Birth control pills are a popular means of female contraception. Besides preventing pregnancy, these pills also offer a broad range of non-contraceptive health benefits. However, like any other medication, birth control pills have a few side effects, and one of them is hair loss.
But not all of them may trigger hair loss. If you are taking oral contraception and have noticed hair thinning and hair loss and are wondering why it is happening, we have the answers. This article takes a deep dive to see how the two are connected. Read on.
Table Of Contents
Our hair follicles contain androgen receptors. The ovaries produce a small amount of androgens (male sex hormones), especially testosterone. The enzyme 5-alpha reductase reacts with the testosterone to produce dihydrotestosterone or DHT (a type of androgen), which binds to the androgen receptors in the hair follicles and triggers hair loss (1).
Birth controls are of three types:
- Progestin-only (contain progestin)
- Combined (contain progestin and estrogen)
- High androgenic pills
Pills with a dominant androgen component cause hair thinning and hair loss (3).
Women with a predisposition to hormone-related hair loss and ultra-sensitivity to hormonal changes can experience hair thinning in varying degrees while taking birth control pills. Some women may lose hair several weeks or months after stopping the pill (2).
Not all birth control pills cause hair loss. In fact, progestin pills can prevent hair fall. Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries. This hormone prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT, preventing hair fall (1).
If you are on oral contraception and experiencing hair loss, consult a doctor. They will examine your endocrine profile and suggest a treatment method.
Hair loss caused by birth control pills is often temporary and reversible. In the following section, find out ways to prevent contraceptive-induced hair loss.
How To Reverse Birth Control Induced Hair Loss
1. Get Off The Birth Control Pill
If you are taking pills that contain androgens, discontinue using them. Consult a doctor and switch to progestin-only or combined pills. You may notice hair growth within a few months of stopping the pills.
2. Apply Minoxidil
If your hair loss is severe, the doctor may suggest using topical minoxidil, a medicine proven to promote hair growth (4). You may notice results within a few months of using it.
Instead of birth control pills, you may try other contraception methods. These include the following.
Methods Of Non-Hormonal Contraception
A spermicide is a chemical substance that destroys sperms. It is placed inside the vagina before sexual intercourse. You can find it in the forms of creams, gels, and suppositories and use it with a diaphragm or cervical cap to enhance its effectiveness. Some women may experience irritation or allergic reactions to certain spermicides.
The diaphragm is a small, flexible silicone cup inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. For the best results, use it along with a spermicide.
- Cervical Cap
A cervical cap is a silicone cup inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It is smaller than a diaphragm.
- Male And Female Condoms
Condoms are designed for both men and women. These non-hormonal means of contraception protect against STDs as well. Male and female condoms prevent pregnancy by preventing semen from entering the vagina during sexual intercourse.
- Contraceptive Sponge
The contraceptive sponge is made of plastic foam and is inserted into a woman’s vagina before sexual intercourse. It contains spermicide and also acts as a barrier between sperm and the cervix. Those who are allergic to spermicides should not use sponges.
Besides birth control pills, a few other factors may cause hair fall in women. You need to take all factors into account to diagnose your issues. Here are a few risk factors that can lead to hair loss in women.
Risk Factors For Hair Loss In Women
- Heredity: Androgenic alopecia (female and male pattern baldness) is linked to heredity. If this condition runs in your family, you too will experience it (5). It is characterized by a gradually receding hairline and thinning hair.
- Medical Conditions: Many medical conditions may lead to excessive hair fall in women. Autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata can cause patchy hair loss. Ringworm infestation on the scalp may cause inflammation and hair fall. Trichotillomania, a psychological hair-pulling disorder, can also cause hair los s. Pregnancy, malnutrition, surgery, and injury may also trigger telogen effluvium (excessive hair loss) (6).
- Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, puberty, menopause, and thyroid problems can lead to hair loss and hair thinning (1). Hormonal hair loss can be either temporary or permanent.
- Medications And Supplements: Hair loss is a common side effect of many common medications (7). Radiation therapy (for cancer treatment), drugs used for depression, arthritis, gout, and heart problems may cause hair loss.
- Stressful Events: Extremely traumatic or stressful events can lead to excessive hair fall (8). Stress-induced hair loss often occurs a few weeks after the stressful event. However, it is reversible. The hair grows back once the cause of stress is eliminated.
- Hairstyles And Hair Treatments: Hairstyles, such as box braids or tight ponytails, can pull on your locks and cause traction alopecia (9). Hair treatments like bleaching, hot-oil treatments, and excessive dyeing can lead to hair breakage an d hair fall (10). In many cases, such hair loss is temporary and can be reversed. However, if scarring occurs, hair loss may be permanent (11).
If you are experiencing hair loss after taking birth control pills, here are a few ways to make your hair look fuller.
Tips To Manage Hair Loss Caused By Birth Control Pills
- Consult A Trichologist
Consult a trichologist if you are distressed by your hair loss. They will assess all the factors responsible for the hair fall and prescribe a suitable treatment.
- Use A Volumizing Shampoo And Conditioner
Use volumizing shampoos and other hair care products to add volume and bounce to limp, lifeless hair. The right hair care products can make your hair look fuller.
- Get A Shorter Haircut
The right haircut can make a ton of difference to the way your hair looks and feels. Shorter hair is easier to manage and helps create the illusion of fuller hair.
- Get Hair Extensions
Hair extensions are an excellent way of adding volume to thin hair. You can go for clip-in extensions, tape extensions, or beaded extensions to add more body and fullness to your locks.
High-androgen birth control pills can trigger hair loss in women. However, if you are sensitive to the hormones in the contraceptive pills and have a family history of hormonal hair loss, you may experience hair thinning and loss. Such hair loss is temporary and reversible. If you have noticed hair loss while on pills, consult a doctor for a detailed diagnosis and follow the prescribed treatment for a proper resolution.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How long does hair loss last after stopping birth control?
It may stop immediately or within a couple of months.
What hormone in birth control causes hair loss?
Androgens in some birth control pills may trigger hair loss in women.
Does birth control cause permanent hair loss?
No. Birth control does not cause permanent hair loss.
- Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles
- Female pattern hair loss: A clinical, pathophysiologic, and therapeutic review
- Hair loss during treatment with oral contraceptives
- Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review
- Oral Contraceptive Pills
- Family history and risk of hair loss
- Telogen Effluvium: A Review
- Drug-induced hair loss and hair growth. Incidence, management and avoidance
- Hair and stress: A pilot study of hair and cytokine balance alteration in healthy young women under major exam stress
- Traction alopecia: the root of the problem
- The physical and chemical disruption of human hair after bleaching – studies by transmission electron microscopy and redox proteomics
- Feature characterization of scarring and non-scarring types of alopecia by multiphoton microscopy
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