Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020
Which birth control options prevent hair loss?
Can Taking Hormonal Birth Control Cause or Prevent Hair Loss?
TLDR: No, birth control does NOT cause or prevent hair loss.
Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraceptives in the U.S. Women don’t just take birth control to prevent pregnancy, though. The pill and other forms of hormonal contraceptives can also help women manage the symptoms of numerous health conditions, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and even hair loss.
While most people may think that hair loss and baldness only affect men, women actually make up about 40% of all hair-loss treatment candidates. For most women, their hair is hugely impactful to their self-esteem and confidence. Experiencing hair loss as a woman can be incredibly distressing. About 15% of all hair restoration surgeries are performed on women. Fortunately, there are less invasive treatment options available for what doctors call female pattern baldness.
But can birth control make the condition worse? And are there any types of birth control that prevent hair loss? The following article will explore the symptoms of female pattern baldness and if birth control can prevent — or accelerate — the condition.
What is hormonal hair loss, and what causes it?
Some women can develop an autoimmune condition called androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern baldness. In autoimmune system disorders, the body attacks its own cells and systems. In the case of alopecia, the body attacks hair follicles. Hair loss can impact the hair on a person’s head or body. With this disorder, hair falls out in clumps the size of a quarter or larger. Usually, the hair will grow back eventually. Hair loss can be incredibly distressing and scary.
How do hormones influence hair growth and loss?
Fortunately, the pill can be prescribed to help with female pattern baldness.
Hormones affect almost every part of the body, not just the reproductive organs. Hair growth, loss, and integrity are all influenced by hormones. Birth control pills and other hormonal birth control products contain a cocktail of hormones — either estrogen and progestin, or progestin-only. Although the express purpose of the pill is to prevent ovulation and thus, fertilization, the pill influences other physiological processes too.
While the female reproductive system is most heavily influenced by progesterone and estrogen, the female sex hormones, and androgens also play a significant role. Androgens are male sex hormones, such as testosterone. They are present in the female reproductive system at minimal levels. Men also naturally produce estrogen but in minuscule amounts. Androgens, however, significantly influence hair loss and growth. The presence of these hormones is one of the biggest reasons why men are prone to hair loss and baldness.
While women only need to produce a tiny amount of androgens for reproductive health, higher levels of androgens can trigger alopecia in women. Women who experience hair loss tend to experience hair thinning and baldness that occurs around the entire head. For men, baldness tends to affect specific areas of the head, such as the temples, the crown, or the back of the head.
Fortunately, birth control pills are a non-invasive and effective way to balance androgen levels in women who are sensitive to their presence. In most cases, women suffering from alopecia will need to take birth control pills in addition to medications that reduce androgen production. The most popular of these is spironolactone, which is also used to treat high blood pressure.
Can the birth control pill cause hair loss?
In some cases, starting the birth control pill can trigger hair loss in women who are sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, especially fluctuations of androgens. Women who do not have any problems with alopecia or hair loss can experience some hair loss when first starting the pill, or if they are on the pill for a period of time and then stop taking the pill. Hair loss in these cases is typically not permanent.
However, women who are prone to hair loss stemming from hormonal issues need to be aware of the risk of hair loss when starting or stopping the pill.
The reason for this relates to the way the pill impacts the hair cycle, which consists of a growing and a resting phase. It has been suggested that birth control pills can cause hair to switch from the growing phase to the resting phase too soon and for too long. This is a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.
Seek a professional opinion
If you’re concerned about hair loss or if your birth control could be contributing to issues with your hair, it is best to consult a professional. A doctor will be able to recommend the best method of treatment or refer you to a specialist.
While it’s true that birth control pills are highly effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy and treating other health issues, women with other risk factors should not use birth control pills as a replacement for hair loss treatment. Birth control pills can increase the risk of a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke in women who are over 35, have a family or personal history of these issues, and women who smoke. Talk to your doctor first to determine whether birth control pills are safe for you.
Women who have the above risk factors and are also concerned about preventing hair loss and unintended pregnancy can benefit from non-hormonal birth control methods. Copper IUDs and barrier methods, such as condoms, are effective at preventing pregnancy and will not increase the risk of blood clots or hair loss.
How can Pandia Health help?
As always, it’s crucial that women do their research when considering which birth control method will work for their needs and lifestyle. Talking to an experienced gynecologist about concerns regarding hair loss and birth control can also help with considering any fears and reservations. While all birth control comes with risks, birth control pills have numerous health benefits and can even decrease the risk of developing certain cancers.
At Pandia Health, we take pride in prescribing birth control based on several factors, including age, ethnicity, BMI, and general health. All these factors can influence your body’s reaction to birth control, which your doctor will consider when reviewing the best options for you. With just one $25 payment a year, you can get access to our expert doctors (available in these states) for 364 days.
To explore your options and find a type of hormonal birth control that aligns with your needs and lifestyle, sign up today!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.