Can Birth Control Cause Hair Loss? We Asked Medical Experts
Thanks to the beauty of science, you have plenty of choices when it comes to a birth control method —from a copper IUD to oral contraceptives. Unfortunately, sometimes birth-control users experience unwanted side effects, including hair thinning and hair loss.
To unravel the birth control/hair loss connection, VEGAMOUR consulted with doctors and dug into the facts. Read on to find out more, and discover what products you should use to combat thinning hair.
The Different Types of Contraception
To prevent unwanted pregnancy, most women have tried a birth control method at least once. Statistics show that from 2015–2017, 64.9% of the 72.2 million women aged 15–49 in the United States were using contraception.
From pills taken on a schedule to low-maintenance implants, everyone experiences birth control differently, but each has common side effects. And some contraceptives have been found to worsen hair loss.
Hair restoration specialist Dr. Jae Pak explained, "In order to determine if your birth control is causing hair loss, it's important to know how birth control works."
Curious about hair loss (and other side effects) caused by birth control? Here's what you should know about the different methods.
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An IUD is a small, copper and plastic T-shaped contraption inserted into the womb by a doctor or nurse. The good news? There's currently little evidence linking hair loss to hormonal IUDs. It's stated that less than 5% of women experience hair loss in IUD brand Mirena's product information.
A 2007 data review conducted by doctors in New Zealand found five reports of alopecia associated with levonorgestrel IUDs (representing 0.33% of the responder population). However, at present, the number of people stating that hair loss continues and increases with an IUD is small.
Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptives are easy to take, and they often also promise clearer skin, a balanced menstrual cycle and an even mood. But the birth control pill can also come with a host of other side effects — hair loss being one of them.
"The combined contraceptive pill contains artificial versions of estrogen and progesterone," Dr. Mel Davis-Hall, in-house medical director and contraception expert at The Lowdown, told VEGAMOUR. "The synthetic form of progesterone is called progestin. Progestin has the ability to be androgenic, meaning it can create an androgenic response, triggering symptoms such as hair loss, hirsutism (abnormal hair growth) and acne or oily skin.
"Androgens are what play a major role in the regulation of hair follicles. During puberty, they trigger pubic hair growth in both men and women. They can alter the length of time the hair is in the growth phase. The progestin in the pill, and its androgenic response, may have the potential to cause hair loss."
In short, an increase in androgens could lead to female pattern hair loss and female pattern baldness, which is similar to the androgenetic alopecia that some men experience.
Because combination pills are hormonal contraception, some women are more sensitive to the side effects than others. Hormonal fluctuations are common and can trigger hair loss.
"Traditional birth control pills contain both progestin and synthetic estrogen, but the mini-pill only features progestin," Davis-Hall explained. "Progestin is the possible culprit, so the progestogen-only pill (aka the mini-pill) and the combined contraceptive pill have the potential to cause hair loss as a side effect. But it's not necessarily that simple.
"Hormonal contraceptives can often be talked about collectively, but they can still vary hugely in terms of their side effects due to their differing active ingredients, and in this case, their androgenic effects."
How your hair responds will often be linked to genetics and the integrity of your hair follicles, too.
Hair loss caused by an oral contraceptive is relatively common, but other side effects someone might experience are:
- Dizzy spells
- Fluid retention
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Spotting between periods
If you already have high androgen levels in the body, taking the right pill could actually help treat hair loss. It might even be something that stimulates hair growth by increasing estrogen. But it's a fine balance.
The contraceptive implant will help prevent pregnancy for up to three years by releasing the hormone progestogen directly into the bloodstream. It is a small, flexible plastic rod that's professionally placed under the skin in the upper arm. As with other progestin-only forms of birth control, hair thinning can occur.
A review of complications stemming from implants found users can struggle with menstrual disturbances, acne, hirsutism, hair loss and more. In one study, acne, hair loss and hirsutism were attributed to the androgenic effects of progestogens and were more common among implant users.
A contraceptive skin patch is a thin, plastic patch that sticks to the lower abdomen, buttocks, outer arm or upper body and continually releases progestin and estrogen into the body. A new patch is applied every three weeks, and no patch is used during the fourth week to allow for menstruation. Very little research has taken place looking at whether hair growth stops because of the patch.
The birth control ring is a flexible, thin vaginal ring that's approximately 2 inches in diameter. It's inserted into the vagina and continually delivers a combination of progestin and ethinyl estradiol for three weeks. The wearer removes it on the fourth week and inserts a new ring seven days later.
It's believed that this type of contraception can have a similar effect on the body as birth control pills, but the research is limited on its impact on hair loss.
Products to Combat Thinning Hair Due to Birth Control
Many issues can contribute to hair shedding and hormone-related hair loss is just one of them. Lack of sleep, excess stress and illness are also culprits. To help, consider a 360° hair wellness routine to encourage thicker, fuller looking hair. VEGAMOUR's plant-based, multitasking GRO Hair Serum uses a combination of clinically tested, vegan phyto-actives that help support a healthy and balanced follicular ecosystem, while soothing the scalp and revitalizing hair roots.
For more severe hair thinning, try GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum with hemp to encourage thicker, fuller looking hair with visible results in as soon as 90 days.
Pair the serum of your choice with other products designed to combat thinning hair that you can use as part of an ongoing routine that supports thicker looking hair, like GRO Revitalizing Shampoo & Conditioner, GRO Dry Shampoo and more products designed for thinning hair.
What Type of Hair Loss Can Birth Control Trigger?
Dr. Boyer of Farr Institute told VEGAMOUR, "Just like any other medical drug, hormonal birth control pills have side effects. They cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair normally grows in cycles, and anagen is the active phase. At this stage, your hair grows from its follicles. This can last for up to two to seven years. Birth control pills can trigger the hair to shift from the growing phase to the resting phase too soon and for too long. As a result, some women who use birth control pills will sometimes experience more hair loss and thinning than others."
The Birth Control Conundrum
In short, yes, some women who use birth control methods might experience more hair loss and thinning than others. But a lot depends on the integrity of your hair follicles and your genetics.
Dr. Boyer said, "Hair loss related to birth control is normally temporary and will stop as soon as your body gets used to the pill or after you have been off of the pills for a while." If you are thinking about stopping birth control as a hair loss treatment, it's important to talk to a doctor first to discuss your options.
Taking a considered approach to your hair's wellness will help keep your mane in peak condition. Additionally, listening to your body, resting when needed and applying products from VEGAMOUR's range of products for thinning hair, which are clinically proven to promote fuller-looking, healthy feeling hair, can help take your locks to the next level.
More From VEGAMOUR
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- How to Tell If Your Hair Is Thinning
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