Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on December 18, 2020

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Can Taking Hormonal Birth Control Cause or Prevent Hair Loss?

TLDR: No, birth control does NOT cause hair loss.  No birth control does NOT prevent hair loss. 

Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraceptives in the U.S. Women don’t just take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, though. The birth control 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 a huge source of 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 for what doctors call female pattern baldness.

But what types of birth control can prevent hair loss, and can some birth control pills make the condition worse? The following article will explore the symptoms of female pattern baldness, and if birth control can help or hinder the condition.

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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 happen on a person’s head or their body. With this disorder, hair falls out in clumps the size of a quarter or larger. Usually, the hair will eventually grow back. But having this happen can be incredibly distressing and scary. Fortunately, the pill can be prescribed for female pattern baldness.

How do hormones influence hair growth and loss?

Hormones affect almost every part of the body, not just the reproductive process. Hair growth, hair loss, and hair integrity are all influenced by hormones, too. Birth control pills and other hormonal birth control products contain a cocktail of different 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, female sex hormones, androgens also play a significant role. Androgens are male sex hormones, such as testosterone. They are also present in the female reproductive system, although at minimal levels. Men also naturally produce estrogen, too, but it is in minuscule amounts. Androgens, however, significantly influence hair loss and growth. The presence of male sex 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 have thinning of all of their hair, where balding occurs around the entire head. For men, baldness tends to happen in specific areas of the head, such as the temples, the crown, or the back of the head.

Fortunately, birth control pills are a noninvasive and effective way to balance androgen levels in women who are sensitive to their presence. In most cases, though, 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. But, for women who are prone to hair loss stemming from hormonal issues, they need to be aware of the risk of hair loss when starting or stopping the pill.

A hair cycle consists of a growing and a resting phase. There is a chance 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.

Which birth control options are good or bad for hair loss?

While some birth control pills can be used to help treat female-pattern baldness, not all birth control pills are created equal in this regard. Again, some pills can trigger hair loss in women who are sensitive or predisposed to this issue. Birth control options that contain low levels of androgens and have a “low androgen index” are ideal for treating hair loss or preventing hair loss in women with certain risk factors. Birth control pills with a low androgen index include the following:

  • Ortho-Cept
  • Micronor

Birth control pills that contain a high level of androgens and should be avoided for women with hair loss issues are:

  • Ovrette
  • Nordette

Progestin implants, the birth control shot, the birth control patch, and the birth control ring should be avoided for women who are concerned about hair loss.

While it’s true that birth control pills are highly effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy and for treating other health issues, women with other risk factors should not take birth control pills 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 an unintended pregnancy can benefit from non-hormonal birth control methods. Copper IUDs and also barrier methods, such as condoms, can be effective for preventing pregnancy, and they will not increase the risk of blood clots or hair loss.

As always, it’s crucial that women do their research when considering a birth control method that is going to work for her 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 she may have. While birth control does come with some risks, birth control pills have numerous health benefits, and can even decrease the risk of developing certain cancers. Sign up with Pandia Health today to explore your options for hormonal birth control that align with your needs and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Control and Hair Loss

How to stop hair loss from birth control?

If you think that your birth control method is causing hair loss, talk with your doctor about switching to a different method. Birth control pills with less androgens or non-hormonal options might do the trick.

Does birth control make your hair fall out?

In some cases, the birth control pill can trigger hair loss in women who are sensitive to hormonal fluctuations. Some hair loss might happen when first starting the pill, or if the pill is stopped after having been taking for a period of time. Hair loss in these cases is typically not permanent.

Does birth control make your hair grow?

Birth control pills are a noninvasive and effective way to balance androgen levels in women who are prone to hair loss. In most cases, though, women with hair loss will also need to take medications that reduce androgen production, like spironolactone.

How common is hair loss with birth control?

Hormonal methods of birth control can cause hair loss in some women, so you are not alone if this happens to you. However, it is typically only temporary, so if your hair loss continues, this is uncommon and you should consult a doctor.

How common is hair loss after stopping birth control?

Some women may experience hair loss after stopping a hormonal birth control method, so you are not alone if this happens to you. However, it is typically only temporary, so if your hair loss continues, this is uncommon and you should consult a doctor.

How long does hair loss last after stopping birth control?

Any hair loss triggered by stopping birth control should end after your body has adjusted to its new hormone levels.

What hormone in birth control causes hair loss?

Androgenic progestins can promote androgen activity, which can cause temporary hair loss in some cases.

Which birth control does not cause hair loss?

The following birth control options are less likely to cause hair loss:

  • Desogen
  • Ortho-Cyclen
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen
    • Ortho-Cept
    • Micronor

Can the pill help with hair loss?

Birth control pills are a noninvasive and effective way to balance androgen levels in women who are prone to hair loss. In most cases, though, women with hair loss will also need to take medications that reduce androgen production, like spironolactone.

Will hair loss from IUD stop?

Hormonal IUDs can cause hair loss in those who are sensitive to androgens. If you are experiencing hair loss with an IUD for an extended period of time after it was inserted, you may want to switch to a copper IUD.

Can birth control change your hair texture?

In some cases, birth control can change hair texture.

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.