Approximately 151 million women around the globe take birth control pills. Guardian reports that in the UK, 9 out of 10 women (3.1 million) use this form of birth control. The pill itself needs no introduction. It’s in the name, after all. It does have some side effects, though, one of which is hair loss. And since it can be quite stressful, many women want to know how to stop hair loss from birth control.
These pills contain the following synthetically-made hormones: estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone). Together they come in what’s known as combination pills, and if the pill only contains progestin, it’s known as the mini-pill. And if used “perfectly”, it’s 99% effective, according to the NHS. That’s a reason why many people choose to take a birth control pill.
Before getting to that, let’s understand how the birth control pill causes hair loss in the first place and if the pill is used to treat hair loss in some women.
How do Birth Control Pills Work?
There are three ways in which the pill works. These are as follows:
- Pills reduce or prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries. Without any egg, no fertilization will take place.
- Progestins in birth control create a barrier around the cervix by enveloping it in thick, sticky mucus. So, the sperm from the vagina cannot enter the uterus to fertilize the egg (if it has been released).
- Birth control pills prevent the lining or thickening of the uterus (a reason why you only bleed lightly while on them). This doesn’t allow the released egg to implant on the uterus, even if it has been fertilized.
However, since the pill does all this by changing the levels of hormones in the body, some women end up experiencing birth control hair loss and so start looking for ways to stop hair loss. They may also experience other side effects from the pills, such as mood changes, nausea, tender breasts, headaches, weight gain, blood clots, and low sex drive.
How Does the Pill Cause Hair Loss?
Women who are taking the pill either notice hair shedding while they’re on it or after they’ve stopped taking it. Birth pill hair loss occurs because of the following reasons:
Many people wonder can the pill cause hair loss. Yes, and you mainly have the synthetic form of progesterone to blame here. Some of the pills have high androgenic activity. That means that the levels of male hormones in females increase.
If there’s too much of this hormone, then you may experience androgenetic alopecia or female pattern baldness if you’re genetically predisposed to it. It also results in thick facial hair growth in females.
The American Hair Loss Association (AHLA) recommends low-androgen index pills and the use of a “non-hormonal form of birth control” if someone has female pattern hair loss. These low-androgen pills contain the following compounds: norgestimate, norethindrone, desogestrel, or ethynodiol diacetate and are sold under different brand names.
Changes in the Hair Growth Cycle
Another way that birth control pills cause increased scalp hair shedding is that they change the hair growth cycle. Normally, at any given time, the hair’s in the anagen phase or the growth phase. This lasts for 2-10 years. After that, there’s the catagen phase, during which the hair root shrinks and no growth takes place.
And lastly, there’s the telogen phase (resting phase), where 10-15% of the hair is present. It lasts for about 3 months. But the pill pushes more of the hair into the telogen phase and for longer than 3 months.
This results in more hair shedding. Although this doesn’t take place soon after it usually happens after a few months. This kind of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.
Now, the pills for birth control cause hair loss even after the person stops taking them. Why? For the body, the sudden change in the levels of the hormones (yet again) is a shock. This stresses it out and so pushes the hair follicles into the telogen phase. Thus, it will trigger hair loss.
How To Stop Hair Loss From Birth Control?
The good news is that hair loss from hormonal birth control pills is temporary. Your hair should start to grow back a few months after.
Low-Androgen Index Oral Contraceptives
Ask your doctor about what is known as the “androgen index” of the pill if you want to know how to stop hair loss from birth control while still taking the pills.
There are pills that have a low-androgen index, and by suppressing the production of androgens by the ovaries, they even promote the growth of hair follicles.
These contain proteins that bind to the male hormones in the blood, thus further decreasing their effect on the hair follicles. Also, birth control makes hair grow faster by increasing the duration of the anagen phase of the growth cycle.
Some of these pills are even used for treating hair loss primarily, but they’re usually not the first choice of the many hair loss treatments available out there. That’s because of their many side effects. In any case, you should not switch pills on your own; make sure to get professional medical advice.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control
The AHLA recommends non-hormonal birth control, especially if you have female pattern baldness. That’s because these pills can worsen female pattern hair loss. In that case, you should consider using other forms of birth control that act as physical barriers. They’re another solution for stopping hair loss from birth control.
- Condoms (male and female)
- Vaginal gel
- Cervical cap
- Copper IUD
Another birth control hair loss treatment is minoxidil. This medicine dilates the blood vessels in the scalp allowing more blood to flow through and supplying more nutrients and oxygen. This nourishes the follicles and stops hair shedding.
Another solution is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. The proteins and growth factors in plasma can speed up the regrowth process after you’ve stopped taking oral contraceptives.
The anti-androgenic activity of spironolactone can also reduce hair loss resulting from the birth control pill. In addition, this drug will decrease the level of male sex hormones in the body.
Many people take birth control pills together with spironolactone for acne. Make sure to ask your doctor if you can do the same for this hormonal-related hair loss.
Since stress from birth control pills can worsen hair loss, ashwagandha can help. It’s an adaptogenic herb that not only reduces stress but also increases resistance to it.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Although there’s not that solid evidence of the efficiency of this treatment, some people do experience an increase in hair density and an improvement in hair growth with laser therapy. So, you can consider using it to stimulate hair growth.
Eat Healthy & Be Gentle with Your Hair
One reason why hair growth stops is nutritional deficiency. You need to make sure that you’re getting your minerals, vitamins, and proteins through the food that you eat. And if you have a health condition, you should consult your doctor about taking supplements.
Other than that, hair loss in women can also result from over-styling. The application of too many hair products can clog the pores. In addition, they may have heat or chemical damage from the straighteners, curlers, and dyes.
Tight hairstyles further contribute to hair thinning. They can even worsen the hair loss that you may already be experiencing because of birth control pills.
Will My Hair Grow Back After Stopping Birth Control?
The good is that hair loss from birth control pills is usually temporary, especially in the case of telogen effluvium. However, if it’s androgenetic alopecia, long-term intake of the pills can cause permanent damage to the hair follicles. So, if you’re noticing increased shedding, make sure to speak with your doctor about it.
How To Determine If Hair Loss is Resulting from the Pills?
It’s normal to lose 50 to 100 hair strands in a day. Usually, people notice if they’re losing too much hair because they find more of it on their bedsheet, clothes (around the shoulders and arms), floor and drain. It almost becomes a nuisance.
However, to make sure that you’re losing more hair than usual, you can perform a pull test. In this, you hold a small section of your hair (containing around 40-60 strands). And then, you just gently tug it. If around 5-6 hair falls out, then you have a hair loss problem.
How To Tell the Difference Between Birth Control Pill Hair Loss & Other Types of Hair Loss?
There are many different types of hair loss. Women are more susceptible to some types of them, such as hair loss due to iron or calcium deficiency or hormonal imbalance. It’s also possible for them to experience two or more of these problems at the same time, which can contribute to increased scalp hair shedding.
If you weren’t experiencing any symptoms of androgenetic hair loss before taking the birth control pills and started to after taking them, you might not become aware of the true cause of it. So, there’s no way you should try finding the answer to this question on your own.
If you’re experiencing other side effects of the pill, it may be an indication that hair loss is also occurring from it. However, that’s circumstantial evidence at best. You may be experiencing hair loss for different reasons while being on the pill.
And so, you need to see your dermatologist. S/he may ask for your family history and take blood tests to provide an accurate diagnosis. The hair loss may be resulting from genetics or stress, or it could be seasonal.
The progestin in birth control pills can result in hair loss in women, which is very unlike natural progesterone. This happens because of an increase in the levels of male hormones.
However, that’s why it’s better to take low androgen index pills instead of high androgen index. With these, you can take birth control pills, and hair growth may even be stimulated.
You might think of switching to vaginal rings, shots, patches or implants, but all of these can also cause hair loss. So, it’s better to discuss switching to another pill with your doctor and looking at other treatment options to stop hair loss from birth control.
Fortunately, it is temporary hair loss. Stopping birth control pills will allow your hair to grow back after a few months.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.