10 Common Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss

Hair loss, or alopecia, is not something you want to mess around with. It’s an emotional issue for both men and women. Hair loss can be genetic, caused by hormonal imbalances, or the result of a health condition, and can be either temporary or permanent. What you may not know is that certain prescription drugs can cause hair loss or thinning of the hair. Here are 10 common medications that can cause hair loss.

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The good news is that medication-induced hair loss can be halted once the drug is stopped or the body has adjusted to the dose. Medication impacts hair growth by damaging the hair follicles and causing the hair shaft to fracture.The severity of hair loss is determined by the type and dosage of the drug, and the degree of sensitivity to it.

Types of Hair Loss


Medications can cause two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium. 90% of the hair on the scalp is growing at any given time, with each hair follicle having its own life cycle. This cycle is influenced by a number of factors, including health and age. Telogen effluvium (TE) is the most common type of drug-induced hair loss, typically manifesting within two to four months after beginning the medication. TE causes the follicles to enter their resting phase (telogen) prematurely, causing the loss of up to 150 hairs per day.

Anagen effluvium (AE) is another type of hair loss that can be caused by certain types of medication. Hair loss may be noticed within a couple of days after starting the drug or it may take a few weeks before any visible changes are apparent.

Hair ceases to actively grow despite being in a growing state (anagen), and matrix cells, components of the hair follicle that produce new growth, stop dividing. $Anagen effluvium can potentially be a long-term condition, and can occur on other areas of the body besides the scalp, including thinning of the eyelashes and eyebrows. The hair loss associated with chemotherapy is an example of anagen effluvium.

Medications That Cause Hair Loss and Hair Thinning


1. Prozac


Antidepressant use is rampant. Although medications can be helpful, they all come with side effects. One potential side effect of prozac, a medication used to treat depression, is hair loss, specifically telogen effluvium, which is linked to stress. Stress causes the hair follicles to prematurely enter the resting stage, causing the hair to shed. Certain factors increase risk, including being female, having taken the medication for at least two years, age (over 60), and having breast cancer.

2. Zoloft


Zoloft is an antidepressant and SSRI used for depressive disorders, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, panic attacks, and social anxiety.  SSRIs are the most heavily prescribed antidepressants in the US. What you may not have been told, before filling your prescription, is that hair loss is only one of the many side effects associated with this medication. To compound matters, Zoloft carries a black-box warning due to an increased risk of suicide for those with psychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder.

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3. Provera


Provera is a synthetic form of the female hormone progesterone that regulates ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It’s used to treat excessive uterine bleeding, fibroids, endometriosis, and secondary amenorrhea. It’s also used to prevent growth in the uterine lining in postmenopausal women who are taking estrogen. The drug comes with a long list of side effects, including changes in weight, bloating, nausea, acne, and hair loss, which is most likely caused by hormonal changes.

4. Accutane


Accutane is a retinoid used to treat acne by decreasing oil production in the skin. It can cause hair loss through a variety of mechanisms: it damages hair follicles, which can lead to permanent hair loss, it causes hair shedding via its effect on hormones, and it causes the hair to thin, likely a result of vitamin A toxicity. Accutane is no longer used in the United States, although a generic form is still available.

5. Metoprolol


Metoprolol is a beta blocker used for the treatment of angina, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat, It relaxes blood vessels and slows heart rate to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Hair loss is more notable in women, those who are over 60 years of age, and people who have taken the medication for up to six months. People with high cholesterol are more prone to experience hair loss. Dosage may also be a factor.

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6. Lisinopril


Lisinopril is an ACE inhibitor used to decrease high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels to improve blood flow, preventing stroke and cardiovascular events. How lisinopril causes hair loss is unknown. Shedding may be noticed while showering or brushing the hair, though is generally not severe. Captopril is another drug in this class that can also cause hair loss.

7. Humira


Humira reduces inflammation by blocking tumor necrosis factor, an inflammatory protein. It’s used to treat arthritis, ulcerative colitis, ankylosing, and Crohn’s disease. One of the drug’s side effects is hair loss, which is thought to be caused by disruptions in the balance of cytokines, chemical messengers within the immune system. Hair loss caused by humira is usually not severe, with hair growth resuming after stopping the drug. However, conditions such as male pattern baldness, may trigger permanent hair loss.

8. Lipitor


Lipitor is a statin drug used to lower the amount of cholesterol made by the liver. Statins come with a whole slew of side effects, including hair loss, likely the result of hormonal changes caused by the reduction of cholesterol. So while your cholesterol numbers are dipping so are the hairs on your head.  Zocar, another statin, can also cause hair loss. However, one of the newer statin medications, crestor, does not.

9. Lamictal


Lamictal is an anticonvulsant used for treating seizure disorders. It’s also used as a mood stabilizer to treat bipolar. Only a small percentage of people taking the drug will experience hair loss, which is thought to be caused by a lack of blood flow to the scalp. Other common side effects include, headache, drowsiness, insomnia, forgetfulness, nausea, and skin rashes.

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10. Birth control pills


Millions of women are on the birth control pill, by far the most popular form of contraception. Ironically, the pill is prescribed to prevent hair loss in hopes that the synthetic estrogen they contain will promote hair growth by counteracting the progestins, which damage hair follicles. Although, discontinuing the medication can result in an increase in hair shedding for several weeks, eventually hair growth will return to normal.

Key Points


It’s unfortunate that common medications can cause hair loss, but they’re not the only culprit. Poor diet, stress, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, illness, infections, weight loss, pregnancy, surgery, and prolonged iron deficiency can also cause hair loss, thinning, and shedding. If you’re noticing hair loss, and are on one of these medications, talk to your doctor about dosage or consider changing prescriptions. You can also try hair regrowth treatments like Minoxidil and Nioxin.

Do you have any questions about hair loss? Let me know in the comments:)

 

References:

(1) healthline: What Medications Can Cause Hair Loss, and What Can You Do About It?

(2) GoodRx: Is Your Medication Causing Hair Loss? These 11 Drugs Are Common Culprits

(3) eHealthMe: Prozac and Hair loss – from FDA reports

(4) Everyday Health: What Is Zoloft (Sertraline)?

(5) RxList: Provera

(6) Drugs.com: Lamictal Side Effects

(7) Lara Briden: The Pill, Thyroid, and 4 Other Types of Hormonal Hair Loss

(8) Arthritis Foundation: Getting to the Root of Hair Loss

(9) eHealthMe: Metoprolol succinate and Hair loss – from FDA reports

 

18 thoughts on “10 Common Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss”

  1. Wow, this is a very good post with some very interesting information. For me, this serves as an eye opener because I didn’t know that there are some drugs that can cause hair loss. I do not have the issue but I have friends who complain about it. Like you said, it can be an emotional issue. This is very good, I will share it.. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for this great review on the causes of hair loss I remembered some years back when I wanted to treat my high blood pressure so I used Metoprolol. After some days I noticed my hair falling out, and I complained to the doctor and he told me it was because of the drug I used, which since then I have been avoiding it. Thanks 

    Reply
    • Hi Rose,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Metoprolol. I’m glad your doctor informed you of the reason behind your hair loss. I hope you found a better alternative:)

      Reply
  3. Hello there, this is a very interesting and important topic you have brought up and it importance cannot be overemphasized. Drug-induced alopecia has become a very rampant occurrence in recent time as the level of chemotherapy drugs are very high and they are one of the main causes of hair loss. Your post is top notch and well organized. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Thank you. I agree, medication-induced hair loss is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. The majority of people know that chemotherapy causes hair loss, but are unaware that other drugs can be problematic, as well. I appreciate your comment:)

      Reply
  4. Thanks a lot for such an amazing and informative article. I never knew that so many medications could cause hair loss. I want to say that 5 years ago I had severe depression because of the loss of my best friends due to a car accident. I used several antidepressants and one was Zoloft. The side effects started after 3 weeks when I noticed that started to lose hair. From then on, I quit taking it. 

    Because I’m a gym lover i want to ask you if the steroids can affect the hair loss? 

    Thanks again and keep in touch. 

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome. Many people aren’t aware that hair loss is a side effect of common medication. I’m so sorry to hear about your depression and the loss of your friends. That’s just terrible. Thanks for sharing your experience with Zoloft. I’m glad you discontinued the drug, but I hope you found an alternative that was helpful. 

      From what I understand, some steroids can indirectly cause hair loss. Find out which ones do specifically before taking them. Thanks for your comment:)

      Reply
  5. Wow this is some great information and definitely something I can share with my friends and family. I’m not sure people really stop to think about non-health side effects, but this can have a huge effect on our life and self- esteem.

    I appreciate that you mentioned other factors that can affect hair loss, like poor diet, stress, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, illness,  infections, weight loss, pregnancy, etc. Some of the medications  are a necessity for some people so it would always be helpful to know others things they can work on and also work on talking to their doctor about dosage or consider changing prescriptions

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading and sharing my post. It’s true that many people don’t even think about researching the side effects of the meds they’re taking. I would certainly want to know if the drugs I’m taking could potentially cause hair loss. Since a change in medication or dosage could solve the problem, why not consider other options?! Meds aren’t the only reason for hair loss, but it’s one factor we do have some control over.  Thanks for you comment:)

      Reply
  6. I used to have a serious issue with hair loss, and I can tell you really well that it was very embarrassing. I would’ve never thought that the reason for this was because of some type of medication. One thing I admire about this post is that you pointed out that it is not only the meds that can cause the hair loss but a poor diet can contribute to it as well. Nice work.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I’m sorry to hear about your hair loss, I can only imagine how hard that would be.. Most people don’t realize that certain prescription drugs may be the underlying cause of their hair thinning or loss. Yes, there are other reasons for hair loss, as well. Thanks for taking the time to comment:)

      Reply
  7. Hair loss can be really painful and my wife is having issues with her hair not knowing if it could be any of these reasons. I haven’t come across a post that gives so much detailed information like this, and now I would be very careful with the intake of drugs so as to avoid this problem. Drugs for inflammation is common amongst people and I hope they know it can be harmful from this post.

    Reply
    • I’m sorry to hear that your wife is having issues with hair loss. If she’s on medication, it may be worth checking out the possible side effects. Yes, meds for inflammation are very common, with people not realizing that hair loss is a potential side effect. Thanks so much for reading:)

      Reply
  8. Hi Holly. I never imagined that hair loss can be caused as a result of medication; this article comes as both a shock and a lesson to me as I have learnt a lot from it about hair loss. Sadly, hair loss can also be caused by some other factors which you have stated towards the end. Awareness gives an edge so I want to say thank you for sharing this eye-opening content.

    Reply
    • You’re not alone, it’s not on many people’s radar that their meds may be responsible for their hair loss or hair thinning. Medications aren’t the only factor that plays into hair loss, but if a prescription drug is the reason, it’s an easy fix. Simply find an alternative or change the dosage. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment:)

      Reply
  9. As a female I wouldn’t want to lose my hair at any age, and sadly these drugs are commonly used by people. It’s funny how we all don’t know they can cause issues for our hair. I personally have used a couple of meds regularly, and have made the decision to stop or reduce their intake to avoid the side effects. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    Reply
    • Hi Bella,

      It would be awful to lose hair at any age for a woman. You’re right, it’s very sad that many common medications, used by millions of people, can cause hair loss, yet most aren’t aware of this side effect. Good for you for being aware of potential side effects of the meds you’re taking. Thanks so much for reading my post:)

      Reply

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