Medications That Cause Hair Loss and What You Can Do About It
As technology advances and new discoveries in science are made, more and more new drugs are being developed. These medications help us to fight off illnesses, alleviate symptoms of diseases, and prevent the development of chronic conditions, just to name a few.
However, sometimes medications come with unwanted side effects. You’ve probably heard on various commercials advertising new medications that side effects can include nausea, upset stomach, dizziness, headache, etc. While these side effects are obviously a nuisance, one in particular can negatively affect a person’s self-esteem and quality of life: hair loss.
Several common classes of drugs can cause hair loss as a side effect, which sometimes causes people to stop taking their medications. What most people don’t know, however, is that hair loss caused by medications is temporary and the problem can often be overcome by a dosage adjustment or a little extra hair TLC. Keep reading to learn the medications that cause hair loss and what you can do about it.
How much hair loss is normal?
Did you know that the average woman loses between 100 and 150 strands of hair per day? This amount of hair loss is normal based on the way human hair grows: about 90% of the hair strands are in the anagen (growth) phase and 10% are in the telogen (resting) phase. Strands that are in the telogen phase fall out in order to make room for new hair to grow in.
However, if you are noticing hair loss that seems greater than normal, such as visible thinning areas or bald spots, you may be experiencing female pattern hair loss. According to WebMD, female pattern hair loss can be classified as androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium, alopecia areata, and traction alopecia.
Since loss of hair strands in the telogen phase is normal, when medications cause hair loss it is hair that is in the anagen phase that is affected. An article in the journal Drug Safety details the two main mechanisms for how drugs can affect the anagen phase:
- Anagen effluvium: the medication induces an abrupt cessation of mitotic activity in rapidly dividing hair matrix cells
- Telogen effluvium: the medication causes the anagen follicles to prematurely shift into the resting phase
Anagen effluvium usually occurs within days to weeks after the start of the medication. This type of hair loss most commonly occurs in those using chemotherapy drugs for cancer.
Telogen effluvium occurs when there is a change in the number of hair follicles growing hair. WebMD explains that many of the 90% or so of hairs in the anagen phase can actually shift all at once into the telogen phase when the body undergoes a shock, trauma, or stress. Besides certain medications, this type of hair loss can also be caused by surgery, high fevers and certain chronic illnesses.
Medications that cause hair loss
Below is a list of medications classes that have been associated with telogen effluvium. This does not mean each drug in the listed class will have this side effect. To know for sure if the medication you are taking has this side effect, reach out to your pharmacist for the drug’s medication guide, which will list all side effects associated with that specific medication.
- ACE inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Contraceptives (both oral and injection)
- Retinoids and derivatives
- Thyroid medications
What you can do about medication-induced hair loss
Your doctor will be able to rule out other potential reasons for your hair loss and confirm whether or not the medication is the true cause. If the medication is found to be the reason, your doctor might adjust the dosage or switch to a different medication that does not have that side effect.
If a change in medication or dosage adjustment is not possible, there are still other ways you can help make the thinning hair less noticeable. Your doctor might suggest an over-the-counter hair regrowth formula, such as minoxidil (Rogaine). Minoxidil stimulates hair growth by two proposed mechanisms: it shorts the telogen (resting) phase of hair and causes premature entry of the resting hair follicles into the anagen phase, and it also causes prolongation of anagen and increases hair follicle size. (Br J Dermatol. 2004 )
There are also natural remedies you can try in order to help your hair regrow. One method is to gently massage your scalp with either jojoba oil or castor oil, both of which have been shown to promote hair growth.
When jojoba oil is applied to the scalp it first unclogs hair follicles of product buildup and excess sebum. Then, the oil is absorbed by the scalp’s sebaceous glands inside the follicles. As a new hair strand grows from the follicle, it will have a thick coating of sebum due to the jojoba oil, which protects it from breakage as well as hair loss. (Beverly Hills MD)
Castor oil can help to promote hair growth due to its composition of omega-9 fatty acids, specifically ricinoleic acid. The mechanism of this oil is similar to jojoba oil: it is able to enter the hair follicle and provide it with nourishment thus restoring normal hair growth. (Good Health Academy)
Of course, one of the best ways to prevent further hair loss is to give your scalp extra care and attention by using the right hair care products. If you aren’t exactly sure which products are the best for your specific hair type, take the stress out of choosing and allow the hair care professionals at Shtrands to select a personalized hair care regimen for you!
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