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Do Steroids Cause Hair Loss?
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on August 18, 2023

Anabolic steroids, often referred to simply as “steroids”, are usually taken for building muscle mass. Anabolic steroids are structurally similar to testosterone, and some behave in a similar way. So you may be worried that taking steroids can lead to loss of hair.

However, anabolic steroids aren’t the only type of steroids available. So do steroids cause hair loss? The answer is dependent on the type of steroid you take. Some steroids can even accelerate male pattern baldness for individuals who are genetically predisposed to the hair loss condition[1].

In this article, we will look at:

  • Which steroids can trigger hair loss
  • How steroids cause loss of hair
  • Prednisone and hair loss
  • Steroids and loss of hair in women
  • Ways to prevent steroid-related hair loss.
Table of Contents

Which steroids cause hair loss?

There are two main types of steroids that can be prescribed: corticosteroids and anabolic. Corticosteroids are used to treat skin conditions, blood disorders, and allergies. They’re also used to produce steroid creams for hair loss. Anabolic steroids, meanwhile, are most commonly used to enhance muscle mass and improve athletic performance.

Anabolic steroids are more likely to cause hair loss in men. Around 1-3% of U.S. inhabitants have been identified as anabolic steroid users [2]. Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of the male sex hormone, testosterone, and are responsible for the maturation of secondary sex characteristics [3].

Anabolic steroids can also affect androgen levels. This can lead to androgenetic alopecia in those with a genetic predisposition [4]. When taking anabolic steroids, hair loss doesn’t always occur immediately.  Hair fallout may happen after a few weeks or months of use.

Thinning hair is listed as a side effect of certain corticosteroids, such as prednisolone sodium phosphate. However, it doesn’t seem to be a general side effect of corticosteroids [5]. The side effect of thinning hair when taking corticosteroids is less common than anabolic steroids. However, any hair thinning or loss that does occur when taking corticosteroids may be reversible if the medication is stopped with the advice of a doctor.

According to a study conducted at the John Hopkins Vasculitis Center, prednisone can lead to a condition called hirsutism (excessive hair growth due to the presence of testosterone). Hirsutism was identified in an individual who had been taking 10mg of prednisone for a number of months [6-7].

How do steroids cause hair loss?

Anabolic steroids are structurally similar to testosterone, though there are some key differences between the two. As a result, they can stimulate the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the hormone responsible for androgenetic alopecia in men [8].

Taking anabolic steroids can stimulate excessive DHT production, causing genetic hair loss conditions like male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness to arise. At this point, men may take hair loss treatment medications such as Finasteride in order to lessen the effects of the hormone [8-9].

Prednisone and hair loss

Prednisone is a steroid brand prescribed to individuals experiencing low corticosteroid levels, such as arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. It can also be prescribed to treat conditions affecting the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines [9]. As prednisone is a corticosteroid, it works to replace steroids which the body produces naturally [10].

Hair thinning is an uncommon side effect of prednisone [11]. In some cases, prednisone has actually been recorded to cause hair growth; this may be related to how the medication is administered, for example, a tablet or an injection [10].

Prednisolone is from the same drug class as prednisone and works in a very similar way. However, they differ in their dosage methods and their drug interactions. Prednisolone has been known to cause hair thinning [6].

Research has shown that prednisone and prednisolone can also be effective when treating the hair loss condition alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. This autoimmune condition may respond to corticosteroid treatment [12-13].

One study focused on the administration of prednisone alongside 2% Minoxidil on patients who were experiencing alopecia areata. After 6 weeks, the results showed potential for 25% hair regrowth in 47% of patients when used alongside topical Minoxidil [14].

Do steroids cause hair loss in women?

Like men, whether steroids cause hair loss in women depends on the type of steroid used.

The effect of anabolic steroids on women can be extreme. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that women who consumed anabolic steroids may experience excessive body hair growth, but could lose scalp hair. With continued consumption, hair loss may become irreversible [15].

How to prevent steroid-related hair loss

There are a few ways in which you can prevent, lessen, or fix steroid-related hair loss. However, it is important to note that natural regrowth may not always be achievable in some cases. You should always consult with a doctor if you are concerned about steroid hair loss, as they can advise you on the best preventative methods.

  • Don’t take steroids unless they’ve been prescribed specifically for you. These may not be compatible with your body and the side effects of steroid abuse can be extremely harsh on the body. Side effects of steroid misuse in men can include infertility, severe acne, gynecomastia, and in some extreme cases, prostate cancer. In women, side effects include: loss of breasts, deepened voice, problems with the menstrual cycle, and increased hair growth [16]
  • Understand that dosages may need to be adjusted or the prescription medication changed in order to avoid or lessen hair loss
  • Practise a healthy lifestyle with good scalp and hair care.

How to fix steroid-related hair loss

There are several ways to stimulate hair growth. Some treatment options you may wish to consider include:

  • Finasteride can be prescribed to combat steroid-related hair loss, as it works specifically to regulate and control the elevation of the DHT hormone in men. Research on Finasteride for women suggests it does not have a significant enough effect to warrant larger doses which heighten side effects [17].
  • Minoxidil is another medication that can be used to stimulate hair regrowth after steroid-related hair loss, either in a topical form, or an oral form.
  • Caffeine hair growth shampoos can be effective. Research suggests that a caffeine-based topical solution is more effective over a longer exposure time [18].
  • An FUE hair transplant or FUT hair transplant may help those who are taking medication to stimulate hair regrowth but still lack hair regrowth in certain areas, or for those that medication has not benefited.

Have you experienced hair loss due to steroid use?

If steroid-related hair loss is affecting your life, consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues.

If it takes longer than expected to regrow your hair or natural hair growth is not an option, book a free consultation with a trichologist at the Wimpole Clinic.

Do Steroids Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on August 18, 2023
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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