Can birth control pills cause hair loss?
The short answer is yes, birth control pills can cause hair loss, both while on the pill or after coming off.
How do birth control pills cause hair loss?
Birth control pills that can trigger hair loss typically have high androgenic potential. Androgens are male sex hormones found in both men and women, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Taking birth control pills with androgenic effects can lead to shrinking of hair follicles, thinner hair strands, and increased hair shedding. Typically, the top of the head is affected first, similar to female pattern genetically induced hair loss.
Hair loss can also occur once birth control pills are stopped. Birth control pills cause a woman's body to enter a pregnancy-like state. As in pregnancy, some pills cause the hair follicles to stay in their growth phase (anagen) longer, making hair appear stronger and thicker. Once the hormones from the birth control pills have ceased, the hair follicles switch to the resting phase (telogen) abruptly, causing diffuse hair shedding (telogen effluvium) throughout the entire scalp.
How common is oral contraceptive-related hair loss?
While the exact prevalence is unkown, this phenomenon is believed to be quite common.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent hair loss from birth control?
To avoid birth control-related hair loss, women with a familial tendency for hair loss are recommended avoid birth control pills with a high androgenic index. Examples of high androgen contractive pills are Loestrin, Ovral, Lo-Ovral, Ovrette, and Nordette. Examples of birth control pills with low levels of androgens are Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Ortho-Cept, Micronor, and Desogen. Women with a tendency for hair loss should also avoid hormonally coated IUDs, the birth control shot, the birth control patch, progestin implants, and the birth control ring.
Is there a way to treat hair loss from birth control?
The first step is switching to birth control pills with a lower androgenic index or stopping them altogether. The treatment depends on the kind of hair loss. If the hair loss appears on the top of the head, it can be improved by using scalp treatment serums, shampoos, and oral supplements that contain plant-based DHT (androgen) blockers. DHT blockers hinder the effect of androgens on the hair follicles and help them restart active hair regrowth.
Hair loss that appears after the discontinuation of birth control pills can be treated similarly to postpartum hair loss. These treatments include scalp serums and oral supplements that replenish the vitamins and minerals needed to restart hair regrowth. In severe cases, topical minoxidil 2% can be added. Minoxidil has been proven to increase hair regrowth by stimulating blood circulation to the scalp, and is also believed to have an anti-androgenic effect.
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