Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Hair Loss Health Center

Font Size

Drug-Induced Hair Loss

Medications are designed to treat a variety of health conditions, but sometimes they can have unwanted side effects. Certain drugs can contribute to excess hair growth, changes in hair color or texture, or hair loss.

Drug-induced hair loss, like any other type of hair loss, can have a real effect on your self-esteem. The good news is that in most cases, it's easily reversible once you stop taking the drug.

Recommended Related to Hair Loss

Understanding Hair Loss -- Prevention

Although you can't reverse natural balding, you can protect hair from damage that may eventually lead to thinning.  Many people put tremendous stress on their hair. Hair dryers, hot curlers, hair dyes, permanent and hair straightening products, and chemical-laden cosmetics may cause dry, brittle, and thinning hair.  To prevent hair damage that may cause hair loss, follow these tips: Go natural: Leave your hair its natural color and texture. If that is not an option for you, give hair...

Read the Understanding Hair Loss -- Prevention article > >

How Do Drugs Cause Hair Loss?

Drugs cause hair loss by interfering with the normal cycle of scalp hair growth. During the anagen phase, which lasts for three to four years, the hair grows. During the telogen phase, which lasts about three months, the hair rests. At the end of the telogen phase, the hair falls out and is replaced by  new hair.

Medications can lead to two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium is the most common form of drug-induced hair loss. It usually appears within two to four months after taking the drug. This condition causes the hair follicles to go into their resting phase (telogen) and fall out too early. People with telogen effluvium usually shed between 100 and 150 hairs a day.

Anagen effluvium is hair loss that occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle, when the hairs are actively growing. It prevents the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from dividing normally. This type of hair loss usually occurs within a few days to weeks after taking the medication. It's most common in people who are taking chemotherapy drugs for cancer and is often severe, causing people to lose most or all of the hair on their head, as well as their eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hairs.

The severity of drug-induced hair loss depends on the type of drug and dosage, as well as your sensitivity to that drug.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

Balding man in mirror
Slideshow
Young woman with thick curly hair
Slideshow
 
Stressed woman
Video
Drugs That Can Cause Hair Loss
Article
 
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
Article
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Article
 
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Article
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Video
 
Balding man in mirror
Slideshow
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Quiz
 
Young woman with thick curly hair
Slideshow
hair problems
Slideshow