Alcoholism and Hair Loss:
Causes and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : April 29,
2021 
| 4 Sources

Alcoholism Side Effects


Curing alcohol-induced hair loss is incredibly straightforward.

Is there really a connection between alcoholism and hair loss? Hair loss could actually happen anywhere on the body. Nonetheless, it most commonly concerns the scalp. Generally, the scalp has about 100,000 hairs that go through phases of growing, resting, and then, falling out, and finally, regenerating.

There are several negative consequences that can come if someone is drinking more than the moderate drinking guidelines on a regular basis which is detrimental to one’s health.

Men tend to drink more excessively than women. Excessive drinking is associated with significant risks to men’s health and safety, and the risks increase with the amount of alcohol consumed.

One of these risks include hair loss. Hair loss is usually distressing and could significantly impact the patient's quality of life. 

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
What Are the 'Normal' Causes of Hair Loss?

The typical person will shed between 50- 100 hairs per day which can often be seen in a hair brush or in the shower. A multitude of reasons have been cited by researchers, along with an equally large amount of solutions as to why we lose our hair. It is generally agreed that the two major causes of hair loss are:

  • The most common type of hair loss is the one caused by heredity effects. Parents who suffer from hair loss problems can very well pass on these very same characteristics to their children.
  • The next most common cause of hair loss is due to stress. This is also known as Telogen Effluvium (TE). Many people actually suffer from hair loss problems due to the levels of stress they face at work, school or home. Stress has also been scientifically researched to result in hair loss issues and bald patches.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
How Can Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?

It is known that alcohol can lead to the malabsorption of nutrients. This deficit can have a negative impact on hair. There are several reasons as to why alcohol causes hair loss:

  1. Hair loss due to alcohol consumption is mainly due to the fact that alcohol affects the levels of estrogen and zinc in the body, which subsequently affect hair growth.
  2. Excessive drinking RAISES the level of estrogen, high levels of estrogen result in hair loss.
  3. Excessive drinking REDUCES zinc levels in the body. Zinc is essential for healthy hair growth. 

Other contributing factors include:

  1. Drinking alcohol is known to cause dehydration in our bodies. Dehydration can contribute to brittle hair and poor hair health
  2. Constant consumption of alcohol can also induce a lower level of vitamins B and C in your body.
  3. Furthermore, folic acid levels can also fall which is also vital in maintaining healthy and strong hair.

The fact that alcoholics rarely have a balanced diet can also add to vitamin deficiencies which contributes to weakened hair. Alcohol use is often accompanied by poor food choices which can contribute to changes in the vitamin, protein and other deficiencies mentioned above.

Poor sleeping habits can also add to a persons’ level of stress. It is important to note that alcohol will not lead to hair loss in every person who drinks heavily.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
The Science of Hair

Our hair is made up of 2 main components.

These are the shaft and the root. Apart from that, it is vital to know that cells are formed at the root and will die out as time goes by, stimulating hair growth.

In addition, our hair is like a tissue that requires constant nourishment in order to stay healthy and grow well. Poor self-care and nutrition habits are common deficits alcoholic’s experience which would lead to poor nourishment of their hair.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
When to Worry About Hair Loss

Losing small amounts of hair is not something that you should concern yourself with and it is in fact, a very normal occurrence.

Research and studies have shown that 10% of our hair is in a state of constant rest and has a possibility of falling off. The remaining 90% is kept in constant growth at an average rate of about 1 cm a month.

The lifespan of each particular strand of hair is usually between 5 and 7 years. Nonetheless, it is possible that external factors such as aging, malnutrition and consumption of alcohol can shorten the lifespan of hair and result in hair loss.

The time to start worrying about hair loss is when your normal pattern of hair loss changes and it is only you who can determine what normal is.

If you are worried about losing hair, then it is time to visit your physician/doctor. You may be encouraged to take nutrient supplements such as Zinc, Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Calcium. Your doctor may also talk about having a healthier diet.

If there is room to add more nutrient dense foods to your diet, take the opportunity. Not only would this benefit hair, it would also be beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.

alcoholism-and-hair-loss

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
The Combination of Hair Loss and Addiction

When we think about individuals who struggle with addiction, there is a variety of mental health concerns that can come up for them.

For example,  would be depression and anxiety symptoms. This can be related to their behaviors or negative consequences from their addiction. Examples of this would be a loss of employment, separation from partner, relationship turmoil or legal concerns.

So, when we think about a person already struggling with their mental health due to an addiction, by throwing in the additional stress or of hair loss, the person would likely struggle more than if they only had one of the two concerns, alcohol and hair loss.

After looking at the downsides of alcoholism and hair loss addiction, it is important to note that there are options to address both hair loss and addiction concerns. There is hope!

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
Treatment for Hair Loss

The treatment for alcohol-induced hair loss is very straightforward, either cut down on your alcohol consumption or give up altogether.

Much easier said than done I know, but if your hair loss is from excessive drinking and it bothers you enough to come to this page, then what better incentive do you need?

 If you feel that you are not in a place where you are ready to stop drinking, a suggestion would be to address the diet concerns that are noted above.

First, avoid dehydration. Dehydration is a health concern that will impact many organs and bodily functions in addition to hair loss. Make sure that you are drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Avoiding sugary drinks such as Cola, could be a wise choice.

Second, try to have a balanced diet. This would include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Including fruits and vegetables would likely address any deficiencies with Vitamin B and C as well as your folic acid levels. This too would likely aide in other health concerns that you have. Even feeling “sluggish” can be the result of a poor diet.

Schedule an appointment to see a licensed dermatologist. Hair loss involve so many causes. Thus, the sooner you identify the cause, the greater your chances of achieving the results you want.

Food options rich in Zinc include:

  • Meats
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Whole Grains
  • Some vegetables; ie. Potatoes
  • Dark Chocolate

Other recommendations include having good hair care. This would include using a mild shampoo, and avoiding using hair dryers, curling irons and a hair straighter.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
How Hair Loss Can Impact Your Mental Health

Hair loss can have a significant impact on some individual’s mental health. For others, it may not have much of an impact. Everyone is different and will have different response to it.

For some, hair loss can impact their confidence and how they feel about themselves. Our appearance can have a positive or negative impact on our confidence, and for some, a sudden or significant change in your hair line can be impactful. Some worry that having hair loss will make them less attractive, or less likely to find a partner.

For others, they may experience some depressive and/or anxiety symptoms related to their hair loss. It is important to note that hair loss can affect both men and women. We tend to associate hair loss with hair on our head, however other possible areas that can be impacted would be our eyebrows, arms and legs.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
Coping with Hair Loss

Hair loss can vary from slight hair thinning to complete baldness. Living with hair loss can be a challenging experience that can lead to some mental health struggles. The good news is that there are things that you can try to help cope with any distress you may be experiencing.

The first would be to try and gain some perspective on the situation. Unlike other health difficulties, alcohol and hair loss is not life threatening. For some, trying to recognize this can help lessen the hardships associated with hair loss.

As mentioned above, there are some factors that contribute to hair loss that are not permanent, such as stress, which means that your hair loss may be a temporary struggle for you.

With that being said, if stress is a main contributing factor for you then try to make changes to decrease your stress level. For some, this may mean asking for help which can be challenging. An additional option would be to meet with a mental health provider for some talk therapy.

The benefits of working with a mental health provider is that they are an unbiased person who will keep your session private. You would have a safe place to openly talk about your concerns, worries and fears. Your therapist would be supportive, and try to help you find ways to cope with your distress.

For some, working with your hair stylist or barber to see if they have ideas for changes that may help hide or minimize your concerns with hair loss.

This may not be helpful in the present moment, however, as time goes on there are more and more options for products that can be used to help decrease hair loss. If you are unable to find a product that works for you at this time, there may be something that comes out down the road that is a better fit for you.

If this is the case for you, it may be worth considering trying some of the other options for coping skills.

Others find comfort in trying to use products to help re-grow hair. It may be worth having a conversation with your doctor first in case malnutrition is a contributing factor for you. For further information regarding hair loss products, please click the link.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
Products Focused on Reducing or Preventing Hair Loss

Before beginning products known to help with hair loss, a wise decision may be to have a discussion with your doctor. Hair loss is a common experience, however, it may be associated with an underlying health concern that needs to be addressed. 

Malnutrition would be an example of an underlying health concern that would likely be impacting more than just hair loss.

  •  Rogaine is a product commonly used for hair loss. Rogaine contains Minoxidil, which is FDA-approved for re-growing hair. There are two formulas on the market at this time; one for women and one for men. Please follow the link to a provider if you are interested in purchasing it.

-Rogaine for Men

-Rogaine for Women

  • Shedavi is a Vegan, all natural formula diet supplement. Shedavi has more than 1,000 times the daily recommended value of biotin which is known to aide in hair growth. This product can be used by both men and women. Please follow the link to a provider if you are interested in purchasing it.

Shedavi

  • Collagen is known to have a vital role in the health of our hair and nails. Collagen powder is flavored and can simply mixed with water and drank. This product can be used by both women and men. Please follow the link to a provider if you are interested in purchasing it.

Collagen powder

  • Vegan gummies would help supplement some of the vitamin concerns commonly associated with drinking that are mentioned above. These gummies include Biotin, Vitamin B, Zinc and Folic Acid. This product can be used by both men and women. Please follow the link to a provider if you are interested in purchasing it.

Vegan gummies

  • Propidren is a dietary supplement that contains a DHT blocker. DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a known factor in hair loss. By taking Propidren, the supplement would block the production of DHT and therefore reduce hair loss. This product is recommended to be used in a combination with the Propidren liquid for 3 months. This product can be used by both men and women. Please follow the link to a provider if you are interested in the supplement and/or the liquid option.

Propidren supplement

Propidren liquid supplement

There is no doubt that alcohol can contribute to hair loss. However, if you drink moderately then it is unlikely alcohol is the cause and stopping drinking will not solve the problem. Rogaine contains Minoxidil, which is FDA-approved for re-growing hair. To learn more about this treatment for alcoholism and hair loss and read user reviews, just follow the link.

Alcoholism and Hair Loss
Coping with Alcoholism

When it comes to coping with a drinking problem, it may not be as simple or straight forward as coping with hair loss.

There are several factors that go into deciding what treatment options would be appropriate for someone struggling with alcoholism and hair loss. These factors include:

  • How much they drink during one drinking occasion
  • How often they drink
  • The length of time that they have been drinking heavily
  • Any history of withdrawal symptoms including any symptoms in the present moment
  • Any history of blackouts
  • Any previous experiences with medically supervised detoxification
  • Any previous inpatient and/or outpatient treatment program experiences
  • Consequences resulting from drinking including: job ramifications, relationship concerns, legal charges or health concerns

If you find yourself wondering if you have a drinking problem, it may be worth having an honest conversation with your Primary Care Physician. Chances are, after talking about your concern with them they can point you in the direction of appropriate options for you.

Recommendations can range from detoxification, to inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. Some may benefit from engaging in therapy if they are struggling with drinking behaviors and do not meet criteria necessary for the other treatment options.

If you are thinking that you may have a drinking problem, but are not ready to commit to the options mentioned above, it may be worth checking out a self-help meeting. Alcoholics Anonymous is widely known and has a history of helping many alcoholics.

Try not to be discouraged by the statistics associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, and have an open mind. Even taking time to look through their website and reviewing the free materials on their website can help exposure you to the material.

Alcoholics Anonymous is not for everyone, so know that there are other options for meetings that you can try if you feel that AA is not a good fit for you.

What we know about addiction is that it is a chronic and progressive disease. Unfortunately, what this means is that if you do not do something to address your alcohol addiction, it will continue to progress and likely kill you.

Long term heavy drinking is known to have some serious health consequences. It is also known to contribute to negative consequences in other areas of a person’s life such as family, mental health, career and finances.

alcoholism-hair-lossPhoto by Viajero


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Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More



Sources:  

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair Loss: Tips for Managing. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/treatment/tips

American Family Physician. Hair Loss: Common Causes and Treatment. September 15, 2017. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0915/p371.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men's Health. October 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/mens-health.htm

NYU Langone Health. Types of Hair Loss.  https://nyulangone.org/conditions/hair-loss/types


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