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Do Steroids Cause Hair Loss?
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on March 15, 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 hair loss.

But 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 can trigger hair loss, such as male pattern baldness [1].

In this article, we will look at:

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

Which steroids cause hair loss?

There are two main types of steroids that can be prescribed: corticosteroids or 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 US 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; it may happen after a few weeks or months of use.

Hair thinning 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 hair thinning 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 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 to arise. At this point, men may take hair growth medications such as Finasteride in order to lessen the effects of the hormone [8-9].

Prednisone and hair loss

Prednisone is a brand of steroid prescribed to individuals who are 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 are usually naturally produced by the body [10].

Hair thinning is an uncommon side effect of prednisone [11]. But 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 condition which 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 hair on the scalp. 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 hair loss due to steroids, 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 medications 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

  • 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]
  • A hair transplant, such as FUE or FUT, 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

Sources:

  1. Male Pattern Baldness and Anabolic Steroids | NCBI
  2. Anabolic Steroid Statistic | MDPI
  3. What are Anabolic Steroids | NCBI
  4. Hair Loss and Anabolic Steroids | NCBI
  5. Corticosteroids and Hair Loss (Page 7) | FDA
  6. Drug-Induced Hair Loss | NCBI
  7. Hirsutism | LLUH
  8. The Role of DHT in Male Pattern Baldness and Anabolic Steroids | NCBI
  9. Cause of Androgenetic Alopecia | NCBI
  10. Uses of Prednisone, Side Effects of Prednisone | NLM
  11. Prednisone Side Effects | Drugs.com
  12. Uses of Corticosteroids | NCBI
  13. Alopecia Areata | NCBI
  14. Alopecia Areata Managed with Prednisone and Topical Minoxidil | NCBI
  15. Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids on Women | NIDA
  16. Side Effects of Steroid Misuse | NHS
  17. Can Women Take Finasteride? | NCBI
  18. Caffeine-Based Topical Liquid Study | NLM
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on March 15, 2023
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on March 15, 2023

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