Heavy drinking is never a good idea. Aside from the long-term risks – alcoholism, drunk driving and liver disease included – long-term binge drinking takes a detrimental toll on your appearance and emotional health. Heavy drinkers may also suffer from premature or unexpected hair loss.
Consider the following ways alcohol and hair loss correlate:
Alcohol contains empty calories. Notwithstanding red wine, which in moderation is shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, most cocktails and boozy beverages offer zero nutritional benefits. If you drink these empty calories as a substitute for vitamin-packed foods, usually as an attempt to curb weight gain or to feel alcohol’s effects faster, you could suffer serious malnutrition. Both micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) are essential for scalp and hair health. B vitamins, for instance, energize the body and produce red bloods which keep hair thick and shiny. Alcohol actively burns these B vitamins – particularly B-1, or thiamin.¹
Regular, heavy drinking counteracts your ability to absorb other necessary nutrients by damaging the walls of the stomach, increasing acid production and decreasing digestive enzymes. Your liver also uses nutrients to metabolize alcohol. Finally, because it acts as a diuretic, zinc, magnesium and potassium levels drop with heavy drinking. Regular functions, including hair growth, are put on hold when your body is low on essential nourishment.
Stress-induced hair loss, also called telogen effluvium (TE), is the body’s reaction to shock. Your hair grows and sheds in cycles, and when TE strikes, hair follicles essentially “shut down” and fail to replenish everyday shedding. TE often manifests a few months after a death in the family, loss of a job or divorce. But everyday stress, anxiety and depression contributes to long-term TE hair loss.
How does TE and stress related to alcohol? Everyday drinking takes a massive toll on your nervous system, often leading to panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. Those who engage in binge drinking strictly on the weekends can also suffer emotional distress for weeks – even when they aren’t actively consuming alcohol. When misused, alcohol instigates ongoing worry, shame, embarrassment and mental anguish. These side effects are the primary instigators of ongoing TE.
Alcohol is prevalent in society and hard to avoid in social situations. But, drinking in moderation eliminates your risk of alcohol-induced hair loss, along with other illnesses like fatty liver and cirrhosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.²
If you believe you suffer from uncontrolled drinking or a preoccupation with alcohol, you might be an alcoholic. Talk with your physician about treatments such as rehabilitation, counseling and local meetings.