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Does Wellbutrin Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 05/22/2023

Updated 04/25/2024

From genetics to bad hair styling habits, a number of things can make your hair shed more than usual. One cause of hair loss that you may not think of? Antidepressants.

So, is Wellbutrin® one of those potential causes of hair loss? Yes — but it’s a relatively uncommon side effect and usually not permanent. Plus, there are ways to treat Wellbutrin-related hair loss.

Let’s back up a bit. Although we usually think of antidepressant medication affecting our moods, it can also have an unexpected impact on other parts of your body — including your hair.

Like many other antidepressants, Wellbutrin (bupropion) can be a total game-changer for those who need it. Unfortunately, like any medication, it does have a risk of side effects.

One of the rarer side effects is hair loss.

But why does Wellbutrin cause hair loss? And how can you stimulate hair regrowth after taking antidepressants? Read on to find out more.

Wellbutrin is a prescription drug used to treat symptoms of major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and bipolar disorder. It’s also used as a smoking cessation aid to help people quit nicotine.

It’s classified as an atypical antidepressant, which means it works differently than most other antidepressants.

Wellbutrin is a brand-name version of a generic called bupropion. Other brand names include Wellbutrin SR® and Wellbutrin XL®.

There are some common side effects of bupropion to watch out for if you take this medication, including:

  • Agitation

  • Allergic reactions

  • Blurred vision

  • Constipation or abdominal pain

  • Dizziness

  • Dry mouth

  • Excessive sweating

  • Headaches

  • High blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Vomiting

  • Weight gain

  • Weight loss

While hair loss isn’t listed as one of the common side effects, you — and your hair follicles — are not quite in the clear.

A comparative retrospective cohort study published in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology looked at different antidepressants to see if they might increase the risk of hair loss.​​​​​​​​

The research concluded that bupropion was associated with a higher risk of hair loss than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such asProzac® (fluoxetine), Zoloft® (sertraline) andPaxil® (paroxetine).

You’ll also find a few discussions about Wellbutrin hair loss on online forums. While these first-hand reports suggest that Wellbutrin could cause hair loss, it’s important to remember they aren’t truly medical proof — there’s no telling whether the posters experienced their hair loss because of Wellbutrin or another cause.

Despite these findings, it’s pretty rare for people taking bupropion to experience hair loss.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists hair thinning as an infrequent side effect. This means it happens to somewhere between one out of 100 and one out of 1,000 patients taking this medication.

According to a 2019 report, the Netherlands Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb received 13 reports of alopecia associated with bupropion between February 2003 and July 2019.

Not a lot, but enough to know that Wellbutrin hair loss is possible.

So, while hair loss is a possible side effect of Wellbutrin, many people take the medication without experiencing any noticeable hair shedding.

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As mentioned, hair loss is not a common side effect of Wellbutrin. But if you do notice some excess shedding, you may wonder how an antidepressant could affect your hair follicles.

The type of hair loss caused by Wellbutrin is called telogen effluvium, defined as non-scarring excessive hair shedding. Telogen effluvium can also be caused by severe stress, shock, trauma or illness.

Certain medications seem to disrupt the natural hair growth cycle, pushing the hair follicles into the telogen phase — the resting phase — earlier than expected.

As a result, your hair grows less and sheds faster than it typically would. That’s why you notice excess shedding.

According to the 2019 report mentioned above, Wellbutrin may cause drug-related hair loss because it’s a dopamine agonist, which means it activates dopamine receptors in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the hair cycle, so dopamine agonists can sometimes disrupt this cycle.

However, more clinical trials are needed before researchers fully understand the link between Wellbutrin and hair loss.

How do you know whether you’re experiencing telogen effluvium or another type of hair loss? The best way is to speak with a healthcare professional who can diagnose the cause.

However, you should know that one of the hallmarks of telogen effluvium is diffuse hair shedding and hair thinning. This means your hair will thin and shed all over your scalp — not in a specific pattern.

If you have pattern hair loss — which starts with a receding hairline or thinning hair on the crown of your head — you’re probably experiencing androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness).

Other causes of hair loss include:

The good news? Unlike pattern hair loss, telogen effluvium isn’t permanent, and neither is Wellbutrin hair loss.

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If you are one of the unlucky few people who shed a lot of hair after starting Wellbutrin, we’re here to tell you that hair growth is possible.

Before we get into your treatment options, though, we want to emphasize that there’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t do: Don’t suddenly stop taking your medication.

Seriously.

If you want to stop using antidepressant medications of any kind, including Wellbutrin, you should do so under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

They’ll taper you off your medication so you don’t have withdrawal symptoms. If necessary, they can also switch you to a different antidepressant so your symptoms don’t come racing back.

Now that you have that important information let’s look at a few treatment options for hair loss and explore ways to support your hair health.

Topical Minoxidil

Want something you can apply directly to your scalp to promote hair growth? Minoxidil might be your best bet.

Minoxidil is an FDA-approved hair loss treatment that you can rub into your scalp daily to promote new hair growth and reduce hair shedding.

It stimulates hair follicles to enter the growth stage (or anagen phase) of the hair growth cycle. It also increases blood flow to your scalp, which could improve hair growth.

Depending on your preferences, you can try minoxidil foam or minoxidil solution.

Hair Loss Shampoo

It’s important to take care of the hair you do have by using quality hair care products.

You could try our thickening shampoo formulated with saw palmetto, a natural ingredient thought to reduce hair loss.

Most studies on saw palmetto have only researched its use for male pattern baldness, not for telogen effluvium. While more data is needed, the little bit out there has found that topical saw palmetto can increase terminal hair count for men with androgenic alopecia.

Finasteride

Although finasteride is only used to treat androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness), it can help if you’re experiencing both male pattern baldness and Wellbutrin-related hair loss. 

Finasteride reduces dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels, a male hormone that damages the hair follicles and causes pattern hair loss.

You could take oral finasteride or, if you prefer a topical treatment, use our finasteride & minoxidil spray. Research shows that finasteride and minoxidil can reduce hair loss more effectively when used together.

Biotin

Did you know that a vitamin deficiency can lead to hair loss?

While there’s no evidence that Wellbutrin hair loss has anything to do with a lack of nutrients, you’ll want to cover your bases — especially if you’re not eating an entirely balanced diet.

Biotin (vitamin B7) is an important nutrient for hair growth. In addition to getting biotin through a healthy diet, you can also take it in supplement form.

One study done on women with thinning hair found that supplements containing biotin can help encourage hair regrowth — but we’ll add the caveat that these supplements contained other ingredients as well, making it hard to say which ones really worked.

Our biotin gummy contains a variety of B vitamins, as well as vitamin D, since a vitamin D deficiency can also cause hair shedding.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

For many people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions, Wellbutrin can make a world of difference.

But as with any medication, Wellbutrin comes with possible adverse effects.

  • Wellbutrin may cause hair loss. Though rare, Wellbutrin hair loss is a thing. It may be more likely to cause hair loss than some other antidepressants, but the FDA still considers hair loss to be a rare side effect of Wellbutrin.

  • But it’s probably not permanent. Wellbutrin (and other medications) can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. While it causes excessive hair shedding, drug-induced hair loss isn’t permanent.

  • Don’t stop taking Wellbutrin suddenly. Never try to go off any antidepressant without medical supervision. If you’re not digging the side effects of Wellbutrin, talk to a medical professional before making any changes.

  • Treatments are available. The good news is that there are ways you can support your hair health and stimulate regrowth. You could start by trying topical minoxidil, supplements or thickening shampoo.

If you’ve noticed some hair loss after starting Wellbutrin, the first step is to seek medical advice. We can help you book an online consultation with a healthcare provider who can help identify the cause of hair loss and your treatment options.

14 Sources

  1. Bupropion and alopecia. (2021). Bijwerkingencentrum Lareb. https://databankws.lareb.nl/Downloads/Signals_2019_Bupropion%20and%20alopecia.pdf
  2. Bupropion. (2018, February 15). MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695033.html
  3. Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride) tablets label. (n.d.). Accessdata.fda.gov. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018644s043lbl.pdf
  4. Etminan, M. (2018, January 1). Risk of hair loss with different antidepressants a comparative retrospective cohort study. International Clinical Psychopharmacology. https://journals.lww.com/intclinpsychopharm/Abstract/2018/01000/Risk_of_hair_loss_with_different_antidepressants_.4.aspx
  5. WELLBUTRIN. (n.d.). Accessdata.fda.gov. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/018644s039s040.pdf
  6. Asghar, F. (2020, May 27). Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature. NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320655/
  7. Physiology, Hair - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (n.d.). NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/
  8. Ramos, M. (n.d.). Minoxidil - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  9. Antidepressants. (2022, January 26). MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/antidepressants.html
  10. Adelman, M.J, Bedford, L.M., and Potts, G.A. (2020). Clinical efficacy of popular oral hair growth supplement ingredients.International Journal of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Madeline-Adelman-4/publication/347565683_Clinical_efficacy_of_popular_oral_hair_growth_supplement_ingredients/links/6317b5861ddd4470213e5ab9/Clinical-efficacy-of-popular-oral-hair-growth-supplement-ingredients.pdf
  11. Wessagowit, V., Tangjaturonrusamee, C., Kootiratrakarn, T., Bunnag, T., Pimonrat, T., Muangdang, N. and Pichai, P. (2016), AGA treatment with Serenoa repens. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 57: e76-e82. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ajd.12352
  12. Biotin. (n.d.). MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/313.html
  13. 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/
  14. 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/
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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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