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Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?

Published:
August 7, 2023
·
17 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 7, 2023
·
17 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 7, 2023
·
17 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 7, 2023
·
17 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
August 7, 2023
·
17 min read

Rob is a regular at his favorite local pub. He relishes the warmth of sharing laughter and stories over pints of cold beer. He loves these times, but recently, Rob has been noticing something unsettling. Every morning, he finds more and more strands of hair on his comb. His once-thick hair seems to be thinning at an alarming rate. This has him wondering: could his love for happy hour and his receding hairline be somehow linked? Is alcohol bad for your hair — and more specifically, can alcohol cause hair loss? And finally, is there a difference in hair before and after quitting alcohol?

The short answer to all of these questions is yes. However, to understand what’s really going on, we must unpack the science so that we can make lasting, effective changes. 

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Hair Loss

Man checking his hair in the mirror

While it might be easy to dismiss hair loss as a purely aesthetic concern, it often provides crucial insight into deeper health issues. Take Rob's case, for example. His sudden hair loss can be traced back to a rather insidious culprit — elevated alcohol consumption. Though the harmful effects of excessive alcohol are well-documented, how precisely does alcohol link to hair health? Alcohol can dehydrate us, deplete our bodies of vital nutrients, and disrupt hormone levels — all of which can lead to hair damage. Let's explore the particulars.

Dehydration

Overconsuming alcohol can result in dehydration, a state in which the body lacks the necessary fluids for optimal function. Alcohol is perceived as a toxin by our bodies. It triggers the kidneys to produce more urine, intensifying our loss of fluids. If this fluid loss is not counteracted with adequate water intake, the body becomes dehydrated. 

Inadequate hydration doesn't just affect internal organs; it manifests externally as well. One of the more visible consequences is its impact on hair health. Dehydrated hair becomes dry and lacks the elasticity it requires to resist external stresses. As a result, it becomes brittle and vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of breakage and thinning. 

Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol can significantly affect our body's ability to absorb nutrients. When consumed, it irritates our stomach lining, which can lead to a reduction in the stomach's ability to produce gastric acid. This acid plays a critical role in breaking down food, and without it, our absorption of essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals is impaired. These nutrients are crucial not just for overall health, but specifically for hair health.

For example, biotin (vitamin B7) is a vital component in the hair growth process. It aids in the production of keratin, a protein that forms the hair's structure. When the body's ability to absorb biotin is affected, it can lead to weakened hair and, consequently, hair loss.

Iron, another essential nutrient, also plays a significant role in hair growth. It aids in the production of DNA and RNA, which are needed for the growth of every cell in our body, including those in hair follicles. An iron deficiency can result in decreased cell growth and replication, leading to hair loss.

Hormonal Disruption

Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in hormonal imbalances. Alcohol interferes with the liver's functionality, including its ability to metabolize hormones like estrogen and testosterone. The imbalance of these hormones can affect the hair growth cycle, potentially leading to hair loss.

Furthermore, alcohol can heighten the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels have been associated with various health issues, including hair loss. The stress hormone may trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, causing hair follicles to shift prematurely into the resting state, leading to increased hair shedding.

Unveiling the Science Behind Hair Loss

Hair loss is often considered an age-related issue, but certain lifestyle choices, such as excessive alcohol consumption, can hasten the process. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Trichology revealed that alcohol consumption can restrict hair growth by inducing oxidative stress in hair follicles. Oxidative stress happens when there's an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This imbalance can damage the cells, proteins, and DNA, which affects the health of hair follicles and leads to hair loss.

Another study found a potent correlation between alcohol consumption and early-onset male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a common form of hair loss in which hair follicles shrink over time due to the effects of male hormones (androgens). The study suggested that alcohol might exacerbate this process, leading to earlier and more pronounced hair loss in men.

counteracting alcohol induced hair loss

Counteracting Alcohol-Induced Hair Loss

The relationship between alcohol and hair loss might initially seem disheartening, especially for those of us who enjoy an occasional drink. However, we can take steps to mitigate the impact:

Moderate Your Alcohol Consumption

The first step to consider when trying to mitigate the effects of alcohol on our hair (and on the rest of our body, too, for that matter): moderation. What do we mean by moderation? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer a clear definition: up to one drink daily for women and up to two drinks for men. By sticking to these guidelines, we can enjoy an occasional drink while minimizing the risks, including its impact on hair health.

Joining the Reframe app is an excellent way to learn more about moderation and access the tools and support you need to cut back or quit successfully. 

Supplement With Essential Nutrients

Since alcohol can deplete essential vitamins and minerals, it's crucial to consider supplementation to fill any potential gaps in nutrition. Biotin, often touted as a hair growth vitamin, supports the health and strength of hair, skin, and nails. Iron is another essential nutrient; its deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition known to cause hair loss. Taking these supplements, especially when our diet might be lacking, ensures the body has the necessary tools to maintain robust hair health.

When starting any new supplements, though, it’s important to consult with your doctor, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or take medications. They can look out for any potential interactions and help you determine whether supplementation is appropriate for you. 

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Beyond supplementation, it's essential to prioritize a balanced diet. Alcohol can sometimes suppress appetite or replace meals, leading to poor dietary choices. A diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals is the bedrock of hair health. Foods like salmon, spinach, eggs, berries, and nuts are loaded with nutrients that directly benefit hair growth and strength. A consistent intake of healthy foods not only counteracts the negative impacts of alcohol; it also promotes overall health and wellness.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise, though not directly related to alcohol consumption, plays a significant role in hair health. Regular physical activity boosts circulation throughout the body. Enhanced blood flow to the scalp ensures that hair follicles receive the necessary nutrients for growth. Additionally, exercise aids in balancing hormone levels. Hormonal imbalances, especially in hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT), are known to be linked with hair loss. Thus, staying active can be a proactive measure against potential hair thinning or loss.

If you’re new to exercise, adopt a routine gradually. Start with a 10-minute walk, and slowly build up from there. Experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 

Prioritize Hydration

Alcohol's diuretic effect on the body leads to an increased loss of fluids, often culminating in dehydration. This dehydration affects internal organs and bodily functions, and it also has a pronounced impact on hair health. When the body is dehydrated, hair can lose its natural moisture, becoming dry, brittle, and susceptible to breakage.

To combat this, it's crucial to prioritize hydration when consuming alcohol. Start by drinking water before your first alcoholic beverage. This initial hydration can set a solid foundation for the body. While consuming alcohol, aim to follow each alcoholic drink with a glass of water. This alternating pattern can substantially reduce alcohol’s dehydrating effects. Afterward, before hitting the bed or the next morning, consume more water to help your body flush out toxins and restore hydration levels. Proper hydration not only prevents hair damage, but also helps in reducing hangovers and the overall negative aftereffects of drinking.

Opt for Low-Sugar Alcoholic Beverages

While the alcohol itself can be detrimental to hair health, the sugar content in many drinks can amplify these effects. Sugary cocktails, mixers, and certain alcohols can spike blood sugar levels, leading to an inflammatory response in the body. Chronic inflammation is not just harmful to overall health, but it can also interfere with the natural hair growth cycle.

Inflammation can cause the hair follicles to become miniaturized, which results in thinner, weaker strands. Over time, this can lead to hair thinning and even hair loss. To avoid this, consider drinking beverages with lower sugar content. Spirits with plain soda or tonic, wines without added sugars, and light beers can be better choices. Moreover, being mindful of the frequency of consuming sugary alcoholic beverages can reduce potential hair damage.

Embrace Scalp Care and Massage

The scalp is the foundation of hair health. Boosting circulation to the scalp can encourage hair growth and counteract any potential damage from external factors, including alcohol. A regular scalp massage, perhaps using essential oils like rosemary or peppermint, can invigorate the scalp, promoting blood flow to the hair follicles. This enhanced circulation helps hair roots receive adequate nutrients, fostering growth and strength.

Additionally, external care, like hydrating hair masks or deep conditioning treatments, can provide a protective barrier against dehydration. These treatments restore moisture, combat dryness, and replenish the hair's natural oils, negating the drying effects of alcohol. Establishing a consistent hair care routine, especially after drinking sessions, combats potential damage.

Balancing Enjoyment and Health

Enjoying a drink shouldn't come with the fear of losing our hair. Understanding alcohol’s potential effects on our hair health lets us make informed decisions about our drinking habits. With this knowledge, we can better balance our social lives and our health, so we can continue to enjoy ourselves while taking steps towards maintaining our overall well-being. By maintaining a moderate alcohol intake, prioritizing essential nutrients, consuming a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise, we can ensure that we’re doing the best for our hair health — and for the rest of our body! 

Rob is a regular at his favorite local pub. He relishes the warmth of sharing laughter and stories over pints of cold beer. He loves these times, but recently, Rob has been noticing something unsettling. Every morning, he finds more and more strands of hair on his comb. His once-thick hair seems to be thinning at an alarming rate. This has him wondering: could his love for happy hour and his receding hairline be somehow linked? Is alcohol bad for your hair — and more specifically, can alcohol cause hair loss? And finally, is there a difference in hair before and after quitting alcohol?

The short answer to all of these questions is yes. However, to understand what’s really going on, we must unpack the science so that we can make lasting, effective changes. 

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Hair Loss

Man checking his hair in the mirror

While it might be easy to dismiss hair loss as a purely aesthetic concern, it often provides crucial insight into deeper health issues. Take Rob's case, for example. His sudden hair loss can be traced back to a rather insidious culprit — elevated alcohol consumption. Though the harmful effects of excessive alcohol are well-documented, how precisely does alcohol link to hair health? Alcohol can dehydrate us, deplete our bodies of vital nutrients, and disrupt hormone levels — all of which can lead to hair damage. Let's explore the particulars.

Dehydration

Overconsuming alcohol can result in dehydration, a state in which the body lacks the necessary fluids for optimal function. Alcohol is perceived as a toxin by our bodies. It triggers the kidneys to produce more urine, intensifying our loss of fluids. If this fluid loss is not counteracted with adequate water intake, the body becomes dehydrated. 

Inadequate hydration doesn't just affect internal organs; it manifests externally as well. One of the more visible consequences is its impact on hair health. Dehydrated hair becomes dry and lacks the elasticity it requires to resist external stresses. As a result, it becomes brittle and vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of breakage and thinning. 

Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol can significantly affect our body's ability to absorb nutrients. When consumed, it irritates our stomach lining, which can lead to a reduction in the stomach's ability to produce gastric acid. This acid plays a critical role in breaking down food, and without it, our absorption of essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals is impaired. These nutrients are crucial not just for overall health, but specifically for hair health.

For example, biotin (vitamin B7) is a vital component in the hair growth process. It aids in the production of keratin, a protein that forms the hair's structure. When the body's ability to absorb biotin is affected, it can lead to weakened hair and, consequently, hair loss.

Iron, another essential nutrient, also plays a significant role in hair growth. It aids in the production of DNA and RNA, which are needed for the growth of every cell in our body, including those in hair follicles. An iron deficiency can result in decreased cell growth and replication, leading to hair loss.

Hormonal Disruption

Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in hormonal imbalances. Alcohol interferes with the liver's functionality, including its ability to metabolize hormones like estrogen and testosterone. The imbalance of these hormones can affect the hair growth cycle, potentially leading to hair loss.

Furthermore, alcohol can heighten the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels have been associated with various health issues, including hair loss. The stress hormone may trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, causing hair follicles to shift prematurely into the resting state, leading to increased hair shedding.

Unveiling the Science Behind Hair Loss

Hair loss is often considered an age-related issue, but certain lifestyle choices, such as excessive alcohol consumption, can hasten the process. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Trichology revealed that alcohol consumption can restrict hair growth by inducing oxidative stress in hair follicles. Oxidative stress happens when there's an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This imbalance can damage the cells, proteins, and DNA, which affects the health of hair follicles and leads to hair loss.

Another study found a potent correlation between alcohol consumption and early-onset male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a common form of hair loss in which hair follicles shrink over time due to the effects of male hormones (androgens). The study suggested that alcohol might exacerbate this process, leading to earlier and more pronounced hair loss in men.

counteracting alcohol induced hair loss

Counteracting Alcohol-Induced Hair Loss

The relationship between alcohol and hair loss might initially seem disheartening, especially for those of us who enjoy an occasional drink. However, we can take steps to mitigate the impact:

Moderate Your Alcohol Consumption

The first step to consider when trying to mitigate the effects of alcohol on our hair (and on the rest of our body, too, for that matter): moderation. What do we mean by moderation? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer a clear definition: up to one drink daily for women and up to two drinks for men. By sticking to these guidelines, we can enjoy an occasional drink while minimizing the risks, including its impact on hair health.

Joining the Reframe app is an excellent way to learn more about moderation and access the tools and support you need to cut back or quit successfully. 

Supplement With Essential Nutrients

Since alcohol can deplete essential vitamins and minerals, it's crucial to consider supplementation to fill any potential gaps in nutrition. Biotin, often touted as a hair growth vitamin, supports the health and strength of hair, skin, and nails. Iron is another essential nutrient; its deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition known to cause hair loss. Taking these supplements, especially when our diet might be lacking, ensures the body has the necessary tools to maintain robust hair health.

When starting any new supplements, though, it’s important to consult with your doctor, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or take medications. They can look out for any potential interactions and help you determine whether supplementation is appropriate for you. 

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Beyond supplementation, it's essential to prioritize a balanced diet. Alcohol can sometimes suppress appetite or replace meals, leading to poor dietary choices. A diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals is the bedrock of hair health. Foods like salmon, spinach, eggs, berries, and nuts are loaded with nutrients that directly benefit hair growth and strength. A consistent intake of healthy foods not only counteracts the negative impacts of alcohol; it also promotes overall health and wellness.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise, though not directly related to alcohol consumption, plays a significant role in hair health. Regular physical activity boosts circulation throughout the body. Enhanced blood flow to the scalp ensures that hair follicles receive the necessary nutrients for growth. Additionally, exercise aids in balancing hormone levels. Hormonal imbalances, especially in hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT), are known to be linked with hair loss. Thus, staying active can be a proactive measure against potential hair thinning or loss.

If you’re new to exercise, adopt a routine gradually. Start with a 10-minute walk, and slowly build up from there. Experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 

Prioritize Hydration

Alcohol's diuretic effect on the body leads to an increased loss of fluids, often culminating in dehydration. This dehydration affects internal organs and bodily functions, and it also has a pronounced impact on hair health. When the body is dehydrated, hair can lose its natural moisture, becoming dry, brittle, and susceptible to breakage.

To combat this, it's crucial to prioritize hydration when consuming alcohol. Start by drinking water before your first alcoholic beverage. This initial hydration can set a solid foundation for the body. While consuming alcohol, aim to follow each alcoholic drink with a glass of water. This alternating pattern can substantially reduce alcohol’s dehydrating effects. Afterward, before hitting the bed or the next morning, consume more water to help your body flush out toxins and restore hydration levels. Proper hydration not only prevents hair damage, but also helps in reducing hangovers and the overall negative aftereffects of drinking.

Opt for Low-Sugar Alcoholic Beverages

While the alcohol itself can be detrimental to hair health, the sugar content in many drinks can amplify these effects. Sugary cocktails, mixers, and certain alcohols can spike blood sugar levels, leading to an inflammatory response in the body. Chronic inflammation is not just harmful to overall health, but it can also interfere with the natural hair growth cycle.

Inflammation can cause the hair follicles to become miniaturized, which results in thinner, weaker strands. Over time, this can lead to hair thinning and even hair loss. To avoid this, consider drinking beverages with lower sugar content. Spirits with plain soda or tonic, wines without added sugars, and light beers can be better choices. Moreover, being mindful of the frequency of consuming sugary alcoholic beverages can reduce potential hair damage.

Embrace Scalp Care and Massage

The scalp is the foundation of hair health. Boosting circulation to the scalp can encourage hair growth and counteract any potential damage from external factors, including alcohol. A regular scalp massage, perhaps using essential oils like rosemary or peppermint, can invigorate the scalp, promoting blood flow to the hair follicles. This enhanced circulation helps hair roots receive adequate nutrients, fostering growth and strength.

Additionally, external care, like hydrating hair masks or deep conditioning treatments, can provide a protective barrier against dehydration. These treatments restore moisture, combat dryness, and replenish the hair's natural oils, negating the drying effects of alcohol. Establishing a consistent hair care routine, especially after drinking sessions, combats potential damage.

Balancing Enjoyment and Health

Enjoying a drink shouldn't come with the fear of losing our hair. Understanding alcohol’s potential effects on our hair health lets us make informed decisions about our drinking habits. With this knowledge, we can better balance our social lives and our health, so we can continue to enjoy ourselves while taking steps towards maintaining our overall well-being. By maintaining a moderate alcohol intake, prioritizing essential nutrients, consuming a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise, we can ensure that we’re doing the best for our hair health — and for the rest of our body! 

Summary FAQs

1. How does alcohol consumption relate to hair loss?

Excessive alcohol can lead to dehydration, making the hair dry, brittle, and more prone to breaking. Moreover, it can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals, disrupting hair growth.

2. What does moderate drinking mean?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

3. How can dehydration from alcohol affect hair health?

Dehydration can cause hair to lose its natural moisture, leading to dryness, brittleness, and an increased likelihood of breakage.

4. Why should one be cautious about sugary alcoholic beverages?

High sugar content in drinks can lead to inflammation in the body, which can disrupt the natural hair growth cycle and potentially lead to hair thinning or loss.

5. How can one counteract the dehydration caused by alcohol?

Prioritizing hydration by drinking water before, during, and after consuming alcohol can help restore hydration levels and mitigate the adverse effects on hair health.

6. How does scalp massage promote hair health?

Scalp massages stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles, ensuring they receive adequate nutrients. This can foster hair growth and counteract potential damage from factors like alcohol.

7. What role does a balanced diet play in hair health amid alcohol consumption?

A diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals provides essential nutrients to hair, counteracting the negative impacts of alcohol and promoting overall hair wellness.

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