Does ‘the pill’ cause hair loss? The topic of birth control and hair loss is as old as the medication itself, dating back to the 1960s when oral contraceptives were first introduced to American women. Unfortunately, women are often surprised to learn that common side effects of birth control may include hair loss. Those who consider taking birth control must also realize that contraceptives may cause a variety of additional side effects, and they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Learn More. To learn more about birth control and specific side effects, please consult your physician. Always seek the guidance of a licensed medical professional before making any changes to diet, exercise, or prescription medication regimens. The following article is meant to provide a basic overview on oral contraceptives, hormones, and hair loss. It is not a substitute for the expert opinion of a licensed professional.
Which Birth Control Pills Are Most Likely to Cause Hair Loss?
To understand which birth control pills are most likely to cause hair loss, it is first helpful to learn the make-up and basic function of each option. Birth control prevents pregnancy by using different combinations of hormones to suppress ovulation and/or prevent conception. Generally, an oral contraceptive can be characterized by the number of hormones it contains. Combination birth control, for example, contains both estrogen and progestin. The Minipill, by contrast, contains only progestin.
Combination Birth Control vs. Minipill: Which Is Best?
In general, hair loss caused by ‘the pill’ is most often a side effect of hormonal fluctuations. In most cases, birth control causes a relative increase in androgen levels. This may cause a corresponding increase in DHT production, which researchers believe shrinks the hair follicle and causes hair miniaturization. Once this happens, the hair becomes thinner and finer over time. Eventually, it may cease to grow altogether.
Since combination birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen, they may help to keep androgen levels in check. For this reason, physicians may recommend combination birth control medications to women whose genetics or family history makes them predisposed to hormonally induced hair loss. The minipill, on the other hand, contains no estrogen and may cause a greater relative rise in androgen. With greater fluctuation comes increased sensitivity to hormones (like androgen), which may ultimately contribute to hair loss both during and after birth control use.
The Androgen Index: Identifying Which Pills Are Least Likely to Cause Hair Loss
The Androgen Index is a way of describing the impact a birth control medication may have on relative androgen levels. By choosing a medication with a low Androgen Index, you may limit your chance of experiencing hair loss (i).
According to the American Hair Loss Association, the following list orders birth control from lowest Androgen Index (1) to highest (20):
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen
- Nor-Q D
- Ortho Norvum 7/7/7
- Ortho Novum 10-11
- Norinyl and Ortho 1/35
- Demulen 1/35
- Loestrin 1.5/30
High Risk Contraceptives. According to the American Hair Loss Association, the following contraceptives have significant potential for “causing or exacerbating hair loss” (ii):
- Progestin Implants, like Norplant.
- Hormone Injections, like Depo-Provera.
- Skin Patch, like Ortho Evra.
- Vaginal Ring, like NuvaRing.
Hair Loss Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment
If you are suffering with hair loss, you are not alone. Nearly 2/3rds of all males experience symptoms of balding, and an estimated 20 million American women experience symptoms of thinning by adulthood.
At the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami, we hold our patients’ desire for a full and natural head of hair in the highest regard. We are home of South Florida’s most talented transplant surgeons, microscopists, nurses, and staff. Our team works diligently to ensure each patient feels comfortable and confident during each visit, from evaluation to procedure and post-procedure follow-up.
Early diagnosis is key to full, effective, and natural hair restoration. We invite you to learn more about hair loss evaluations at our Institute, or contact our friendly front desk at 305.925.0222.
(i) Birth Control and Hair Loss. American Hair Loss Association. Accessed 25 February 2013.
(ii) Oral Contraceptives. American Hair Loss Association. Accessed 25 February 2013.