Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?

In moderation drinking alcohol is fine. But when you cross that line even slightly into persistent heavy drinking, it can have increasingly negative effects on your body and mind.

There's no doubting that higher levels of alcohol consumption cause changes in your appearance, which is why a lot of people with thin, balding hair wonder if alcohol and hair loss go hand-in-hand. Basically does alcohol directly cause irreversible hair loss?

Well the answer is going to be slightly confusing for you. Does alcohol cause hair loss? Yes and no.

So let's look at the facts so you can see why the answer is yes and no, and what you can do to protect yourself from increased hair loss under certain circumstances related to alcohol consumption.

Does Alcohol Directly Cause Hair Loss?

Nobody doubts that significant alcohol consumption causes us to look different. Especially our eyes and skin can look older and less healthy in appearance.

However, the good news to give you right at the start here is that although alcohol does cause physical deterioration in some areas, it does not directly cause hair loss. What we mean by that is that there is no link scientifically which has found that alcohol reacts in the body to make us lose hair permanently.

But before you breathe a sigh of relief, the bad news is that alcohol does indirectly cause an increase in both speed and quantity of hair loss. Worse, it also contributes to a situation where the hair is weaker and breaks more easily, giving an otherwise healthy hair and scalp the appearance of deterioration.

How Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Hair loss

The ways that alcohol can increase hair loss are varied and significant:

1. Alcohol dehydrates you

Dehydration can cause dandruff, which can lead to problems with the health of the hair and scalp. Dehydration can also cause the hair follicles to become more dry and brittle, and maybe even start to close up if dehydration is a continual problem over months and years.

2. Alcohol causes malnutrition

Both during and after drinking alcohol you're taking in empty calories and usually combining this with a poor diet. The hangover creates more desire for poor diet, or abstinence from food completely, often for a couple of days. Malnutrition means less calories and less nutrients, which can directly affect the quality of hair growth and the health of the follicles.

3. Alcohol is a diuretic

This means that you will urinate more frequently which causes lower levels of potassium and magnesium in the body. A myriad of functions in the body start to function less well in this situation, including skin health and hair growth.

4. Heavy consumption of alcohol leads to blood sugar spikes

When you drink alcohol it creates blood sugar spikes. These are followed by a dramatic lowering in the body's sugar levels, which can kickstart things like diabetes and importantly this has been linked to onset of pattern baldness.

5. Alcohol causes anxiety

Alcohol withdrawal can cause significant anxiety symptoms typically 24-48 hours after last drinking it. On top of that, the general lack of quality sleep after being drunk also leads to a spike in anxiety levels. When added to other anxiety in life, this can cause alopecia. Stress and anxiety are firmly linked to hair loss, which is why many alcoholics are not only stressed and anxious, but also have thin hair.

6. Alcohol can increase estrogen levels

Particularly in men, but also in women, an increase in estrogen levels can cause hair loss. This is because estrogen minimizes the effects of testosterone. Testosterone converts to DHT which is a key factor in male pattern baldness. Therefore low levels of estrogen mean that there is less available to counteract testosterone. Hair loss caused by fluctuating estrogen levels tends to be all over the head in patches, which is again why alcoholics often have what looks like all over thin and patchy hair.

Note: If you want to read more about how to reduce DTH, have a look at the following posts:

Is Hair Loss From Alcohol Permanent?

So the bottom line here is that there are plenty of ways in which consumption of alcohol in any more than a moderate amount can affect hair growth, hair strength and also rate and quality at which new hair grows.

The key to hair loss is in the follicles. When a follicle start to close up the hair that grows is thinner. Eventually the follicles become inflamed and close up, often dying in the process. The longer alcohol is abuse, the worse the condition of the follicles will get and this may eventually be irreversible.

Alcohol can affect so many of the things which can cause hair follicle damage that it's vital to minimize its effect if you are already suffering from pattern baldness, or alopecia through any cause.

Can I Do Anything To Stop Hair Loss If I Drink?

If you are going to keep drinking but are still worried about hair loss, then you are limited in what you can do. However there are things you can do to counteract the effects of alcohol on hair loss to some degree:

  1. Take a supplement that contains zinc and iron. These are key minerals that help to keep hair and scalp healthy.
  2. Use something like coconut oil on your hair. It is an emollient which will keep the scalp and hair in good condition, it is also antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, all things which will help to keep the follicles in good shape.
  3. Drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated and flush toxins from alcohol out of your system more quickly.

And by the way, if you consider stop drinking, have a look at the following video:

Conclusion

Overall, the good news is that although alcohol can increase hair loss in the short term, it doesn't directly cause permanent hair loss. However as you now know, long-term alcohol abuse can cause an irreversible chain of events does lead to permanent hair loss.

So as long as you don't drink heavily all the time, take sensible measures to counteract its effects, and have periods of abstinence to allow your body to recover, then your hair should start to regrow and the follicles should become healthier again in time.

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