Can Dehydration Cause Hair Loss?
Reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Approximately 60 percent of your body is made up of water, and maintaining this balance plays a key role in keeping you healthy.
When your body loses too much water without you taking in enough to replace it, you’ll begin to experience a condition called dehydration.
Dehydration can take a serious toll on your health. When mild, it can cause everything from dry skin to feelings of tiredness and dizziness. When severe, it can cause fainting, confusion and in extremely severe cases, life-threatening health problems.
While dehydration isn’t good for your skin, there currently isn’t any scientific evidence linking it to male pattern baldness. However, it may indirectly play a role in some other forms of hair loss.
Below, we’ve explained why and how hair loss develops in men, as well as the potential impact that not staying hydrated can have on your skin, hair and general wellbeing.
We’ve also shared a few tips to help you stay hydrated and keep your hair thick, full and healthy at any age and in any environment.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Before we get into the specifics of dehydration and hair loss, let’s briefly go over how and why hair loss occurs in men in the first place.
Most hair loss in men is the result of androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern hair loss. This type of hair loss occurs due to a combination of genetic factors and the effects of an androgen (male sex hormone) called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
Your body produces DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. During childhood and puberty, DHT is involved in the development of your male secondary sex characteristics, such as your facial hair and voice.
As an adult, DHT can go from an essential hormone into an annoyance by binding to receptors in your hair follicles and causing your hair follicles to miniaturize, or shrink. Over time, this can result in a receding hairline, a bald spot around your crown or almost total baldness.
Not all men are equally sensitive to DHT. For some guys, it’s a minor annoyance that gradually causes mild hair loss. For others, even a small amount of DHT can cause significant, noticeable hair loss that gets worse over time.
Our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness goes into more detail about this process and your options for getting it under control.
While androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men, it’s definitely not the only one. Other forms of hair loss include:
Telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium type of temporary hair loss happens when physiological stress moves hair follicles out of their normal hair growth cycle. It can be caused by infections, illnesses that cause fever, stress, surgery, nutritional deficiencies and other issues.
Anagen effluvium. Anagen effluvium develops when the hair follicles are exposed to certain chemicals, such as medications used in chemotherapy. It often causes complete, rapid hair loss that develops over the course of two to three weeks.
Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata hair loss occurs in small, round patches across the scalp and other parts of the body. It’s linked with autoimmune diseases such as vitiligo, lupus and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Scalp fungal infections. Scalp fungal infections that affect the scalp, such as scalp ringworm (tinea capitis), can cause hair shedding. When severe, fungal infections can damage the hair follicles and cause permanent hair loss.
Does Dehydration Cause Hair Loss?
Currently, there’s no scientific evidence that shows a direct link between dehydration and male pattern baldness.
This means that if you’re starting to develop a receding hairline, bald spot at your crown or the classic horseshoe-shaped hair loss pattern, it’s probably not because your daily water intake is too low.
There’s also no evidence that being dehydrated directly contributes to telogen effluvium, fungal infections, alopecia areata or other common types of hair loss.
Put simply, if you’re losing your hair, it’s most likely isn’t because you’re skipping a few glasses of drinking water per day.
However, while dehydration doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on hair growth, it does have a real impact on your skin.
Your skin is 64 percent water, and the moisture content of your skin plays a key role in allowing it to function as a protective barrier. When you’re dehydrated, you have a higher risk of getting dry, cracked skin.
As your skin becomes drier, it can start to flake off. Skin that’s overly dry can become itchy and painful, particularly when it’s touched. When your skin becomes extremely dehydrated, it may break, increasing your risk of developing a skin infection.
This means that certain forms of hair loss, such as hair loss from tinea capitis, might become a bigger risk if you’re frequently dehydrated.
Dehydration may also affect the supply of nutrients to your hair. Research shows that even mild levels of dehydration can reduce blood flow to your skin. This could restrict the supply of blood to your hair follicles and potentially affect hair growth.
Common Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration can develop as a result of sweating, urinating frequently or illnesses that cause you to develop vomiting or diarrhea. Simple things, such as forgetting to drink water often, can also cause you to become dehydrated.
Common signs of dehydration include:
Intense feelings of thirst
Xerostomia (dry mouth)
Feelings of tiredness and fatigue
Sweating less than normal
Infrequent urination and dark-colored urine
If you’re severely dehydrated, you may experience confusion, complete lack of urination, rapid heartbeat and/or rapid breathing. Extremely severe dehydration can affect the supply of blood and oxygen to your organs, potentially causing shock.
Severe dehydration can be a life-threatening issue. Seek emergency medical help as soon as you can if you develop any of the symptoms of severe dehydration listed above.
How to Stay Hydrated
The key to proper hydration isn’t much of a secret — make sure to drink lots of water throughout the day.
You may have heard of the 8x8 rule, or eight glasses of water per day with eight ounces in each glass. This is a good target for most people, although if you’re active or live in a hot, humid area, you may need to consume more water.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a total daily water intake of 3.7 liters (125 ounces) for men and 2.7 liters (91 ounces) for women.
Making a few simple changes to your habits can make it easier to keep your body, skin and hair properly hydrated. Use the following tips to stay hydrated and healthy:
Carry a drink whenever you’re out. One easy way to increase your water intake is to carry a water bottle with you when you’re outside the house. Try filling it up before you leave in the morning and sipping it whenever you notice signs of mild dehydration.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables aren’t just full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients — they’re also full of water. In fact, many fruits are more than 90 percent water by weight.
Prioritize water over sugary drinks. Soda, fruit juices and other sugary drinks can all keep you hydrated, but they’re packed with simple sugars that can affect your wellbeing and contribute to obesity. Whenever possible, pick water over sugary beverages. Not only will you consume fewer calories, but you’ll also save money when dining out.
Drink a glass of water whenever you eat. One easy way to keep yourself hydrated is to drink water with your meals. Prepare a tall glass of water whenever you serve food at home.
When you’re sick, use an oral rehydration solution. If you have vomiting or diarrhea, you’ll usually lose more water than normal. This makes it important to drink extra water to keep yourself hydrated.Oral rehydration solutions contain electrolytes and other ingredients designed to quickly improve hydration. Research shows that they can effective in treating and prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea, making them worth considering if you’re feeling ill.
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How to Treat Hair Loss
Staying hydrated is an important part of keeping yourself healthy. However, if you’re starting to notice the early signs of male pattern baldness, increasing your water intake isn’t likely to have any preventative effects on hair thinning.
The good news is that proven, science-based options are available for slowing down, stopping and even reversing hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Currently, the two most effective options for treating male pattern hair loss are the medications finasteride and minoxidil.
Finasteride is an oral prescription medication that works by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT. It’s highly effective, with research showing that it can lower DHT levels by 70 percent and slow down or completely halt hair loss.
Minoxidil is an over-the-counter topical medication that's available as a liquid solution or foam. It works by moving hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle and increasing blood flow to the scalp.
Finasteride and minoxidil work well on their own, but they’re especially effective at treating male pattern baldness when they’re used together.
In one study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, researchers found that 94.1 percent of balding men who took finasteride and minoxidil together for 12 months showed improvements in hair growth.
In comparison, 80.5 percent of the men who used finasteride by itself and 59 percent of the men who used minoxidil displayed improvements.
You can also access finasteride and minoxidil together in our Hair Power Pack, along with other science-based products to support thick, healthy hair.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Get Expert Advice for Preventing Hair Loss
Dry, dehydrated hair might look and feel slightly less healthy than usual. However, getting a little too dehydrated every now and then likely won’t contribute to male pattern baldness or have any long-term, noticeable effects on your hairline.
With that said, being dehydrated isn’t good for your skin, cardiovascular system or overall health and wellbeing. If you feel like your body’s water content is getting a little low, use the techniques above to increase your fresh water intake and keep yourself hydrated and healthy.
As for hair loss, the key to stopping it from getting worse is to act quickly.