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Do Steroids Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 07/29/2021

Updated 05/20/2024

When you think of steroids, you probably think of anabolic steroids — illegal, performance-enhancing substances people use to rapidly increase muscle mass — but other types of steroids exist. So, do steroids cause hair loss, and if so, which kinds?

Hair-related steroid side effects can depend on the type of steroids you’re taking — and whether you’re using them safely (e.g., under a healthcare professional’s direction).

We’ll cover different types of steroids, whether they can trigger or treat hair loss, and how to protect your hairline when steroid use is necessary for treating a medical condition.

The two most common types of steroids are anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.

  • Corticosteroids. Healthcare professionals commonly prescribe corticosteroids to treat immune-system-related issues such as skin, eye, and blood disorders, arthritis, and some types of allergies.

  • Anabolic steroids. These contain a synthetic version of testosterone, an androgen (male sex hormone) that plays a role in a form of hair loss known as androgenic alopecia, or male pattern hair loss. You’ve probably heard of people in bodybuilding communities misusing these types of steroids to boost muscle mass.

Hair loss is a potential side effect of some steroids.

For example, FDA listings for corticosteroids like prednisolone mention thinning of the scalp hair as a possible side effect. But it’s not necessarily a side effect of all corticosteroids. 

Hair thinning is a common side effect of anabolic steroid use. 

Healthcare professionals often prescribe anabolic steroids to treat hormone imbalances. They can help with certain health conditions, including those that cause muscle loss.

Some folks also misuse these types of steroids in pursuit of building muscle and enhancing athletic performance.

As noted, anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones. So taking them when your hormones are already balanced can negatively impact brain and sexual function and even the hair growth cycle.

Some anabolic steroids that may cause excess hair shedding include:

  • Anadrol®

  • Oxandrolone (previously sold as Anavar®)

  • Methandienone

  • Drostanolone

  • Methenolone enanthate

  • Proviron®

  • Trenbolone

Not everyone who uses these compounds will experience hair loss as a side effect. And any excess shedding you’re experiencing could be due to another cause.

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In rare cases, corticosteroids like prednisone may be a treatment for hair loss — specifically alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that damages hair.

This rare form of patchy baldness occurs in about two percent of the general population. Topical corticosteroids may help treat the inflammation that causes this type of hair loss. Healthcare professionals also prescribe steroid injections or oral corticosteroids to treat alopecia areata. 

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If you’re experiencing what you believe to be steroid-related hair loss, your first step should be to contact your healthcare provider. 

They can evaluate whether you should stop treatment, adjust your dosage, or change medications. They can also help you navigate the health effects of anabolic steroid misuse.

Steroids aside, a healthcare professional can provide treatment guidance for hair loss of any kind.

Two of the most effective hair loss treatment options for promoting hair regrowth are minoxidil and finasteride.

Minoxidil

Topical minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication that stimulates hair growth.

Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine®. It’s thought to increase blood flow to hair follicles, encouraging them to return to the anagen phase (the active phase of the hair cycle), ultimately stimulating new hair growth.

Finasteride

Finasteride is a prescription medication that regulates dihydrotestosterone (also known as DHT), a hormone that plays a role in male pattern baldness

Higher levels of DHT may trigger hair loss. Finasteride can reduce DHT levels when taken daily as directed — in some cases by up to 70 percent.

Hair-Friendly Supplements

Being low in key vitamins for hair health, including vitamin A, vitamin D, and biotin, can trigger hair fall. 

Taking a daily biotin gummy multivitamin won’t reverse hair loss, but it may help if your excess shedding is nutrition-related. 

You might also benefit from using shampoos with ingredients shown to prevent hair loss, like our saw palmetto formula.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

You shouldn’t take steroids without the guidance of a healthcare professional, as long-term use can have serious health effects. But even steroids prescribed by a healthcare professional can have hair loss as a side effect.

Wondering how to stop hair loss after a steroid cycle? Here’s the bottom line:

  • Let your healthcare provider know about any steroid-related side effects. Noticing a “steroid hairline”? Mention it to your provider. They may recommend switching medications or stopping steroid use altogether to lower levels of DHT.

  • Remember, there are various causes of hair loss. Steroids aren’t the only potential culprit. Your lifestyle, genetics, and underlying medical conditions can also factor into why your hair is thinning. 

  • Don’t worry, treatments are available. A healthcare professional like a dermatologist can help you find the right hair loss treatment to address excess shedding, like the FDA-approved medications finasteride and minoxidil or hair transplants to help with severe, permanent hair loss.

If you’re seeing the effects of hair loss and want to learn more about how to get your healthy hair back, check out our guide to hair growth.

12 Sources

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Do you have hair loss or hair shedding?. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  2. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Hair loss: Diagnosis and treatment. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/treatment/diagnosis-trea
  3. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Hair loss types: Alopecia areata overview. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia
  4. Burg D, et al. (2017). Promotion of anagen, increased hair density and reduction of hair fall in a clinical setting following identification of FGF5-inhibiting compounds via a novel 2-stage process. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5338843/
  5. Efentaki P, et al. (2009). Medium-dose prednisolone pulse therapy in alopecia areata. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092572/
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Anabolic Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs). https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/anabolic-steroids
  7. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Prednisone. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601102.html
  8. Olsen EA, et al. (1992). Systemic steroids with or without 2% topical minoxidil in the treatment of alopecia areata. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1444500/
  9. Orapred ODT® (prednisolone sodium phosphate orally disintegrating tablets). (n.d.). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/021959s004lbl.pdf
  10. Puckett Y, et al. (2021). Prednisone: Continuing Education Activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534809/
  11. Rafi A, et al. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/
  12. Suchonwanit P, et al. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
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. 

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