One of the last things you’d worry about when starting birth control is your hair. You might be concerned about weight gain or acne, but balding? Sure, the Pill and other hormonal birth control offer major benefits — like protecting against pregnancy and regulating menstrual cycles — but finding your hair clogging the shower drain could sound like too hefty a price to pay. So is balding while using birth control common?
As is the case with all prescription medications, the pill comes with a risk of side effects. And yes, one of those potential side effects is balding. Balding is generally considered a concern for men, but women and children can experience the condition too — it’s just not as common. Among the many causes of female balding are genetics, medical conditions, and medications that affect hormones, which is where birth control pills come in.
So, how common is this hair-raising side effect? According to the Guttmacher Institute, roughly 25 percent of women in the US choose oral birth control pills for contraception. Are one in four American women secretly battling birth control-related hair loss, or does this side effect only affect certain people? And if you’re one of the unlucky ones, what can be done? Read on to learn more about the connection between birth control and female balding, and what can be done about it.
The Link Between Birth Control and Hair Loss
Birth control pills most often use a combination of the female hormones estrogen and progestin to stop ovulation, which significantly lowers the risk of pregnancy. As hair loss expert Dr. Alan J. Bauman explains, women who are sensitive to changes in female hormones are more likely to experience birth control-related hair loss or balding. Genetics may also be to blame. If hormone-related balding is a family trait, that increases the likelihood that a woman on the pill will experience balding.
How exactly does this hair loss occur? The hormones in oral contraceptives can interfere what the hair growth cycle. The hormones stop the growing cycle, leaving the follicles in a resting state. The resting phase is the hair-thinning phase. That’s why in some cases of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), oral contraceptives are used to stop excessive hair growth.
Not all women are alike when it comes to hormone-related female balding. The condition, technically called telogen effluvium, can happen at any time when taking birth control pills. Some notice thinning when they first start oral contraception, while others don’t see changes until after they’ve stopped. This temporary balding is typically minimal, but that might not be reassuring to a woman watching her once full and lustrous locks start to look stringy.
Types of Birth Control Pills that Won’t Make you Go Bald
When a connection is made between birth control and balding, the American Hair Loss Association suggests women use birth control pills that are low-androgen based, like desogestrel-ethinyl estradiol. If the balding becomes more severe or doesn’t improve after a few months, a non-hormonal contraceptive may be a better option.
A Time Frame for Hair Loss
The average hair growth cycle lasts about three months, which means women on the pill could experience a three-month delay before any signs of balding appear. If you notice your hair is thinning now, the cause can be traced to changes that occurred several months prior, when the growth of new hair follicles wasn’t fast enough to replace the rate of hair loss.
3 Tips for Thicker Looking Hair While on Birth Control
Fortunately, if you do experience hair loss while on birth control, you can achieve thicker-looking hair by following a few simple tips:
- Nourish your hair. Eating the right foods can help maximize the results of the growth phase. Look for foods rich in nutrients that support hair health, such as healthy fats, green leafy vegetables, and lean proteins.
- Turn up the volume. Changing up your hair care routine can drastically improve hair volume, so no one has to know your hair is thinning. Ask a hair stylist for advice on volumizing products and styling techniques that will work to make your specific hair type and style look more full.
- Flip the part. The most effective way to improve the volume of your thinning hair is to flip your part. If you naturally part your hair to the right side, change things up and section to the left. As your hair tries to pull back to the right, you’ll see impressive volume.
Remember ladies, keep track of side effects, including irregular mood changes, bleeding, and hair loss, while taking birth control and discuss them with your doctor (if you use Nurx, just message our medical team any time with concerns). Some side effects could actually be symptoms of other conditions like endometriosis.
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