Alcohol in and of itself is not known to cause hair loss, and no credible research has suggested otherwise. However, the effects that prolonged and heavy drinking have on the body can cause hair loss, and exacerbate existing hair loss conditions.
While those who drink in moderation are unlikely to experience hair loss as a result of drinking, those who regularly drink large amounts – especially women – may experience hairloss, as well as a range of other problems.
The negative effects that over-consumption of alcohol has on the body are well documented. The guidelines for safe levels of drinking provided by the Department of Health state that men should not exceed a maximum of four units of alcohol per day and 21 units a week, while women should limit themselves to 2-3 units per day / 14 units a week.
Alcohol-related nutritional deficiencies and hair loss
It is when consumption regularly and constantly exceeds these healthy levels that alcohol use presents problems for the body. Alcohol affects virtually every part of the body, overworks internal organs and negatively affects overall nutrition levels.
Alcohol-related hair loss can be attributed to the depletion of the body’s supplies of iron and zinc. Zinc is known to play a major role in hair health, and is also used by the body in the absorption of a host of other nutrients needed for normal hair production. Zinc isn’t stored within the body and needs to be consumed on a daily basis. Alcohol can prevent zinc from being absorbed properly, so leading to a deficiency and potential hair loss.
Iron deficiency meanwhile, in women particularly, has been shown in numerous studies to be a contributing factor in hair loss conditions such as Telogen Effluvium. A 1998 study by researchers at Oregon University found that out of 153 women with Telogen Effluvium taking part, iron deficiency was the primary cause of female hair loss in 72 percent of cases.
As well as these two key minerals, alcohol abuse depletes many other nutrients associated with cell production, growth and hormone regulation, including vitamin A, vitamin B12 and calcium. The net effect is that overall health of hair will suffer, and new hair production may slow down and even cease, as with Telogen Effluvium.
Dehydration and hair loss
Another major effect of heavy drinking is chronic dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes the individual to urinate more frequently, as the body tries to rid itself of what is essentially a poison. This leads to dehydration, which also affects the body’s ability to absorb and process essential nutrients needed for growing hair. Dehydration causes the hair to become dry and brittle, leading to breakage of the hair shaft and hair loss through shedding. Hair is roughly one quarter water, so an adequate supply of it is vital for hair health.
Excessive alcohol consumption also puts stress on the internal organs. As they are so busy processing the alcohol and struggling to counteract its effects they become overworked, and lack the resources to properly handle everyday tasks such as hair production. They also become unable to process the nutrients from food properly. These nutrients are vital for hair health and every other major process in the body.
Is alcohol related hair loss permanent?
Hair loss caused by alcohol abuse is usually only temporary, provided that the cause of it –excessive consumption of alcohol – is stopped and steps are taken to improve the health of hair follicles and the systems that support them.
What can I do?
Reducing your alcohol consumption is a positive step not just for your hair, but for your entire body. If you have an alcohol addiction and need help to stop, there are many resources and support groups available, such as www.talktofrank.com and www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
Stopping hair loss is about stopping the causes of the problem, and if you can tackle your alcohol problem then you’re already half way there. When it comes to nurturing your hair back to health, The Belgravia Centre can help. Our highly trained hair loss experts treat a wide range of hair loss conditions on a daily basis, and can tailor a hair loss treatment programme to your specific circumstances. Tools at our disposal include specially formulated nutritional hair supplements and the scientifically-proven, clinical treatments, Minoxidil and Propecia.