If you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in Google trying to determine the most likely cause. While some may say it’s genetics, and others may blame your hormones, you’re also likely to find an article linking alcohol and hair loss, as well. However, while the occasional margarita won’t immediately strip you of your luscious locks, chronic and heavy drinking may affect your hair. Keep reading to learn what our Massachusetts treatment center found on drinking alcohol and hair loss.
Does Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?
Technically, yes, alcohol can cause hair loss, but not directly. Instead, alcohol can cause or exacerbate other health issues that may result in hair loss. Alcohol can cause hair loss for several reasons, including malnutrition, changes in blood sugar, lack of sleep, and changes in hormones like estrogen.
Why Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?
Alcohol can affect the body in various ways. While the occasional glass of wine may not be the cause of your increased loss of hair, it can lead to other issues that may affect the growth and strength of your hair.
Keep in mind that hair loss due to alcohol consumption is most common among people with alcoholism or people who can’t control their drinking. While one beer or glass of wine every once in a while won’t threaten the health of your hair, binge or chronic drinking can.
While the relationship between alcohol and hair loss is complex, two potential reasons for hair loss due to alcohol consumption are malnutrition and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. When you drink heavily, you consume empty calories that don’t offer you any of the necessary nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, especially if you’re a heavy liquor or beer drinker. Because you consume so many of your calories in the form of alcohol, you’re consuming less food that has actual nutritional value. This is especially true of heavy or chronic drinkers or people with alcoholism.
Alcohol also contains a lot of carbs, so you may feel full after drinking, even though you haven’t actually eaten anything. After a while of repeating this pattern, you’ll eventually become malnourished, which can lead to anything from brain damage due to a lack of thiamine to even hair loss.
Certain vitamins, such as biotin or vitamin B, are needed when it comes to maintaining healthy hair and avoiding hair loss. When you lack biotin, or your body is unable to produce enough of it, your body can’t create enough red blood cells needed to pass oxygen through your scalp, leaving it malnourished and affecting your hair’s health and growth.
Alcohol can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb any nutrients or vitamins. This means that you can take all of the biotin you want, but if you’re drinking heavily, it may not have much of an effect. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it can lower potassium and magnesium levels in the body, making healthy functions, such as hair growth, more difficult to manage.
As a diuretic, alcohol also dehydrates you, which can lead to a dry scalp and brittle hair, increasing your chances of experiencing hair loss. Dehydration can also lead to dandruff, which is when the skin on the scalp flakes. This is why drinking plenty of water is one of the most common tips for maintaining healthy hair and growth.
Elevated Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in your body. It usually comes from the food we eat and is used as your body’s main source. Diabetes is an umbrella term for a group of conditions related to having too much sugar in the blood or high blood sugar levels.
Alcohol abuse can cause hair loss by spiking your blood sugar levels, even causing diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the body, restricting blood flow and preventing certain cells from receiving enough oxygen. The same goes for the blood vessels and cells in the scalp or head, inhibiting the normal growth cycle for hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
In addition to fluctuations in hormones, like estrogen, high glucose levels can also cause alopecia areata, a condition in which the immune system begins to accidentally attack healthy hair follicles, causing patchy hair loss on the head, arms, and other areas of the body where hair usually grows. People with type 1 diabetes are most likely to develop this condition.
Lack of Sleep
While you may knock out after drinking a lot of alcohol, this doesn’t count as restful sleep. In fact, many times when people fall asleep after a period of heavy drinking, they may wake up feeling tired and irritable. If the person has a drinking problem or alcohol use disorder, this may be a frequent series of events for them, which can cause stress.
Frequent stress can disrupt your hormones and cause hair loss due to telogen effluvium, which is when stress causes hair roots to be pushed prematurely into the resting state of the hair growth cycle. As a result, the hair follicles are “shocked”, causing hair loss.
Sleep also has a direct impact on hair loss due to our hormones, especially melatonin. Poor sleep reduces the amount of melatonin our body produces, which can contribute to hair loss, as well.
Changes in Estrogen Levels
This applies mostly to men, as increased estrogen levels usually contribute to hair growth and health. Alcohol can increase estrogen levels in both men and women. However, when it comes to hair loss, the effect is most common in men who are heavy drinkers.
Alcohol promotes the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, and higher than normal levels of estrogen in men can result in hair loss, thinning, and even balding patches. While women are known to lose hair during periods of low estrogen levels, such as after giving birth, in men, high estrogen levels are associated with hair loss. Side note, fluctuations in hormones are always why you may experience mood swings while drinking alcohol.
Alcohol and Hair Loss: Reversible or Not?
Is alcohol hair loss reversible? In many cases, hair loss due to alcoholism is reversible if alcohol consumption is greatly reduced or stopped entirely and if certain healthy habits are set in place. For instance, some simple ways to reduce hair loss caused by alcohol include:
- Taking biotin (consult your doctor before doing so to make sure it’s safe for you)
- Eating a balanced diet
- Drinking plenty of water
- Scalp massages (these can be as simple as gently rubbing your scalp with the tips of your fingers)
- Seeing your doctor for any other solutions they may have
Finding Alcohol Treatment Can Help
Reducing or quitting alcohol consumption may be simple for someone who doesn’t have a drinking problem, but it can pose a bigger challenge for someone with alcohol addiction.
While the reasons for hair loss caused by alcohol listed above can occur as a result of occasional and moderate drinking, chronic alcohol users are at a higher risk of developing these conditions and more. With that being said, if you are addicted to alcohol and want to reverse your hair loss and other side effects, then a medically monitored detox and treatment program can help.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not only can alcohol cause hair loss, but it can also lead to other issues like cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and more. Finding alcohol treatment is crucial for long-term recovery in people with alcoholism.