Since the “pill” was approved by the FDA in 1960, oral contraceptives have become one of the most popular forms of birth control used today.
Millions of women are prescribed the pill each year in this country, but very few are aware that oral contraceptives are a common trigger of hair loss for many who use them.
The “pill” suppresses ovulation by the combined actions of the hormones estrogen and progestin or in some cases progestin alone. Women who are predisposed to hormonal related hair loss or who are hypersensitive to the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies can experience hair loss to varying degrees while on the pill or more commonly, several weeks or months after stopping the pill.
The American Hair Loss Association recognizes that for the most part oral contraceptives are a safe and effective form of birth control. The AHLA also recognizes that the “pill” has been clinically proven to have other health benefits for some women who use them. However, with that said, the AHLA believes that it is imperative for all women especially for those who have a history of hair loss in their family to be made aware of the potentially devastating effects of birth control pills on normal hair growth.
The American Hair Loss Association recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives for the prevention of conception should only use low-androgen index birth control pills, and if there is a strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family we recommend the use of another non-hormonal form of birth control.
Below is a list of birth control pills ranging from lowest androgen index to highest:
Desogen, Ortho-Cept, Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Micronor, Nor-Q D, Ovcon-35, Brevicon/Modicon, Ortho Norvum 7/7/7, Ortho Novum 10-11, Tri-Norinyl, Norinyl and Ortho 1/35, Demulen 1/35, Triphasil/Tri-Levien, Nordette, Lo/Ovral, Ovrette, Ovral, Loestrin1/20, Loestrin 1.5/30.
The following hormonal contraceptives have a significant potential of causing or exacerbating hair loss.
It is important to note that any medication or therapy that alters a woman’s hormones, including but not limited to, contraceptives, can trigger hair loss in anyone who takes them.
Implants, such as Norplant, are small rods implanted surgically beneath the skin, usually on the upper arm. The rods release a continuous dose of progestin to prevent ovulation.
Progestin injections, such as Depo-Provera, are given into the muscles of the upper arm or buttocks. This injection prevents ovulation.
The skin patch (Ortho Evra) is placed on your shoulder, buttocks, or other location. It continually releases progestin and estrogen.
The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a flexible ring about 2 inches in diameter that is inserted into the vagina. It releases progestin and estrogen.
By Paul J. McAndrews, MD, American Hair Loss Association