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Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 03/12/2021

Updated 04/25/2024

If you’re living with diabetes, you probably know the disease can affect many parts of your body. But can diabetes cause hair loss? And if so, why does diabetes cause hair loss?

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the condition could mess with your hair growth cycle, leading to excess shedding. The good news is that managing diabetes symptoms may help limit hair loss and thinning.

Is hair loss a sign of diabetes, or rather, can insulin resistance cause hair loss?

Read on for answers to these questions and a rundown of diabetes hair loss, including why it might happen and what you can do about it.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects blood sugar levels — which subsequently affects every system in the body, from your hair cycle to your sex drive.

Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes can lead to severe hair thinning, fragile strands and sparse or slow hair growth.

So, does diabetes cause hair loss? We’ll answer this below.

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Shedding hair at a noticeable and significant pace can be one of the first warning signs of unchecked diabetes. If you’re undiagnosed and think you may have this chronic health condition, it’s best to meet with a healthcare professional for medical advice.

Proper diabetes management can help improve the symptoms and potentially reduce hair loss related to the disease.

Hair loss might be a symptom of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But why does diabetes cause hair loss? There are a few potential diabetes-related causes of hair loss, including immune system issues, high blood sugar, hormone imbalances and stress.

Here’s what to know.

Immune System Issues

If you have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, you’re at higher risk for other health conditions involving immune system malfunction.

This includes a type of hair loss known as alopecia areata, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles.

High Blood Sugar Levels (Hyperglycemia)

The hair follicle is a highly active organ and needs a special environment with a reliable supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Over time, chronic high blood glucose levels (aka hyperglycemia) can lead to poor blood circulation, affecting hair follicle health. Without enough oxygen and blood flow, hair follicles can’t produce new hair strands — so when strands fall out, there’s nothing to replace them, resulting in thinning hair and bald spots.

Can insulin resistance cause hair loss? Some studies have found an association between androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and insulin resistance. And some experts think insulin resistance could damage small blood vessels and contribute to AGA.

Hormone Imbalances

Thyroid problems are common in people with diabetes. Issues with your thyroid could throw your hormones out of whack, leading to hair loss and thinning.

Plus, diabetes can spike stress hormones (namely, cortisol) in your body, messing with your hair follicles and contributing to issues like telogen effluvium.

Stress

Living with a chronic condition like diabetes can be challenging. At the risk of stating the obvious, it can stress you out. Diabetes can also be a source of anxiety — a potential trigger for hair loss.

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Understanding the hair growth cycle can help you understand why diabetes might contribute to hair loss.

Hair growth has three stages: the growth phase (anagen), the regression phase (catagen) and the resting phase (telogen). Some also include a fourth phase, the exogen phase, when hair sheds.

Diabetes may result in slow growth or extra hair fall-out by disrupting the natural hair growth cycle — extending the resting and shedding phases, for instance — due to issues relating to blood sugar, hormones, immunity, and stress.

Some medications prescribed for diabetes management can also interrupt the hair growth cycle.

Does metformin cause hair loss? Unfortunately, there are some isolated reports of hair loss as a side effect of this medication.

A 2013 study suggested that long-term metformin use can decrease levels of vitamin B12 and folate (another B vitamin) in the body. Though the link between metformin and hair loss isn’t totally clear, a deficiency in these nutrients could lead to excess shedding.

Ozempic®, the brand-name version of semaglutide, is part of the glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists (GLP-1) drug class. While there’s no direct link between Ozempic and hair loss, the drug can cause thyroid issues that may impact hair health. Read more about this in our guide to Ozempic hair loss.

Even if you experience hair loss after taking medication, your body will likely adjust over time. If you notice continued shedding, discuss your options with a healthcare professional. They may recommend a different medication, change your dose or suggest prescription hair loss treatments.

The two most common (and effective) medications for hair loss are minoxidil and finasteride. Get details below.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil (the generic version of Rogaine®) is a topical medication that comes in a liquid solution or foam. You apply it directly to the areas of your scalp with noticeable hair loss.

Minoxidil shortens the telogen (resting) phase of the hair cycle and encourages your hair to enter the anagen (growth) phase early.

Everyone is different, but you can typically expect noticeable results after two months. And the most significant changes will be visible after four months of regular use.

Minoxidil may be a good option for people with diabetes dealing with hair loss. We offer minoxidil online, either by itself or as part of our non-prescription hair loss kit.

Finasteride

DHT (short for dihydrotestosterone) is the main hormone responsible for androgenetic alopecia, aka male pattern baldness. If you’re genetically sensitive to DHT, the small amount produced by your body could have a serious negative impact on your hair over time.

Research shows that finasteride can lower DHT levels by more than 70 percent, helping reduce the effects of DHT on your hair follicles.

It usually takes about six months to see finasteride’s results on hair growth.

We offer finasteride online as an oral tablet or in topical form as a two-in-one finasteride & minoxidil spray. Since finasteride is a prescription medication, you can get it following a consultation with a healthcare provider who’ll determine if it’s right for you.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Diabetes is a chronic disease that can cause a range of health issues from head to toe. Hair loss is a possible symptom of the condition.

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

  • Excess shedding can be a warning sign of undiagnosed diabetes.

  • Diabetes-related hair loss can happen due to hormone imbalances, immune system issues, chronic high blood sugar and stress.

  • Managing your condition and getting a handle on blood sugar control might help slow or reverse type 2 diabetes hair loss.

  • Supplements like our biotin gummies may help if you have a nutrient deficiency that contributes to hair loss.

  • Research-backed hair loss treatments like minoxidil or finasteride can also help restore your locks to their former glory.

  • You might also try our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto — saw palmetto is a natural DHT blocker.

If you have diabetes and are currently struggling with hair loss, help is available. Talk with your provider to see if our hair loss treatment options might be right for you.

15 Sources

  1. Miranda, J. J., Taype-Rondan, A., Tapia, J. C., Gastanadui-Gonzalez, M. G., & Roman-Carpio, R. (2016). Hair follicle characteristics as early marker of Type 2 Diabetes. Medical hypotheses, 95, pp. 39–44. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5073072/
  2. Zubair, S. & Mujtaba, G. (2009). Hair-A mirror of diabetes. Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists, 19, pp. 31–34. Retrieved from https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.620.1471&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  3. Type 2 diabetes. (2019, May 30). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html
  4. Miranda, J. J., Taype-Rondan, A., Tapia, J. C., Gastanadui-Gonzalez, M. G., & Roman-Carpio, R. (2016). Hair follicle characteristics as early marker of Type 2 Diabetes. Medical hypotheses, 95, 39–44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5073072/
  5. Miranda, J. J., Taype-Rondan, A., Tapia, J. C., Gastanadui-Gonzalez, M. G., & Roman-Carpio, R. (2016). Hair follicle characteristics as early marker of Type 2 Diabetes. Medical hypotheses, 95, pp. 39–44. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5073072/
  6. Rebora, A., & Guarrera, M. (2002). Kenogen. A new phase of the hair cycle?. Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland), 205(2), pp. 108–110. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12218222/
  7. Xu, L., Huang, Z., He, X., Wan, X., Fang, D., & Li, Y. (2013). Adverse effect of metformin therapy on serum vitamin B12 and folate: short-term treatment causes disadvantages?. Medical hypotheses, 81(2), 149–151. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23751310/
  8. Zito, P. M., Bistas, K. G., & Syed, K. (2020) Finasteride. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  9. Hoover E, Alhajj M, Flores JL. Physiology, Hair. [Updated 2020 Jul 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/
  10. Thompson, J. M., Mirza, M. A., Park, M. K., Qureshi, A. A., & Cho, E. (2017). The Role of Micronutrients in Alopecia Areata: A Review. American journal of clinical dermatology, 18(5), 663–679. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685931/
  11. Badri T, Nessel TA, Kumar D D. Minoxidil. [Updated 2020 May 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  12. Zito PM, Bistas KG, Syed K. Finasteride. [Updated 2020 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  13. Hair Loss Types: Alopecia Areata Diagnosis and Treatment. (2023). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia/treatment
  14. Geer, E.B., et al. (2014). Mechanisms of Glucocorticoid-Induced Insulin Resistance: Focus on Adipose Tissue Function and Lipid Metabolism. 43(1): 75-102. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889852913001151?via%3Dihub
  15. Biondi, B., et al. (2019). Thyroid Dysfunction and Diabetes Mellitus: Two Closely Associated Disorders. 40(3): 789-824. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/3/789/5288751
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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