Some medications cause only temporary hair loss. However, some medications and forms of treatment can lead to male or female pattern baldness and permanent hair loss. Yikes!
It can be helpful to understand what medications cause hair loss. We’re all unique: not all medications with the potential to cause hair loss will affect everyone equally. The severity of the effects of drugs that cause hair loss can depend on the drug itself, the dosage you’re taking and your body’s sensitivity to the drug or treatment.
The Top 10 Medications that Cause Hair Loss
Wondering what medications cause hair loss? Here are 10 of the main medications that can cause temporary or permanent hair loss:
1.) Acne medications (that contain Vitamin A): The key ingredient in many acne medications is Vitamin A, but in its processed form (retinoids, retinol). When taken in large doses, processed Vitamin A can lead to telogen effluvium, which is when the hair follicles go into their resting phase (telogen) too early, causing more hair to fall out. The effects often begin two to four months after a person begins the medication. Medications with Vitamin A include Accutane (Isotretinoin) and Retin-A (Tretinoin). A possible solution for hair loss while taking a Vitamin A-based medication is to lower the dosage.
2.) Antibiotics and Antifungals: Antibiotics are known to reduce hemoglobin and Vitamin B levels, which can sometimes make hair fall out faster. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. Hemoglobin and myoglobin are also important for storing iron. Decreased hemoglobin leads to iron deficiency, which in turn causes hair to become brittle or dry, or even to fall out. Vitamin B and B-Complex Vitamins are important for maintaining healthy hair growth, thickness and shine.
3.) Anticonvulsants/Epileptic medications: Anticonvulsants, or anti-seizure medications, can also compromise hair health. Medications include trimethadione (Tridione) and valproic acid (Depakote).
4.) Antidepressants, anti-anxiety and mood disorder medications: Certain antidepressant medications are known to cause telogen effluvium, such as:
- Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
- Amoxapine (Asendin)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane)
- Doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan)
- Fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft)
5.) Birth control pills/female hormones: Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies can affect hormonal balance and are among the drugs that cause hair loss. Estrogen and Progesterone (female hormones) are hormonal medications that have been linked to female pattern baldness and telogen effluvium in women.
6.) Blood pressure medications: Does Lisinopril cause hair loss? Blood pressure lowering medications such as Beta-blockers and Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) can lead to telogen effluvium, such as:
- Beta-blockers: Atenolol (Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor), Nadolol (Corgord), Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA), and Timolol (Blocadren)
- ACE inhibitors: Captopril (Capoten), Lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil), Enalapril (Vasotec)
7.) Blood-clotting medications: Blood thinners such as warfarin sodium (Panwarfarin, Sofarin, Coumadin) and heparin can cause hair loss.
8.) Chemotherapy and anti-cancer drugs: Chemotherapy does more than attack cancer cells; it attacks all of our healthy cells, including hair follicles. Some chemotherapies that can cause hair loss include: Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide, Cactinomycin, Docetaxel, and Doxorubicin.
9.) Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Cholesterol drugs including Atromid-S (clofibrate) and Lopid (gemfirbozil) can cause hair loss. Hair loss is a very rare side effect of statin-based cholesterol-lowering drugs. According to studies, cholesterol inhibitors such as Lipitor can cause an increase in hair shedding in only 1% of cases.
10.) Male hormones: Testosterone or anabolic steroids may cause male pattern baldness.
Other medications that cause hair loss
What medications cause hair loss aside from the top 10? Some additional medications that can cause hair loss include:
- Gout treatment drugs
- Immunosuppressant drugs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Drugs for Parkinson’s disease
- Thyroid medications
- Weight loss drugs
Ensuring the proper balance
It’s important to ensure proper balance when taking medications. Getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals in your diet is crucial for maintaining healthy hair and to prevent excessive hair shedding. While many drugs may not be widely associated with hair loss, almost every drug impacts nutrient deficiency, which can contribute to hair health. One helpful resource is MyTavin.com, where you can check drugs for nutrient depletion.
If an adverse effect of your medication is hair loss, you might consider taking a comprehensive supplement for hair to support a strong, healthy environment in which hair can flourish.
For example, if you are taking an antibiotic or antifungal that causes hair loss as a side effect, it would be smart to incorporate a B-Complex Vitamin dietary supplement and/or iron supplement to replenish any Vitamin B and iron deficiencies. Conversely, if you are taking too much Vitamin A, you might consider decreasing the dosage. The key is getting the right dosage your body needs to do its job.
One way you can maintain proper amounts of vitamins and minerals in your diet is to take a hair health supplement. A good hair health supplement provides nutrition to hair and will include all of the necessary vitamins and minerals your hair needs for healthy growth in the appropriate amounts.
Many herbs have historically been used in Chinese or Ayurvedic cultures and medicine to treat symptoms of certain diseases such as hypertension, blood clotting, bacterial and fungal infections, cholesterol, etc. Today, research is showing that some of these herbs can support healthy hair growth.
For example, Ashwagandha is an Indian herb that historically has been used to alleviate or help with some symptoms of a number of diseases, including depression and anxiety. Ashwaghanda is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, providing benefits for healthier hair, and can decrease cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Curcumin is a substance found in turmeric, a plant that is a main ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric has been used in Indian and Asian medicine to treat a variety of health conditions because of its potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer properties. Studies show that Curcumin’s properties help to optimize the immune system and other things that can slow hair growth.
If you have concerns about any medications you’re taking comprising your hair health, talk to your doctor. And remember, Nutrafol is 100% drug-free and has on-staff naturopathic doctors available for personal consultations when you subscribe.
Everyday Health: “Medications that Can Cause Hair Loss”
Web MD: “Drug-Induced Hair Loss”
American Hair Loss Association: “Drug-Induced Hair Loss”
Daily Mail.com: “Hidden Dangers to Your Hair”