What Common Medications Can Cause Hair Loss?

What Common Medications Can Cause Hair Loss?

Hair restoration experts from Folicure explain why some commonly prescribed medications may lead to hair loss.

Hair loss can have many causes other than just being a result of age, and sometimes, it’s caused by essential medications. In this article, hair restoration experts from Folicure explain why some commonly prescribed medications may lead to hair loss.

Accutane (Isotretinoin)

Accutane (isotretinoin) is a prescription medication used to treat severe cystic acne and is usually only prescribed when other medications and treatments have been ineffective.

Between 3% and 6% of people taking a low dose of accutane experience hair loss while taking the medication, and this effect is more likely to occur in people taking higher doses over longer periods of time.

Accutane treats acne by suppressing the release of certain acne-causing hormones from the pituitary gland. However, the reduction of these hormones can also cause temporary hair loss, but the hair typically grows back once the course of medication is complete.


Retinoids are a group of chemical compounds that are chemically related to Vitamin A, and are used for the treatment of a range of skin conditions as well as an ingredient in “anti-aging” products that reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Many topical retinoids are available over-the-counter, and are perfectly safe for use with minimal side effects.

However, doctors sometimes prescribe oral retinoids for more severe skin conditions. Without careful monitoring from a medical professional, oral retinoids can cause unsafely high levels of Vitamin A in the body, which leads to hair loss.

Chemotherapy Drugs

One of the most well-known hair loss-inducing medication classes are drugs prescribed for cancer treatment. Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancerous tumors by attacking fast-growing cells in the body. Because hair follicles are rapidly growing cells, they are also damaged by chemotherapy drugs, leading to hair loss all over the body.


Tamoxifen is an estrogen modulator that is prescribed to prevent breast cancer in people who are at high risk for developing it. Similar to hair loss and thinning as a natural result of menopause, medications that affect hormone levels can lead to hair loss.

Some Forms of Birth Control

Hormonal birth control methods contain small amounts of estrogen and/or progestin to prevent ovulation. Some people experience excessive hair shedding as a side effect of birth control. This effect is most common with Depo Provera (“the shot”), which only contains progestin, reported in around 10% of users. This is likely because the progestin used contains male hormones, which causes an increase in androgen receptors.

However, most birth control methods containing estrogen can actually increase hair volume and speed up hair growth depending on individual differences in how people’s bodies respond to hormonal changes; in these cases, temporary hair loss can be a result of coming off of birth control.


Anti-hypertensives such as beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors are prescribed to treat high blood pressure. These medications regulate blood pressure by reducing epinephrine (adrenaline) in the body, which can also cause blood vessels to constrict and limit blood flow to hair follicles, limiting their function and lead to hair loss.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are a commonly used over-the-counter medication used to reduce inflammation, treat minor aches and pains, and bring down fevers. Hair loss resulting from NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen is uncommon relative to the amount of people who take them, with only 1-2% of users experiencing hair loss, and is unlikely to occur with irregular use at recommended doses. However, an estimated 30 million people per day use NSAIDs in the US, which means that despite the low rate of hair loss resulting from usage, a large number of people are still affected by it compared to other less commonly used drugs.


Some antibiotics can cause temporary hair thinning due to their effects on vitamin B and hemoglobin levels. Low vitamin B-12 and hemoglobin can both lead to anemia (low iron levels) which means that the amount of oxygen delivered to hair follicles is insufficient, leading to hair thinning.

However, this form of hair loss is usually reversible and dissipates shortly after treatment ends.


Anabolic and corticosteroids have both been shown to cause hair loss in some patients. When taken for extended periods of time, steroids can cause levels of DHT, a naturally occurring but potent form of testosterone, to rise, speeding up male-pattern baldness in those predisposed to it.

Thyroid Medications

Hair loss is a common side effect of thyroid conditions (both over- and under-functioning thyroid) because the hair growth cycle depends on a properly functioning thyroid. Levothyroxine, the drug most commonly used to treat thyroid disorders), can initially worsen thyroid-related hair loss, but this effect usually dissipates when thyroid levels are balanced, usually around a month into treatment.

Weight Loss Drugs

Weight loss drugs such as Ozempic are occasionally linked to hair loss. Because these medications can cause patients to lose weight at unhealthily rapid rates, hair loss can occur as the body distributes its resources to more essential functions such as vital organ and immune system function.


Similarly, stimulant medications such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse can indirectly cause excessive hair shedding due to rapid weight loss. These medications can also cause symptoms of anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns, which can both cause hair loss over long periods of time due to putting heavy stress on the body.

Certain Antidepressants

Hair loss is unlikely to occur as a result of most antidepressants. However, Wellbutrin (bupropion), which is prescribed for major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, as well to aid in smoking cessation, may cause hair loss in 0.1% to 1% of users. Unlike most commonly prescribed antidepressants, which affect serotonin levels, bupropion affects dopamine and norepinephrine levels. This can cause appetite reductions and weight loss, which can cause hair loss, and increased norepinephrine levels can be interpreted by the body as a sign of stress, leading to hair loss.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are prescribed in the treatment of bipolar and schizoaffective disorders by moderating abnormal brain activity to prevent manic and hypomanic states.

Some mood stabilizers, especially Depakote (sodium valproate) and lithium, are commonly linked to hair loss. Around 12% of people taking sodium valproate report hair thinning as a side effect. Experts speculate that this may be because valproic acid causes a biotin deficiency.

Lithium is the drug most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder and is prescribed to at least half of bipolar patients. Approximately 10% of people taking lithium experience hair loss as a side effect. Lithium affects absorption of key minerals for hair growth such as zinc and selenium.

Both of these medications in addition to other mood stabilizers can cause the thyroid to underfunction (hypothyroidism), which can also lead to hair loss.

Parkinson's Disease Drugs

Levodopa and other dopamine receptor agonists, which are used to treat Parkinson’s disease and to combat the side effects of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, can occasionally lead to sudden hair loss all over the head. The mechanism for hair loss related to these medications is unknown, but the effect is fairly uncommon and may be partially reversible.


Anticoagulants such as warfarin, which is used to prevent blood clots, have been known to cause minor hair loss and thinning, though this effect is most common in women (80% of reports), especially women over the age of 65.

Hair Restoration for Medication-Induced Hair Loss

Hair loss related to vital medications such as the ones discussed in this article can be difficult to navigate. Because many of these medications are life-saving or significantly improve quality of life in people with certain medical conditions, going off of them is often not an option. While it is always a good idea to discuss unpleasant medication side effects with your doctor to explore potential alternatives, it is possible to restore your confidence without sacrificing your health.

Hair replacement systems are a non-surgical, non-invasive method of hair restoration that can be used for all forms of hair loss and work for any hair type. With no unpleasant side effects and no recovery time, a custom-made, undetectable hair replacement system can help you restore your confidence instantly.

About Folicure Hair

At Folicure, we understand that baldness is more than just skin deep. Whether as a result of a health condition such as a thyroid dysfunction or a hormonal abnormality, a side effect of medical treatment such as chemotherapy, or simply a result of aging, hair loss can be anywhere from frustrating to devastating. Folicure Hair is the answer to preserving the hair you still have, stopping hair loss in its early stages or recovering a full head of hair. We deliver results that cannot be achieved with invasive hair transplant surgeries or dangerous chemicals with documented adverse effects. Instead, Folicure will craft a comfortable, undetectable hair replacement system that’s right for you. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.

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