Hormonal Contraceptives and Hair Shedding
Hormonal contraceptives (including birth control pills, coils, injections, patches and vaginal rings) work by adjusting the balance of hormones in your body. Because the growth cycle of your hair is influenced by hormones, your hair may be affected if you are using a hormonal contraceptive.
Please note, there are two types of hair loss associated with hormonal contraceptives: hair shedding and hair thinning. They have different symptoms, and are caused by different things.
- Hair shedding (also known as telogen effluvium) is immediately noticeable, and is caused by a disturbance or imbalance within your body. Please read this section for more information.
- Hair thinning (also known as reduced volume) takes place gradually over time and is an inherited condition. For more information on how birth control methods may affect hair thinning, please visit our page on Contraceptive Pills and Hair Thinning.
Why do Hormonal Contraceptives Cause Hair Shedding?
Oestrogen is a hair-friendly hormone. It keeps your hairs in their anagen (growth) phase for an average of 6 to 7 years, before they move into their telogen (shedding) phase.
Because some hormonal contraceptives reduce your body’s levels of oestrogen, they can cause more hairs than usual to move abruptly from the anagen phase into the telogen phase. This results in a period of diffuse (widespread) hair shedding all over your scalp. This type of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.
Certain hormonal contraceptives, such as the pills Yasmin and Dianette, do not decrease your oestrogen levels, and are therefore unlikely to cause hair shedding. Other pills, such as Microgynon and Loestrin, may have the opposite effect.
Because different people react differently to medications, it may take some time to figure out which hormonal contraceptive is right for you. We recommend that you talk to your doctor and/or a Trichologist if you are taking hormonal contraceptives and are concerned about hair loss.
What are the Symptoms of Hair Shedding?
On average, it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, provided they are growing back. However, telogen effluvium can result in as many as 300 hairs being shed in a 24 hour period.
Due to the nature of the hair growth cycle, hair shedding usually takes place 6-12 weeks after the event that triggered it. Therefore, if you begin to notice hair shedding 2-3 months after beginning hormonal contraceptive, this may be the cause.
You will probably notice more hairs coming out when you brush and style, in your shower drain, and perhaps on your pillow and clothes. This can be extremely distressing when you are experiencing it, but rest assured that this type of hair loss is always temporary. Stopping the pill, or other form of hormonal contraceptive you are using, should resolve it.
Please note: Always consult your doctor or gynaecologist before changing, starting or stopping any hormonal contraceptive.
Hair Loss and Stopping the Pill
Coming off of certain hormonal contraceptives can also result in telogen effluvium. This is also caused by a sudden drop in your body’s oestrogen levels.
Try not to worry though — the hair you lose will grow back. Increased hair shedding after stopping a hormonal contraceptive is temporary and should resolve itself.
However, if your hair shedding continues for longer than three months, it may be unrelated to the contraceptive pill you were taking. In this case, we advise you to consult your doctor and/or a Trichologist.
If you are worried about any form of hair loss, our Clinics in London and New York specialise in all aspects of hair and scalp health, and will be pleased to welcome you.