What Medications Cause Hair Loss?
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Rachel Sacks
Hair loss is an unfortunate, yet real, part of growing older, and if you’re still young, you may think you have at least a few years before you start seeing signs of balding. Case in point — 30 to 50 percent of men experience male pattern baldness by age 50.
But if you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re noticing your hairline creeping further back or bald spots growing bigger each day, you’re probably thinking, “What the heck?! Isn’t hair loss only for old guys?”
Ageism aside, there can be many reasons for the extra shedding you’re seeing — one of which is hair loss from drugs. Yep, there are certain medications that cause you to lose hair.
Fortunately for you, we’ve covered what medications cause hair loss, as well as how to grow healthy hair again below.
Medication That Causes Hair Loss
If it seems unfair that you can lose hair because of drugs that are necessary for other health conditions, we get it. But it does happen, and we’re here to help.
Medications can cause hair loss in several different ways. Some medications disrupt your hair’s growth cycle, causing it to shed before it reaches its full length. Other medications may increase your production of hormones that cause male pattern baldness, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Most medications with this side effect only cause temporary hair loss, although there are some that can cause permanent loss of hair. Some of the different types of hair loss medications can cause include:
Telogen effluvium is a type of nonscarring, temporary hair loss that can happen to both men and women. It develops as a response to stress, infection, surgery or medication use. When using a new medication, the sudden shock to your system may prematurely push hair follicles into the resting (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle. Unlike male pattern baldness, which causes a receding hairline, telogen effluvium usually causes diffuse hair loss all over your scalp.
Anagen effluvium is another type of temporary hair loss that’s commonly linked to medications, particularly chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer. This type of hair loss occurs when medication affects your hair in the anagen (growth) phase of the growth cycle. Most people notice hair shedding within a few weeks of starting medication.
Male pattern baldness (which can also happen to women and is referred to as female pattern baldness in that case) is the most common form of hair loss. It’s caused by genetic and hormonal factors, particularly the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on your hair follicles over time. Although male pattern baldness isn’t directly caused by medication, medications that affect your production of testosterone and DHT can speed up the progression of male pattern baldness. Unlike telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium, male pattern baldness results in permanent hair loss.
And although it may seem obvious if you’re losing hair (one day it’s there and the next it’s not), some signs are less clear. If you’re curious, read our guide to ways to know if you're going bald, from hair shedding to random bald spots and more.
So what medications cause hair loss? Does Lexapro cause hair loss, or do other antidepressants? Which blood pressure medications cause hair loss? Is hair loss from isotretinoin a possibility? Keep reading to learn more about the drugs that cause hair loss.
Hair loss is a well-known side effect of many chemotherapy drugs used to treat certain forms of cancer.
Similar to other toxins that cause hair loss, hair loss from cancer medications usually isn’t permanent. Your hair will often grow back in two to three months after you finish chemotherapy, or three to six months after you reach the end of radiation therapy.
Antihypertensive Medications, Including Beta-Blockers
If you take a high blood pressure medication and have noticed thinning hair, you may have wondered if metoprolol causes hair loss.
The short answer: It’s possible. Some blood pressure medications, including beta-blockers, have been linked to hair loss from telogen effluvium.
Commonly prescribed beta-blockers include propranolol, atenolol, metoprolol, timolol, nadolol and others.
ACE Inhibitors Like Lisinopril
If your healthcare provider has prescribed an ACE inhibitor (another type of high blood pressure medication), you may have asked: Does lisinopril cause hair loss?
Unfortunately, ACE inhibitors are another type of drug that causes hair loss, so lisinopril hair loss could be a possibility.
Commonly prescribed ACE inhibitors include benazepril, captopril, lisinopril, moexipril, ramipril, trandolapril and enalapril/enalaprilat.
Statins Such as Atorvastatin
We’ll save you the trouble of looking up if statins cause hair loss or something like “atorvastatin side effects hair loss.”
Although it’s uncommon, some statins, which are used to lower cholesterol levels, may cause hair loss. According to Harvard Medical School, approximately one percent of people prescribed a statin report some level of hair loss during treatment.
Commonly prescribed statins include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and others.
Anticoagulants and Hair Loss
If you’ve been prescribed medication to prevent blood clots, you’re taking anticoagulants, or blood thinners — and telogen effluvium hair loss is a well-known side effect of this type of medication.
Blood thinner medications that cause hair loss include warfarin, heparin, dalteparin, acenocoumarol, enoxaparin and tinzaparin.
Anticonvulsants: Depakote and More
Several anticonvulsants — medications used to treat and prevent epileptic seizures and conditions such as bipolar disorder — are associated with hair loss.
Anticonvulsants like valproic acid (Depakote) and trimethadione (Tridione) have been linked to hair loss. It appears to be most common with valproic acid, with some research showing around nine percent of people who use this medication report some degree of hair loss as a side effect. So that Google search for “Depakote hair loss” wasn’t totally unfounded.
Lexapro and Other Antidepressants
If you’re one of the many who take antidepressants for your mental health, you’re probably well-aware of side effects. But you may not know that hair loss is a possible side effect, since it’s a less common one.
Some case reports have connected hair loss with common antidepressants such as Wellbutrin, sertraline, paroxetine, venlafaxine and fluoxetine. It is worth noting though that this is reported to occur only in a small minority of people.
Medications That Increase Testosterone
As we mentioned earlier, your body converts a small amount of testosterone into a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, the main hormone responsible for male pattern baldness.
Since DHT is produced from testosterone, any medication that increases your testosterone levels may also increase the amount of DHT that’s produced by your body.
If you use testosterone for hormone replacement therapy, you may notice an increase in hair loss during treatment as your testosterone level increases.
Anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs that are produced from testosterone may also cause hair loss.
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How to Treat Hair Loss from Drugs
Hair loss from all these different medications is often temporary and can be treated with several different options.
If you’re prescribed medication, it’s important that you don’t stop taking it without first talking to your healthcare provider. While dealing with hair loss can be frustrating, stopping medication suddenly may worsen your medical condition or cause you to experience other side effects.
This is especially important if you’re taking medication for a life-threatening condition, such as cancer or severe depression.
Here’s what to know about treatments for hair loss from medication:
If you notice hair loss after starting a specific medication, letting your healthcare provider know is a good first step. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or using a different medication that’s less likely to cause hair loss.
Hair growth medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) can stimulate the hair growth process and help you to grow back your hair faster. Minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution are topical treatments that you can apply directly to the parts of your scalp with noticeable hair loss.
Another hair growth medication called finasteride is an FDA-approved medication that reduces your body's production of DHT to help with hair regrowth. You can use this medication on its own or use a combination of topical finasteride and minoxidil spray.
While your diet won’t contribute to (or stop) male pattern baldness, some vitamins and minerals may affect your hair growth. Try to eat a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for healthy hair.
Stress can also cause hair loss, as it can lead to more hairs falling out or even cause you to pull your hair out. While a couple of days of stress won’t suddenly make you bald, being in a stressful environment for a long time can increase the potential for hair loss. Reducing or eliminating stress may help hair grow back strong and healthy.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Medicines That Cause Hair Loss: Next Steps
If you’re dealing with hair loss and are using medication, there’s a chance the medicine is the culprit. A variety of medications have been linked to hair loss, resulting in bald patches, excessive shedding and more.
While the majority of male pattern hair loss is thanks to genetics, some drugs can cause different types of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium and male pattern baldness.
The drugs that can cause hair loss include antihypertensive medications (such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers), cancer medications, statins, anticoagulants, antidepressants and medications that increase testosterone.
Drug-induced hair loss is often temporary, and hair loss treatments can be used to grow healthier hair back. Medications like finasteride and minoxidil are proven to help hair grow, while lifestyle changes like stress reduction and a healthy diet may also help.
Be sure to let your healthcare provider know if you’re concerned about hair loss from medication before you stop taking the drug or change your dosage.