It’s normal to lose some hair every day. However, if you are losing an excessive amount of hair, possible causes include stress, giving birth, genetics, and certain prescription drugs. Among the medications that cause hair loss are some very common ones like antibiotics and birth control pills.
Most of the time, you may only experience temporary hair loss when taking certain medications. Once you stop taking the medication or modify the dosage, hair often grows back. Other times, that’s not the case. Some medications may potentially lead to male or female pattern baldness and eventually permanent hair loss.
Before using a medication, it’s important to find out what its potential side effects are, and if they include hair loss. You should be aware that not all medications with the possibility to cause hair loss will have the same effect on everyone taking them. The severity of the hair loss may depend on the drug, the dosage you’re taking and your body’s sensitivity to the drug in particular.
The Top 10 Medications that Cause Hair Loss
Here is a listing of the top 10 medications that can cause temporary or permanent hair loss, and a listing of some others:
- Acne medications (that contain Vitamin A): While you’re fighting stubborn pimples and acne, you could be losing your hair. The key ingredient in many acne medications is Vitamin A in its processed form (retinoids, retinol). When in its provitamin form, beta carotene, this is not a notable risk. The precursor beta carotene is only converted into Vitamin A’s active form by the body when it’s needed, avoiding toxicity. When taken in large dosages, processed Vitamin A can lead to telogen effluvium – when the hair follicles go into their resting phase (telogen) too early, causing more hair to fall out. You may notice that your hair doesn’t immediately fall out when you begin taking the drug – it often begins between two and four months after beginning the medication. Medications with Vitamin A include Accutane (Isotretinoin) and Retin-A (Tretinoin). Current recommended daily allowances for Vitamin A are:
- Men, 19 years and older: 900 mcg
- Women, 19 years and older: 700 mcg
- Pregnant women, 14 to 18 years: 750 mcg
- Pregnant women, 19 years and older: 770 mcg
A possible solution for hair loss while taking a Vitamin A-based medication is to lower the dosage.
- Antibiotics and Antifungals: One of the hidden dangers of antibiotic use is hair loss. Antibiotics are known to reduce hemoglobin and Vitamin B levels, sometimes making 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, dry and even fall out. Vitamin B and B-Complex Vitamins (including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (Cobalamin)) are very important for maintaining healthy hair growth, thickness and shine.
- Anti-Convulsants/Epileptic medications: Anticonvulsants, or anti-seizure medications, can also cause hair loss. Medications include trimethadione (Tridione) and valproic acid (Depakote).
- Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and mood disorder medications: Certain anti-depressant medications are known to cause telogen effluvium including:
- Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
- Amoxapine (Asendin)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane)
- Doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan)
- Fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft)
- Birth control pills/female hormones: Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies can affect hormonal balance and cause hair loss. Estrogen and Progesterone (female hormones) are hormonal medications that have been linked to female pattern baldness and telogen effluvium in women.
Blood pressure medications: Blood pressure lowering medications such as Beta-blockers and Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) can lead to telogen effluvium. Some include:
- Beta-blockers – Atenolol (Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor), Nadolol (Corgord), Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA), and Timolol (Blocadren)
- ACE inhibitors – Captopril (Capoten), Lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil), Enalapril (Vasotec)
- Blood-clotting medications: Blood thinners such as warfarin sodium (Panwarfarin, Sofarin, Coumadin) and heparin can cause hair loss.
- Chemotherapy and anti-cancer drugs: Among all these drugs, anti-cancer and chemotherapy medications are most known by the general public to cause hair loss not only on the head, but also facial hair including eyebrows, eyelashes, and other bodily hairs. Chemotherapy not only attacks cancer cells – it attacks all of our healthy cells indiscriminately, including hair follicles. Some chemotherapies that cause hair loss include: Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide, Cactinomycin, Docetaxel, and Doxorubicin.
- 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 and Effexor can cause an increase in hair shedding in only 1% of cases.
- Male-hormones: Testosterone or anabolic steroids may cause male-pattern baldness.
Other medications that cause hair loss
Some additional medications that can cause hair loss include:
- Gout treatments
- Immune-suppressant drugs
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Drugs for Parkinson’s Disease
- Thyroid Medications
- Weight loss drugs
It is important to note that most of these treatments are traditional prescription drugs which are synthetically made. The active ingredients may not be chemically harmonious with your body, and if not properly balanced, can cause hair loss. Additionally, these drugs often have more than one side effect.
Ensuring the proper balance
The overarching lesson is 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. 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 will include all of the necessary vitamins and minerals your hair needs for healthy growth in the appropriate amounts.
An added benefit would be to find a supplement that provides nutrition to hair with vitamins and minerals. 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.
Ashwaghanda: An Indian herb, Ashwaghanda has been historically used to alleviate or help with some symptoms of a number of diseases, including depression and anxiety. It also has properties that have been studied for their potential to protect the nervous system – particularly helpful for those with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Currently, research is being done to study the use of Ashwaghanda for relief of some symptoms associated with cancer treatment, such as the immune suppressing effects of chemotherapy. Additionally, Ashwaghanda is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, providing benefits for healthier hair.
Curcumin: Curcumin is a substance in turmeric, a plant which 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 have been conducted on Curcumin’s potential benefits for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stomach ulcers, colitis and high cholesterol. Studies also show that Curcumin’s properties help to optimize the immune system and other causes of slow hair growth.
- 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”:
- Life Extension: “Ashwagandha Stress Reduction, Neural Protection, and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb”:
- WebMD: “Vitamins and Supplements LifeStyle Guide – Turmeric (Curcumin)”: