Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Hair loss is a common issue that affects men of all ages and backgrounds. While it’s common to shed between 50 and 100 hairs every day, losing a lot of hair on a daily basis is a classic sign of male pattern baldness.
If you’ve searched for information about hair loss, you likely have plenty of theories about how and why it happens, including some that involve alcohol.
Right now, there isn’t any scientific evidence that shows that drinking normal amounts of alcohol — whether you opt for beer, wine or spirits — has any effect on male pattern baldness.
However, drinking excessively can cause or contribute to certain medical issues, some of which may have an effect on the health, thickness and strength of your hair.
Read on to learn more about how alcohol might relate to hair loss, and how other factors — whether genes, hormones or nutritional deficiencies — can play a role in any hair thinning or hair loss you might experience.
Currently, there’s no scientific research that directly links normal alcohol consumption to any of these forms of hair loss.
Put simply, this means that you can enjoy that glass of beer, wine or cocktail without having to worry about its effect on your hairline.
That said, alcohol consumption may indirectly contribute to hair loss through its effects on certain aspects of your health, including your intake of several vital nutrients.
We’ve covered these below, along with how each factor can potentially affect your hairline and overall hair health.
Just like your skin, nails, muscles and internal tissue, your hair depends on a continuous supply of nutrients, many of which come from your diet.
Many of these are found in food and dietary supplements, while some, such as vitamin D, are synthesized in your skin.
While it’s okay to drink a moderate amount of alcohol, drinking alcohol in excess can reduce the amount of digestive enzymes released by your pancreas.
This may affect your body’s ability to break down and absorb the nutrients in food.
Because of the effects of alcohol consumption on nutrient absorption, many people with alcohol-use disorders have nutritional deficiencies.
Although there’s no known link between nutritional deficiency and male pattern baldness, some nutritional deficiencies are known to cause telogen effluvium (as mentioned above) — which is a form of hair shedding that can make your hair lose its normal thickness and scalp coverage.
In addition to its effects on your ability to absorb important nutrients, alcohol can affect the way you eat, causing you to choose unhealthy food over food that’s rich in vitamins and minerals.
In a study that formed part of the FinDrink project, a study on alcohol use carried out in Finland, researchers found that male heavy alcohol drinkers had lower intakes of fiber, calcium, iron and other important nutrients than non-drinkers.
Many people smoke when they drink alcohol. In fact, alcohol is recognized as a common trigger for social smoking.
While alcohol doesn’t directly damage your hair, smoking does. Research has revealed that people who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to show signs of hair loss, premature hair graying and general poor hair health.
These issues are likely caused by the damaging effects of cigarette smoke on the structure and DNA of human hair.
Interestingly, smoking has similar effects on skin. Researchers have found that regular smokers show greater signs of aging than their peers, with the effects most significant in people with long smoking histories.
Of course, not everyone smokes when they drink. However, if you’re a social smoker, it’s worth considering the effects that smoking while drinking could have on the health and appearance of your hair.
Although the link between alcohol and hair loss isn’t crystal clear, drinking excessively can have a serious impact on your health and wellbeing.
Research shows that excessive alcohol consumption can either directly cause or increase your risk of developing the following long-term health issues:
Cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure and liver damage
Cognitive problems such as a reduced ability to learn and/or dementia
Mental health issues, such as depression and/or anxiety
Heavy drinking can also affect your immune system, which may increase your risk of becoming sick due to other illnesses.
Although alcohol may indirectly contribute to hair loss through its effects on your nutrient intake, it generally isn’t considered a major cause of hair loss.
Instead, the most common form of hair loss in men — male pattern baldness — is caused by the effects of the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp. And if you’re genetically predisposed to hair loss, this can cause your hair follicles to slowly shrink and stop producing new hairs through a process called miniaturization.
This guide to DHT and male pattern baldness explains this process, as well as the effects it can have on your hair, in more detail.
Other forms of hair loss are caused by several different factors. For example, telogen effluvium can be caused by stress, infection, trauma or changes in hormone levels.
Issues such as fungal infections, a constant pulling on your hair follicles (traction alopecia) and even autoimmune diseases can affect your hair and cause everything from permanent hair loss to mild, temporary thinning.
You can read more about the causes of hair loss for a deeper look into the science behind how and why your hair thins as you age.
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From male pattern baldness to temporary hair shedding, just about all forms of hair loss can be either treated or prevented with the right approach.
Here’s what you can do to protect your hair from damage and maintain healthy, sustainable hair growth as you get older.
If you’re worried that your drinking is taking a toll on your health, one of the best things you can do is to cut down your alcohol consumption.
It’s okay to drink occasionally. Try to stick to the CDC’s recommendation of two alcoholic drinks or fewer per day (for women, the recommendation is up to one drink per day).
This allows you to enjoy alcohol without the negative health consequences of excessive drinking.
If you think you have an alcohol use disorder (regardless of any hair thinning or hair loss), you should talk to your healthcare provider.
They might suggest eliminating alcohol entirely, especially if you find it difficult to control your alcohol consumption.
If you’re starting to develop a receding hairline or other signs of male pattern baldness, you can stop your hair loss from worsening by using medication.
The FDA has approved two medications to treat hair loss in men. The first, finasteride, works by stopping your body from converting testosterone to DHT.
The second, minoxidil, works at the scalp level by moving hair follicles into the growth phase of the hair growth cycle and improving blood circulation.
Science confirms that finasteride and minoxidil work well, especially when they’re used together.
In one study, a team of researchers found that 94.1 percent of men with hair loss who used both medications showed improvements in hair growth over the course of 12 months.
Hair loss shampoos such as Hims Hair Thickening Shampoo are formulated to target DHT at the scalp and promote the growth of thick, healthy hair.
When used alongside medications like minoxidil and finasteride, a hair loss shampoo can help cut down on shedding to maintain your hairline.
Numerous vitamins, minerals and other nutrients play important roles in the growth of your hair, including many that are found in common foods and cooking ingredients.
To promote healthy hair growth, try to eat a balanced diet that’s made up of plenty of fresh fruits, green vegetables, lean sources of protein and other nutrient-rich foods.
Here’s a list of the best foods to eat for hair growth, with specific ingredients you may want to add to your diet.
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There’s no scientific evidence to show that drinking alcohol on a regular basis causes male pattern baldness or other forms of hair loss.
However, some habits associated with drinking (such as smoking) may harm your hair. If you’re a heavy drinker, you may also have an elevated risk of developing other health issues, including some that can have long-term consequences.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, it would be helpful to connect with a healthcare provider to determine the cause, and to help find a solution that’s best for you.
You can find science-based hair loss treatments online that you can use to prevent hair loss and promote the growth of thicker, healthier hair.
For more info on what causes hair loss in men, as well as the most common signs you may notice if you’re losing your hair, check out this guide to male pattern baldness.
Here’s to a healthy head of hair. Making healthy lifestyle choices and connecting with a health professional can be great first steps to get there.