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alcohol and hair loss

Alcohol and Hair Loss: Everything You Need To Know

Afterdrink Author Kathy Caldwell
Kathy Caldwell

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AfterDrink Content Standards

  1. This article is based on currently available scientific evidence at the time of writing and fact checked.
  2. All referenced studies and research papers are from reputable and relevant peer-reviewed journals or academic associations.
  3. Some peer-reviewed papers have stronger study designs and are more robust in terms of quality and reliability. We will make every effort to highlight weak evidence.
  4. This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.
  5. The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

Ever wondered if alcohol causes hair loss?

If you’re losing your hair, you may be looking for lifestyle factors that may be making things worse.

Hair loss has many different causes and its effects can be quite devastating on one’s self-esteem and confidence.

In this article, we’re going to focus specifically on whether alcohol is a cause of hair loss by looking at the latest research.

We aim to uncover the science behind alcohol and hair loss to see whether there is a real link.

Hair loss should be diagnosed by a medical professional and shouldnt be linked to alcohol consumption in the first instance without a doctors review.

Table of contents

Alcohol and types of hair loss

You have around 80-120,000 hairs on your head if you’re lucky enough to have carried all the hair from your teenage years to adulthood.

In normal circumstances, you lose around 100-200 hairs a day. This is because all your hairs are in different stages of the hair cycle.

Some are in a growing phase and others are in the shedding phase. This is totally normal and this constant shedding and regrowth keeps your hair healthy.

There are several different types of hair loss with each having its own specific cause.

The most common types include:
-Telogen effluvium related to causes of physical or emotional stress
-Pattern hair loss related to testosterone
-Alopecia areata and related conditions
-Inflammatory causes related to other autoimmune conditions

When it comes to alcohol’s relation to hair loss, it’s mostly related to general hair health and doesn’t specifically cause any type of hair loss.

Types of hair loss such as alopecia areata and autoimmune inflammatory conditions have underlying disease processes and pattern hair loss is related to genetics and sensitivity to testosterone.

That being said, drinking could still contribute to all types of hair loss which we will cover next.

What does alcohol do to your hair?

Hair health is strongly linked to your overall health in terms of nutritional status, levels of inflammation and psychological stress.

Drinking alcohol has a significant impact on all these aspects in unique ways which we will explore next.

Alcohol and nutrition

Regular alcohol use often substitutes a healthy balanced diet and most of the negative impact on your hair can be attributed to poor nutritional status.

In addition, alcohol greatly increases the amount of certain vitamins used by your liver, such as the B complex vitamins, which are essential for alcohol metabolism.

Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Vitamin B3 deficiency is well-linked with overconsumption of alcohol and is called pellagra which often results in hair loss.

You should easily be able to get your daily requirement of vitamin B3 from a healthy balanced diet.

However, excessive alcohol intake can severely deplete levels of this essential vitamin and cause hair loss among other serious health problems.

Zinc
Zinc plays an important role in hair growth cycles and low levels are linked to cases of hair loss. However, the exact way that low zinc levels are associated with hair loss is still unclear.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870206/

B12 and Folic acid
Another common deficiency in alcohol excess if vitamin B12 and folate deficiency. There are a handful of studies that have suggested that deficiencies in these vitamins can negatively impact hair growth.

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Alcohol and inflammation

When alcohol is metabolized by your liver, it produces toxic by-products in the form of acetaldehyde. Antioxidants will neutralize these by-products before they cause too much damage.

In periods of over-indulgence this system is overrun causing inflammation that is unchecked.

Furthermore, congeners in darker colored alcoholic beverages are well known to increase levels of inflammation.

Alcohol and dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you produce more urine. As a result, drinking can lead to dehydration if not topped up with adequate amounts of water.

Water is a key component of hair follicles as well as maintaining healthy skin. Seeing as hair follicles reside in the skin, hydration status can be an important factor in keeping your hair healthy.

Alcohol and stress

Emotional stress is well linked to telogen effluvium which is a reversible form of hair loss. Alcohol is often used to remedy stressful life events which can further exacerbate problems.

During the alcohol hangover, there is a rebound effect where negative emotions of anxiety and low mood can become heightened.

These symptoms of a hangover can last well into your week and add to your stress levels.

Could alcohol be the cause of your hair loss? Read on to find out what the research has to say.

Does alcohol cause hair loss?

Now that we’ve got some of the basics out the way, we can see that alcohol could have an indirect effect on hair loss.

By this, we mean that alcohol is not directly linked as a cause of hair loss. However, the nutritional deficit that occurs from regular alcohol use and the added inflammation could contribute.

It’s important to mention that these deficiencies are highly unlikely to occur from drinking within recommended limits.

The problem only arises from frequent drinking with added amounts over the recommended weekly limits and in cases of binge drinking.

That means that drinking alcohol within these limits shouldn’t cause hair loss.

Drinking within recommended limits shouldn’t cause hair loss.

Is alcohol hair loss reversible?

As with most health-related topics, it depends entirely on your personal case. As mentioned above, alcohol on its own is very unlikely to be the cause of your hair loss.

It’s best advised to seek advice from your physician to get a diagnosis for the cause of your hair loss first before attributing it to alcohol straight away.

The type of hair loss caused by stressful medical or emotional events called telogen effluvium is known to be a reversible cause of hair loss.

If I stop drinking will my hair grow back?

All cases of hair loss need a formal diagnosis from your dermatologist in the first instance.

With that said, alcohol on its own is very unlikely to be the sole cause of your hair loss and stopping won’t make your hair grow back.

However, leading a healthy lifestyle by consuming alcohol levels within your limits is always advisable to keep your hair health at optimum levels.

Does it make a difference which type of alcohol I drink?

The damaging effects of alcohol on your hair will be present regardless of which type of alcohol you chose to consume.

At the end of the day, the total amount of alcohol you drink will be the most important factor and not the type.

There could be an argument that darker coloured drinks that contain more congeners are probably worse for you as they are known to contain pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers). But there are no studies to confirm this at present.

Conclusion

That brings us to the end of our look into whether alcohol causes hair loss.

At the time of writing, there are no studies that suggest that alcohol is directly a cause for hair loss.

If you’re someone who is noticed hair loss and are unsure why it’s happening, it’s very important you get a correct diagnosis of the cause first.

This is because there is a long list of different causes of hair loss and some types can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs further assessment.

Limiting your alcohol is always a good thing and can benefit your hair health.

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