What Medications Cause Hair Loss?
While age-related hair loss is all but a given, certain medications can also interfere with your scalp’s natural, hair-growth cycle. Known as drug-induced alopecia, some drugs can cause your hair to thin, lose its luster, or fall out prematurely. Depending on the type of medication, different stages of the growth cycle may be impacted. A normal, natural hair-growth cycle goes as follows:
- Anagen phase - hair grows for a period of three to five years
- Catagen phase - a transitional phase that lasts around 10 days; hair follicles shrink and then separate from their growth sacs or dermal papillae
- Telogen phase - a resting phase when hair growth stops
- Exogen phase - hair sheds or falls out as a new hair-growth cycle begins
Since different types of medications affect the body’s systems in different ways, hair loss causes can vary depending on how a particular drug interacts with your hair-growth cycle. In general, two types of drug-induced hair loss can result - telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium.
With telogen effluvium, medications cause hair follicles to go into the resting phase too early, which results in hair thinning and hair loss. With anagen effluvium medications disrupt hair growth during the growth phase or anagen phase of the hair-growth cycle, which also results in thinning and hair loss.
Medications Known to Cause Hair Loss
So, what medications cause hair loss? Certain types of medications carry side effects that can result in hair loss depending on how your body responds to them. Since your hair relies on things like blood circulation and hormone levels to promote growth, medications that impact processes that support hair growth can cause hair loss. Here are a few types of drugs to watch out for:
Prescription antibiotics can lower your body’s levels of B-vitamins and hemoglobin, which are the proteins in red blood cells that transport oxygen through the blood. Low hemoglobin levels not only slow the hair growth process but can also cause premature shedding. Likewise, B-vitamins help the body manufacture red blood cells, so low levels of these vitamins will also result in low blood-oxygen levels.
Retinoid-derived acne medications contain high levels of vitamin A. While vitamin A can promote hair growth, excess amounts will cause hair loss. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble drug. This means excess amounts can build up in the body’s fat tissues. Since acne medications are typically applied daily, it doesn’t take long for vitamin A to accumulate in the body.
Anti-clotting medications, such as heparins and coumarins are commonly prescribed to treat heart-related conditions. They work by thinning your blood so clots won’t form in your arteries. While effective, these drugs can cause side effects, one of which is hair loss. In effect, anti-clotting or anticoagulant drugs cause hair follicles to enter the resting phase, prematurely.
Commonly used to treat autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, immunosuppressants work by weakening your body’s immune system so it stops attacking the body’s tissues. Some immunosuppressants, including Arava, Cytoxan, and Enbrel can cause hair loss due to their ability to alter immune system functions. Since the skin (including your hair follicles) is part of your immune system, the effects of immunosuppressants may interfere with your hair-growth cycle.
Used to treat cancer and autoimmune conditions, chemotherapy drugs work by destroying cancer cells, which are fast-growing cells. These drugs target fast-growing cells, in general, meaning they may also attack and destroy non-cancer cells in the body, including hair follicle cells.
Unlike the other medications mentioned in this list, chemotherapy drugs disrupt the anagen or growth phase of the hair-growth cycle. Consequently, hair loss may occur wherever hair grows on the body, including the eyebrows and eyelashes as well as hair that grows on your head.
Other Drugs That Can Cause Hair Loss:
- Birth control pills, along with estrogen- and progesterone-based medications
- Blood pressure medications, also known as beta-blockers
- ACE inhibitors
- Mood stabilizers
How to Help Treat Drug-Induced Hair Loss
With medication-induced hair loss, your hair may grow back, naturally, when you stop taking the drug but sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes stopping the drug may not be an option where your health is concerned. When this is the case, there are treatments that may help restore your hair’s thickness and luster.
While medications like Propecia and Rogaine can help, these treatments may not fully restore your hair and hairline. One option that helps to regrow hair and prevent further hair loss is laser therapy. Laser treatment for hair loss is an FDA-cleared approach that works by stimulating hair follicle cells.
A cutting-edge technology known as photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT)—formerly often referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), this technique directs low levels of near-infrared light into hair follicle cells. Certain key benefits of PBMT for hair loss include:
- Boosts cell metabolism processes
- Increases blood circulation to the scalp
- Stimulates melanin production in the hair follicles to restore color to gray hairs
- Jumpstarts chemical activities in the sebaceous glands, which promotes healthy, silky-looking hair
- Produces thicker, stronger, more supple hair shafts
Wearing one of our laser therapy caps for just six minutes per day allows you to harness the power of PBMT in the comfort of your home. With the help of our safe, low-level lasers, you will stimulate, energize, and renew cells within the hair follicle. Best of all, it does not involve any pharmaceuticals and there are no known adverse side effects from using this treatment.
While medication hair loss causes can be disheartening, you do have options. Do a little research and find out which hair loss solutions will best meet your needs.