Hormonal contraceptives, more commonly known as “the Pill”, are the most commonly used type of birth control in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. 80 percent of women have used hormonal birth control at some point. While birth control pills can help women avoid pregnancy and have a number of other benefits, such as reduced acne and less painful periods, they can lead to thinning hair or hair loss in some women. Interestingly enough, some forms of hormonal contraception are also used to prevent or reduce hair loss in women.
If your hair is thinning, it’s a good idea to see a hair loss and hair transplant surgeon, such as Dr. Kyle Choe. The surgeon can review your medical history and determine whether your birth control, or something else, is responsible for your hair loss problems.
Types of Contraceptives
Not all birth control pills or types of hormonal contraception are the same. Different brands of pills contain different types and different amounts of hormones. For example, some pills contain two types of synthetic hormones, synthetic estrogen and synthetic progestin. Some only contain progestin. The amount of hormones in the pill varies from brand to brand, as well. Some pills contain a low dose of estrogen and progestin, for example.
Hair Loss Related to the Pill
Typically, birth control pills that contain both synthetic estrogen and synthetic progestin are less likely to lead to hair loss. The risk of hair loss increases when the body produces more androgen, a hormone that increases the production of DHT, which in turn is responsible for hair miniaturization, meaning the hair follicle shrinks and the hair itself becomes thinner.
Progestin-only pills are more likely to influence the production of androgen in the body. The impact a birth control pill can have on androgen levels is measured using something called the Androgen Index. If a pill scores highly on the Androgen Index, taking it can increase your risk of hair loss.
Low-scoring birth control pills include Ortho-Tri Cyclen and Desogen. The pills with the highest ranking on the index include Loestrin 1.5/30 and Loestrin 1/20.
Types of Hair Loss Related to the Pill
Oral contraceptives can lead to hair loss in one of two ways. The increase in androgen levels can trigger genetic hair loss in some women. Female pattern baldness in women can typically be seen when the hair grows thinner, instead of directly falling out.
Birth control pills are also likely to lead to a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. Hair usually goes through several phases before the body naturally sheds it. The growing phase is called the anagen phase while the resting phase is the telogen phase. After the resting phase, the hair falls out and the process begins again. When a woman experiences telogen effluvium, more hairs than usual go into the resting phase and fall out, leading to what looks like a dramatic amount of hair loss.
Changes in the body, including sharp drops or increases in hormone levels, are often responsible for telogen effluvium. Although it can be upsetting to experience, in most cases the condition resolves once the trigger is removed.
Treating Hair Loss
Hair loss related to birth control can be relatively simple to treat. In many cases, changing birth control methods can put a stop to it. If you are on the Pill or another type of hormonal birth control and are experiencing hair loss, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the issue. You can also make an appointment with a hair loss surgeon to discuss your options.
If the hair loss is actually due to genetics, a hair transplant can be an effective treatment option. To learn more about your hair loss treatment options and more about the transplant procedure, contact Dr. Kyle Choe at the Choe Center for Hair Restoration in Virginia Beach. Call the center at (757) 389-5850 for a consultation today.