Alcohol affects all of our bodily functions, and when frequently consumed in excess, it can lead to serious health problems that affect your entire life. One of the ways alcohol can impact the body is by affecting our appearances and contributing to hair loss.
While current research doesn't indicate that drinking alcohol in moderation will lead to hair thinning or early balding, alcohol abuse is a different story.
Drinking to excess can have many negative health effects, and hair loss can be a red flag for underlying medical conditions caused by alcohol abuse.
In this article, we'll break down the connection between alcohol and hair loss.
Does drinking alcohol cause hair loss?
It's normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, but if you're noticing more hair on your pillow in the morning, in the shower drain or on your hairbrush, it can be a sign that something's going on with your health.
Could it be the knock-off beers you enjoy with your mates after work? In most instances, the answer is no, so long as you're enjoying your bevs responsibly.
If you're a heavy drinker, on the other hand, alcohol could be contributing to your hair loss.
While there's no direct link between alcohol and hair loss, drinking too much alcohol can contribute to nutritional deficiencies and other medical conditions which can cause hair loss and thinning hair.
There are different types of hair loss that all have different causes, though, so it's important to speak to a doctor or healthcare provider to work out exactly what's going on.
Scientifically proven hair loss causes
Unsure whether alcohol is causing your hair loss, or whether it's something else? These are the scientifically proven hair loss causes, according to Harvard Medical School:
- Telogen effluvium — One of the most common forms of hair loss, telogen effluvium occurs roughly three months after a stressful or traumatic event to the body. This could be anything from illness or infection, surgery, or even crash dieting.
- Medication side effects — Some medications can have the unwanted side effect of hair loss. The medications used in chemotherapy top this list, but also include lithium, beta-blockers, warfarin, heparin, amphetamines and levodopa.
- Symptom of a medical illness — Sudden, unexplained hair loss can be a red flag that indicates an underlying illness, ranging in seriousness from nutrient deficiencies to lupus.
- Tinea capitis (fungal infection of the scalp) — If you're experiencing patchy hair loss, it may be a fungal infection causing the hair to break.
- Alopecia areata — An autoimmune disease that presents as hair falling out in one or more small patches.
- Traumatic alopecia — This is where the hair is falling out or breaking because of physical damage. Think tight braids, overusing heat tools like hair straighteners or curlers, overuse of chemicals like bleach or perms. The psychiatric disorder trichotillomania, where people compulsively pull at or twist their hair, can also result in this type of alopecia.
- Hereditary pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia — For men, this is the most common type of hair loss, and it's usually the result of three factors: genetics, hormones, and age.
The many causes of hair loss mean that treating it can't be approached in the same way for every person. At Pilot, we take a personalised approach and formulate your hair loss treatment plan based on your own set of circumstances. Start your online consult with a Pilot doctor today to find the right treatment for you.
How drinking alcohol can contribute to hair loss
Drinking excessively can negatively impact your health across the board.
From contributing to nutritional deficiencies to spiking blood sugar levels, to dehydration, to increased stress levels and poor sleep quality, alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on our bodies, which can trigger hair loss.
Here are the ways excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to hair loss:
Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition
This isn't just a case of not getting enough veggies because you've been ordering junk food on Uber Eats too often after a big night (although a poor diet can definitely be a factor in nutrient deficiency).
Rather, excessive alcohol consumption can actually stop the body from absorbing vital nutrients properly.
The US-based National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that "alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules", and that it can "[impair] nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines".
When that happens, it can trigger a condition called telogen effluvium (TE). This is a type of stress-induced hair loss where your hair cycles out of the growth phase too quickly.
Your hair follicles don’t replenish themselves as they're supposed to, so your hair thins out as it continues to shed excessively.
Thyroid problems associated with drinking
Alcohol abuse can affect your thyroid, which can affect your day-to-day bodily functions, including your hair growth cycle.
In cases of severe thyroid conditions, like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it's possible to experience widespread hair thinning that affects the whole scalp.
Essentially, preservatives are in everything we consume and use. They're in our food, our medications, our grooming products, and yes, our alcohol. The job of preservatives is to kill off bacteria.
While preservatives are there to make sure that our foods and beverages have a longer shelf life, they don't necessarily do our bodies any good.
In fact, once we've consumed these preservatives, they can actually end up killing off the 'good' bacteria we have in our bodies. Without good bacteria, we can develop health issues that can contribute to hair loss.
Bad sleep quality
You may think that because alcohol can cause drowsiness, sleep wouldn't be an issue, but that's not the case. See, the sleep you get after excessive drinking is usually low-quality sleep.
Poor quality sleep can spike stress and cortisol levels, which can, in turn, trigger telogen effluvium.
Although it may seem like drinking can help 'take the edge off' after a stressful day, heavy alcohol consumption may actually be one of the main causes of stress to begin with.
As we mentioned, poor sleep quality has a huge impact on our stress levels, and that can trigger telogen effluvium.
Stress is also linked to lowered oxygen intake, which can affect hair health. Lower oxygen levels mean that there's less oxygen for the hair follicles to use, leaving hair dehydrated and prone to breakages and thinning.
Blood sugar spikes
Frequent spikes in blood sugar have been linked to male pattern baldness.
Alcoholic drinks often contain a lot of sugar, and if you're a heavy drinker, this can eventually result in insulin resistance and contribute to alcoholic diabetes.
On the hair front, insulin resistance can spike your insulin and androgens, which can encourage hair loss.
By now, we all know that dehydration is bad for us, but how does it affect hair loss? And what's alcohol got to do with it?
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it makes you urinate more, and dehydrates you as you go. This dehydration is also one of the main causes of hangovers, but let's focus on the hair loss aspect.
Dehydration affects the skin's elasticity, as well as the hair follicles. When you're not getting enough water, your hair follicles will become dry and brittle, which increases the likelihood of hair loss and damage.
Dehydration can also cause dandruff, which can contribute to hair loss.
Will my hair grow back if I stop drinking alcohol?
In short, it really depends on what's causing your hair loss. Although alcohol and hair loss can be connected, it's usually because the alcohol is creating other medical conditions, like nutritional deficiencies.
Although stopping drinking altogether may increase your health in many ways, if you don't address the direct causes of your hair loss, it may not grow back.
That's why it's important to seek out professional medical advice to determine what's actually causing your hair loss.
How to avoid and prevent hair loss from alcohol
- Cut back on drinking: The best way to ensure that your drinking isn't affecting your hairline is to drink moderately or not at all.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water helps your entire body function better, but it also means your skin and hair won't become dry and brittle, which can lead to hair loss.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Nutritional deficiency is a common cause of hair loss. It's important to make sure you're eating a balanced diet and getting all the proper nutrients you need in order to encourage hair growth. If you're not sure where to start, it's best to chat with a doctor or nutritionist.
- Use a hair loss shampoo: Pilot's Hair Growth Shampoo and Conditioner are designed to promote healthy hair growth and lay the groundwork for thicker and healthier follicles
- Use a hair loss vitamin supplement: Pilot's Biotin Hair Gummies support the synthesis of Keratin, the protective protein that makes up your hair (and makes it stronger and less prone to damage).
- Speak to your doctor: If you're concerned about hair loss, or about your alcohol consumption, it's always best to speak to a doctor. You can start your journey toward happy, healthy hair at Pilot today.
Medically backed ways to treat and reverse hair loss
At Pilot, we offer hair loss treatments that have been designed by a leading Australian hair loss expert.
With over 35 years of experience, Dr Russell Knudsen's hair treatment plan has seen some excellent results, with over 80 per cent of patients retaining their hair.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to hair growth, so the key to our success — and yours — is making sure each person is getting the right ingredients, in the right amounts.
Depending on your situation and the medical advice you receive, you may want to treat your hair loss with lifestyle changes — like diet, sleep and exercise, over-the-counter medications — like hair growth shampoos and treatments, as well as vitamin supplements, or in some cases, prescription medications.
When it comes to hair loss, it can be a real race against the clock, though, so if you're concerned, it's best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox