Dealing with hair loss or thinning?

Chat with our Care Team

Start now

Accutane Hair Loss: Why It Happens & Treatment Options

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 11/27/2022

Updated 04/04/2024

Isotretinoin (formerly Accutane) helps control sebum production to reduce breakouts. Some people who take it may notice signs of hair thinning, a lack of new hair growth or more hair fallout than usual. Can Accutane cause hair loss? And if so, why does Accutane cause hair loss?

Unfortunately, the hair loss accutane connection isn’t a fluke. Hair loss is a potential side effect of Accutane. But do you really have to choose between clear skin and good hair?

Thankfully, the answer’s no. There are treatment options for those dealing with isotretinoin-related hair loss — and understanding how to treat it just takes a little knowledge.

Here’s what to know about oral isotretinoin’s possible effects on hair, including why it might happen, who’s most likely to experience it, how long it may last and what you can do about it.

Isotretinoin (often referred to as brand-name Accutane, which is now discontinued) is a prescription medication used to treat severe nodular acne — the inflammatory type with deep, painful pimples. It comes in a capsule and is often taken twice a day.

As a retinoid treatment, the oral medication is a derivative of vitamin A. It works by lowering sebum (an oily substance your body naturally produces) and preventing dead skin cells from building up and blocking pores.

Accutane Side Effects

Potential side effects of isotretinoin treatment can be aggravating, to say the least.

According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), they include:

  • Peeling skin on the hands

  • Nosebleeds

  • Cracked, sore lips

  • Sweating

  • Dry skin near the eyes, mouth or nose

  • Tiredness

  • Sweating

  • Flushing

More serious side effects include blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these, contact a healthcare provider right away.

Isotretinoin Therapy Drug Warnings

Isotretinoin can’t be taken by women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, as it can cause birth defects. As such, various forms of birth control may be prescribed during acne treatment.

It’s also suggested that men be careful when taking isotretinoin because it’s not known whether it can pass through semen.

So there are definitely some dermatology and health risks to taking this medication — but what about when it comes to your hair?

Buy finasteride

more hair... there's a pill for that

Yes, there is such a thing as isotretinoin-induced hair loss (sometimes called Accutane-related hair loss). Unfortunately, it’s one of the potential adverse side effects of this prescription drug. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology estimates that about 10 percent of people who take oral isotretinoin experience temporary hair thinning.

What the Research Says About Accutane Hair Loss

A 2013 study found that the acne-fighting drug is connected to temporary hair loss. The researchers also concluded that hair thinning may continue after people stop taking the medication – but that doesn’t mean it’ll last forever.

Another study from 2018 suggests that only people who take high doses of an isotretinoin treatment notice a negative impact on hair growth.

Hair loss experienced while taking Accutane is thought to be connected to telogen effluvium, a form of temporary hair loss often caused by stress or hormonal factors.

With telogen effluvium, you’ll likely notice hair loss all over rather than concentrated in one area of your scalp.

Telogen effluvium occurs when a large number of hairs in the growth phase (also called the anagen phase) of the hair cycle suddenly go into the resting phase (aka the telogen phase).

New growth can stop for up to six months. Then, when hair reenters the growth phase, the hairs that were in the resting phase are pushed out from the hair follicles, and hair shedding occurs.

According to the above-mentioned studies, hair loss associated with taking isotretinoin is temporary. And there’s currently no research showing it may be permanent.

For participants in the studies, post-accutane hair loss eventually resolved itself. So if you experience hair loss after accutane, it most likely won’t be a forever problem.

What could cause permanent hair loss are factors that damage your hair follicles, ultimately preventing strands from growing back.

One common condition that leads to permanent hair loss is traction alopecia. This happens when hair is continuously pulled on (like from too-tight hairstyles).

Scarring alopecia (when scar tissue builds up and prevents new growth) and alopecia areata (an auto-immune disease that causes thinning) are other forms of permanent hair loss.

Thankfully, taking isotretinoin doesn’t cause these conditions.

Talk to Your Provider About a Lower Accutane Dose

As noted, research shows that higher doses tend to result in hair loss, while acne patients on lower Accutane doses may not experience this side effect.

You might consider talking to your dermatologist about potentially lowering your isotretinoin to help prevent hair loss.

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

4.5 average rating

Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Experiencing temporary hair loss while taking isotretinoin is undoubtedly frustrating, but you have options. Reversing hair loss from this medication is totally possible.

Here are some potential remedies for temporary hair loss caused by Accutane.

Hair Loss Medication

Hair loss medications can be effective. For temporary hair loss, a healthcare provider may suggest topical minoxidil, which comes as minoxidil foam or minoxidil liquid solution.

There’s also finasteride, which can be taken in tablet form or as a topical solution.

Many find that combining these two medications yields the best results, as with our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. This product sends a signal to your blood vessels to open, allowing more nutrients and oxygen to reach the hair, which makes it healthier and stronger.

This topical medication also prolongs the growth period, meaning more follicles will form to replace strands that have fallen out.

Supplements for Hair Loss

Supplements can also help with hair fallout.

Biotin

Biotin has a reputation for supporting healthy hair growth. But does it deserve this reputation? Actually, it does.

A study found that taking biotin produces quicker hair growth in those with thinning hair. That said, the study used a marine protein containing biotin with other vitamins and minerals — so it’s hard to pinpoint this B vitamin as a singular driving factor.

Biotin is found naturally in some foods (like eggs, milk and bananas). If you don’t have a vitamin B deficiency, you don’t need a supplement. But if you don’t get enough biotin from food, vitamin B supplements could help.

Hims has a biotin gummy that also has vitamin D in it. Why? Low levels of vitamin D are thought to increase hair shedding.

Collagen

Another popular supplement thought to help with hair health is collagen, which you can get as gummies, capsules and powders. However, research is limited when it comes to the connection between collagen and hair health.

So, why do people think collagen can help? Hair is mostly made up of a protein called keratin. Amino acids in your body help build keratin. One of these amino acids is proline.

Proline contributes to collagen. Because of this, some people think consuming collagen could help boost the keratin in your hair, making it stronger and healthier.

Iron and Zinc

Studies show that having a deficiency in iron and zinc could negatively impact hair health. When people increased their intake of these minerals, they saw an improvement in hair growth.

Crab, cashews and oatmeal are all solid sources of zinc. Leafy greens, meat and seafood can help boost your iron levels.

Lifestyle Changes for Hair Loss

There are also some lifestyle habits you can change or incorporate to help with thinning hair caused by isotretinoin.

One thing you might want to give up? Smoking. This habit affects hair loss, and hair regrowth can benefit from quitting.

Not only is the actual smoke a pollutant that damages hair, but cigarettes can also wreak havoc on the DNA of your hair follicles. These things can increase hair loss — something you definitely don’t want if you’re already shedding from taking isotretinoin.

Stress Management

Stress can lead to hair loss, and hair loss can be very stressful. We all know dealing with severe acne can be stressful too.

To sidestep this viscous stress cycle and (hopefully) keep hair loss at a minimum, try stress management techniques. These can include:

  • Exercising regularly

  • Finding time to relax

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Spending time with friends or loved ones

  • Mediation

How does stress affect the body? Read our blog for insight.

Hair Care for Accutane Hair Loss

One of the common side effects of taking isotretinoin is dryness all over — even in the hair on your head. Dry, brittle strands are more likely to break. When your hair breaks, it looks thinner.

Add moisture back to your hair care routine by using hair products packed with hydration. Hims offers thickening shampoo and conditioner that moisturize while promoting growth.

You may also want to avoid too much sun exposure (or wear a hat) to prevent UV light from drying out your strands.

Beyond that, be careful when brushing or combing your hair. A wide-toothed comb is usually best, especially when your hair’s wet, as that’s when it’s the weakest.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Does Accutane cause hair loss? Potentially.

Isotretinoin is used as a treatment for acne. While it can be a miracle drug for cystic acne and other types of severe acne, one of the potential undesirable side effects is hair loss.

Here’s what to keep in mind about Accutane hair loss:

  • Hair loss is a possible side effect of Accutane. Though not all patients with acne treated with isotretinoin will notice hair thinning or loss, some will.

  • Accutane hair loss probably isn’t permanent. If it happens to you, the good news is this side effect doesn’t tend to be permanent.

  • A lower dose might help. Your healthcare provider may be able to adjust your dosage of isotretinoin to prevent more hair loss.

  • Treatments are available. Treatments for this type of hair loss include supplements, lifestyle tweaks and prescription medication, like topical minoxidil.

If you notice abnormal shedding, hair loss or thinning, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional. They’ll be able to assess what’s going on and go over your treatment options.

Connect with a telehealth provider at Hims today.

15 Sources

  1. Isotretinoin. (2018, August 15). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a681043.html
  2. Kmiec, M., Pajor, A., Broniarczyk-Dyla, G., (2013). Evaluation of biophysical skin parameters and assessment of hair growth in patients with acne treated with isotretinoin. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. Retrieved from https://www.termedia.pl/Original-paper-Evaluation-of-biophysical-skin-parameters-and-assessment-of-hair-growth-in-patients-with-acne-treated-with-isotretinoin,7,21911,0,1.html
  3. Islamoglu, Z., Altimyazar, H., et al., (2018). Effects of isotretinoin on the hair cycle. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.12800
  4. Accutane. American Osteopathic College of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.aocd.org/page/Accutane
  5. Hair Loss: Who Gets and Causes. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/18-causes
  6. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2020, June 9). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  7. Ablon, G. (2015). A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Dermatology Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/
  8. Biotin (2020). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/313.html
  9. Khan, Q., Fabian, C., (2010, March). How I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency. Journal of Oncology Practice, 6(2):97-101. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835491/
  10. Yang, F., Zhang, Y., Rheinstadter, M., (2014, October 14). The structure of people’s hair. Peer, 2:e619. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201279/
  11. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., Leerunyakul, K., (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Theory, 13: 2777-2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/#:~:text=Minoxidil%20is%20a%20common%20medication,as%20increasing%20body%20hair%20growth.
  12. Guo, E., Katta, R., (2017, January). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical and Conceptual, 7(1): 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
  13. Trueb, R., (2003). Association between smoking and hair loss: another opportunity for health education against smoking? National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12673073/
  14. How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  15. Al Aboud AM, Zito PM. Alopecia. (2024). Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

Education

Training

Certifications

Publications

Read more