important nutrient for your hair because it can really help your hair grow," she says. "But when you eat large amounts, your hair follicles can become activated."
This causes your hair to reach the end of its development phase faster than normal, causing it to fall out. And because your body can't produce new hair fast enough to replace it, you could experience thinning hair or even go bald, says May.
Blood thinners are important medicines for people who are at risk of blood clots and who have heart problems, such as irregular heartbeat,heart attackor stroke, depending on theOklahoma Heart Hospital.
But some common blood thinners can cause hair loss. These include, according to the American Hair Loss Association:
- Panwarfin (warfarin sodium)
- Sofarin (warfarin sodium)
- Coumadin (warfarin sodium)
- heparin injections
Instead, your doctor may recommend a new class of blood thinners, drugs like pradaxa (dabigatran), xarelto (rivaroxaban), and eliquis (apixaban), which are less likely to cause this problem, says Dr. Jalimán.
3. Anti-seizure medications
Along with stomach pain, dizziness, and blurred vision, anti-seizure medications such as tridone (trimethadione) can cause hair loss as a possible side effect.
"Hair loss has been listed as one of the most common side effects of these medications," says Dr. Jalimán. But for the most part, it's mild enough that patients can continue these medications with success.
4. Certain antidepressants
Whileanxietyitself can sometimes cause (stress-induced) hair loss, medications that treat anxiety can also cause hair loss.
In fact, these drugs can disrupt reproductive hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, which can lead to hair loss, he says.Cory Gaskins, Bachelor of Science, MD,Dermatologist and Resident Specialist Physicianskincv.com.
Some common antidepressants that can cause hair loss include, according to the American Hair Loss Association:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride), zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride), and paxil (paroxetine)
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as elavin (amitriptyline), pamelor (nortriptyline), and imipramine (tofranil)
Beta blockers are drugs that block the hormone epinephrine in the body, causing the heart to beat slower, according to themayo clinic.
Beta blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and can also cause hair loss in this case. These include, according to the American Hair Loss Association:
- Tenormin (atenolol)
- Lopresor (metoprolol)
- Corgard (nadolol)
- Inderal e Inderal LA (propanolol)
- Blocadren (timolol)
Beta blockers can also be used to treat glaucoma. Some beta blockers used to treat this eye condition, such as the thymoptic (timolol), have been linked to hair loss. However, a new glaucoma drug called bimatoprost was found to have the opposite effect by stimulating hair growth, according to a January 2022 study in drug delivery.
6. Hormonal contraceptives
Anybirth control method that contains estrogen— such as the patch, pill, or vaginal ring — can cause hair loss. This is due to all the hormonal changes that occur in your body.
“When your body experiences shock or stress—in this case, sudden changes in hormone levels via the pill—the hair roots are prematurely pushed into a resting state,” he says.Dr. Anna Chacon,a dermatologist in Miami, Florida. In that time, about 70% of the hair on the scalp will fall out, leading to hair loss.
But don't worry: This is temporary, she says.
"Once your body adjusts to the hormonal effect of the pill, your hair loss will return to normal within six to twelve months," says Dr. Chacón.
The Depo-Provera birth control shot can also cause hair loss because it contains the hormone progesterone, says Dr. Jaliman. "So if I have patients who are concerned about this, I advise them to just use birth control pills," he adds.
7. Prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus can cause hair loss, but sometimes medications used to relieve symptoms have the same effect.
The two most common anti-inflammatory drugs that cause hair loss include, according to theArthritis Foundation:
- Methotrexate: this drug is responsible for hair loss in up to 3% of all users. It treats inflammation by preventing cell growth, which includes hair follicles.
- Arava (leflunomide): This medication causes hair loss in about 10% of all users, for the same reasons as methotrexate, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
8. Chemotherapy drugs
While these drugs are powerful enough to kill fast-growing cancer cells, they can also destroy healthy, growing cells, such as those in the hair shaft, says Dr. Massick.
When you undergo chemotherapy for cancer treatment, your hair cells in the anagen growth phase stop growing. Hair begins to fall out soon after starting treatment.
This is also temporary, however. "Your hair will regrow three to six months after treatment ends," she adds, "although it may temporarily be a different color or texture (i.e., curly instead of straight)."
Is hair loss more common in men or women?
While both men and women can experience drug-related hair loss, the effects are often more noticeable in women.
"Women are not necessarily more susceptible to hair loss, but they may be more conscious of their appearance, more concerned about thinning, and more likely to seek help to deal with their hair loss," says Dr. Massick. This can lead them to takehair growth supplements, or turning towardstopical treatments for hair loss.
How to reverse hair loss caused by medications
Hair loss is a common side effect of many medications, but there are ways to reduce hair loss and keep your hair healthy while taking these medications. Here are some tips:
adjust your diet
Diet can't reverse hair loss, but it can help minimize some of the damage, says Dr. Massick. "A well-balanced diet with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and protein is important," he adds.
In fact, a March 2020 review inSkin disorders Appendixanalyzed 24 studies and found theMediterranean diet,as well as diets rich in protein and soy, they can be used as therapy for hair loss, since they contain anti-inflammatory nutrients that promote hair health and growth.
Dr. Massick also recommends that your doctor check your iron and ferritin levels, as both are important for hair growth.
“Avoid very low-calorie diets or extreme diets, since many times they do not provide the necessary nutrients for healthy hair,” he adds.
talk to your doctor
The only way to reverse hair loss caused by medications is to stop them, says Dr. Massick. But this may or may not be possible depending on the medicine you are taking.
and youhair loss is due to high blood pressure medication, a change can be easy; for example, you can switch from beta blockers to another option, such as an ACE inhibitor or a diuretic, according to Dr. Massick. But if you're taking an anti-inflammatory medication to treat a condition like RA, it may not be an easy switch.
In these cases, you need to weigh the benefits of medication against the distress you might experience from hair loss, says Dr. Massick.
Most of the time, when you stop taking the medicine, your hair grows back. But, "waiting for drug-induced hair loss to grow back or reverse can seem like an eternity," says Dr. Massick.
"Keep in mind that while there can be a delay of three to six months between starting a medication and hair loss, hair regrowth can take even longer, typically 12 to 18 months," she adds. .
Rest assured that you will not go bald permanently. In the meantime, Dr. Massick recommends the following steps:
- Avoid putting too much stress on the scalp (this causes faster shedding and more hair loss).
- Avoid tight braids or ponytails.
- Do not add hair extensions.
- Minimize any chemicals applied to the scalp, such as highlights or hair dyes, for several months.
Patience and time are key, he emphasizes. "Most of the time, the hair grows back," says Dr. Massick.