How’s this for irony: most hair loss medications list hair shedding as a possible side effect! What?? If it does occur, excessive hair shedding from hair loss medications is supposed to be temporary, but that’s not much comfort when the last thing you need is to lose even more hair in the short term. I’ve initially lost more hair from just about every hair loss medication I’ve tried, and it’s extremely common to hear this complaint from other hair loss sufferers.
Every person dealing with hair loss should question whether their newly prescribed hair loss treatment could cause further hair loss, and what the likelihood is that it will happen. I have come to the conclusion that the chance of a hair loss medication causing initial increased hair shedding is extremely likely:( For me personally, almost every hair loss medication or treatment I’ve tried has caused me to lose even more hair at the beginning (and sometimes the increased shedding never stopped). Many doctors will tell you that it’s a good sign if you see increased shedding at first - they say it means the medication is working, and that you’ll probably have a good response. The theory is that the thin and weak hairs are being pushed out, and the follicles are getting ready to grow new, stronger hairs. This is a hopeful theory, and I do believe it’s true sometimes.
Unfortunately, sometimes a medication that is supposed to help your hair just ends up making it worse. As far as I know, the only way to gauge your response to a medication is to try it yourself. I have a theory that if someone is prone to hair loss (either genetic hair loss – Androgenetic Alopecia, or temporary hair loss – Telogen Effluvium), they are also more prone to increased shedding from hair loss medications. Their hair is simply more sensitive to treatments that affect hair. This is only my theory, and while it’s definitely true in my case, it’s not true for everyone.
The only “good” news is that while almost every hair loss medication I’ve tried has caused increased hair shedding, I do still have hair, so most of the lost hair did grow back in. My hair has gotten worse every year for the past ten years, so overall it’s hard to know if the treatments have helped my hair (despite the shedding), made it worse, or had no impact. The best way to test a medication is to only use one new thing at a time, and give it at least six months (but of course speak with your doctor if you have side effects, or if the increased hair shedding doesn’t stop within the time frame listed in the medication instructions).
Below is a list of common prescription and over-the-counter hair loss treatments that can cause increased hair shedding, at least initially. I’ve experienced excessive hair shedding while on every single one of these medications, as I’ve documented on hairlosshell.com! However, my hair often sheds a lot (100+ hairs a day, even though my hair is 70% thinner than it was 10 years ago), so I don’t know for sure if each of these medications was fully responsible for the shedding.
• Birth Control Pills
The Pill is often prescribed to women with hair loss to regulate hormones and decrease androgen levels. However, many doctors unknowingly prescribe the wrong pill, making hair loss worse. And even the best pill for hair issues can initially cause increased hair loss, or worsen hair loss in some cases. I write about birth control and hair loss here, and there’s a link there to hair-friendly pills. During the first three months of starting on the pill, or switching from one pill to another, increased hair shedding is a common side effect. After three months the shedding should subside, but if it doesn’t, a doctor will need to help you figure out your next step. Surprisingly, of all the hair loss medications I’ve ever tried, going on the pill has never caused me increased hair shedding!
Going off the pill, though, always causes me to shed excessively two months afterwards, but the shedding ends a month or two after that. Temporary increased shedding after stopping the pill is extremely common – even women without hair loss report this issue. As I’ve written in the article I linked to above, going on the pill for the first time is something you should not do until you extensively research the topic - many women report the pill caused their ongoing hair loss, along with other health issues.
• Rogaine (Minoxidil)
Just about every doctor suggests Rogaine as the go-to treatment for hair loss, even though few women report real satisfaction from this topical medication. I write about Rogaine side effects here. Rogaine’s packaging says increased shedding can happen the first two weeks of use, but many people report increased shedding the first three months (or during the entire use of the product). Yikes! The first time I used it, I didn’t notice an increase in shedding, but this time around I definitely did. My hair has been on a shedding spree the last few years, and it got worse with the Rogaine. My hair is a little worse a year after starting the Rogaine, but it probably would have been anyway. The crazy shedding has stopped, and Rogaine didn’t make me go bald, but it also didn’t bring on a miracle.
Rogaine is really tricky because the packaging says it’s a “good sign” if you see more shedding initially, but if you’re still shedding excessively three months into it, when do you give up? My hair shed a lot the first eight months of Rogaine use this time around, but it could be because I was under immense stress for half of that time, and I was also using more than one hair loss medication at the same time. Finally, if Rogaine actually does work for you, if you stop it, you can expect to lose any of the hair that it helped keep on your head:(
This is an anti-dandruff and anti-fungal shampoo that is commonly prescribed by doctors to treat hair loss. Doctors may prescribe the 2% prescription version, or instruct you to buy the over-the-counter 1% version. I’ve tried both versions and experienced increased shedding every time I shampooed with it. After a few weeks I gave up. Maybe if I waited it out I would have seen results, but I’ve also seen some before and after pictures of people that lost tons of hair after using Nizoral, and I got a little freaked out. And of course nothing is more horrifying than shampooing and seeing twice the normal amount of hair coming out of your head.
Many people claim absolute success with Nizoral because it has anti-inflammatory properties, and supposedly it has androgen blocking properties too. Studies have shown the product decreases hair shedding, increases the thickness of the hair shaft, and decreases scalp oil. I’m starting to think maybe I should give Nizoral one last shot. You’re supposed to use it 2-3 times a week, and leave it on your scalp a few minutes. Maybe my increased shedding was another “good” sign? If anyone else has tried Nizoral, what were your results?
• DermaSmoothe and Luxiq
Many women with genetic hair loss will be given prescriptions for topical corticosteroid creams, lotions, and foams like DermaSmoothe or Luxiq. Neither of these are indicated for treating hair loss, but Dermatologists prescribe them off-label. Both medications list hair loss as a possible side effect, and both products caused me to shed extra hairs each time I used them. I didn’t keep up with either one long enough to see results, but since the medications say to discontinue use if hair loss is a side effect, that’s what I did. Has anyone used DermaSmoothe, Luxiq, or something similar for hair loss, and actually had a positive result? After using Luxiq, my Dermatologist said my scalp looked better, but my hair shedding of course got worse, not better.
I once used Nioxin shampoo, conditioner, and scalp treatment for thinning hair, and I recall increased hair shedding after switching from cheapo regular shampoo to this salon hair line. What the heck? This was early in my hair loss adventure, but after the bottles were done I gave up because my hair didn’t get better and the shedding freaked me out. The products also didn’t make my hair appear thicker or healthier. Some women report success with Nioxin, and I wonder if it’s a placebo effect. But on the other hand, if it’s not doing anything, why did it increase my shedding? Have you tried Nioxin products?
• Spironolactone (Aldactone)
I’ve written a lot about my experiences with taking Spironolactone. During almost the entire time I was taking Spiro I experienced a lot of shedding, and except for a brief period, the shedding never let up. In my case it’s hard to say if the Spiro made the shedding worse or not because I was already experiencing heavy shedding prior to taking it. But it definitely didn’t decrease my hair fall the entire time I was on it (9 months). Many women say Spiro halts their excessive shedding within a few weeks, but it seems like just as many women report an increase in hair loss from the medication. It’s so frustrating, but like all the other hair loss treatments, you won’t know how you will react until you try it.
• Propecia (Finasteride/Proscar)
I’ve been on Propecia for 4 months now and my shedding was pretty bad until 2 1/2 months in. It got even worse two weeks after I started it until the 2 1/2 month mark. During this time I was getting over an extremely stressful period, and I had stopped taking Spiro, so I was sort of a mess. At 2 1/2 months, my shedding finally let up a bit to where I would call sort of normal – for the first time since I can’t remember. Initial shedding from Propecia is supposed to be less common than it is from Rogaine and Spiro, but it’s still a possibility. And once you go off Propecia, any hair that it helped keep on your head will vanish shortly thereafter.
• Hair Shedding Conclusion
The journey of the hair loss sufferer is especially cruel, and most hair loss medications have the propensity to cause increased hair shedding. The increased shedding is usually temporary, but there’s also no guarantee the hair you lose from a medication will grow back. In my case, everything I’ve tried has initially made things worse, and going off medications can also cause extra hair fall. Over the long term, I think the hair I’ve lost from hair loss medications has grown back in, yet my hair still continues to thin. Unfortunately, the only way to know how you will respond to a treatment is to try it yourself (with your doctor’s supervision). Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that none of the treatments I’ve listed above work well for many women (which is why you should research them before trying them). Yet they do work for some, which is why they all offer a sliver of hope. What I suggest (and should have done myself) is to get a hair piece ready to go so that you have a backup if things get really bad.
What hair loss medications have increased your hair shedding? Did the shedding ever stop? Did you see positive results?