Effects on Hair Growth of Drugs
Many drugs or medicines, whether taken for treatment of ailments or taken for pleasure have a harmful effect on the growth cycle of hair. A few such as Tetracyclines which are a group of antibiotics may actually slightly increase hair growth but not enough to be worthwhile.
Amphetamines may cause diffuse hair thinning by upsetting the metabolism. Boric acid which is sometimes used in mouthwashes may if used too often cause a gradually increasing diffuse hair loss due to high levels of boron in the system.
Excessive intake of Vitamin A can cause severe hair loss as well as symptoms similar to arthritis in the joints. For this reason most countries now restrict the maximum concentration of Vitamin A which may be brought from health food stores or pharmacies without medical prescription.
Nicotine from cigarette smoking and Marajuana can cause hair loss by their effects on blood circulation and yellowing of grey hair. Excessive alcohol intake may cause loss of hair by lowering mineral and vitamin levels. A build up in the system of toxic minerals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminium, boron, barium, antimony, mercury and silver will also adversely affect hair growth causing other and more serious systemic effects at the same time. Fortunately high concentrations of these are rare and usually affect those people working continuously with these minerals without the necessary safeguards which are covered by Health and Safety Regulations in most countries.
Apart from the list of known and proven toxic reactions from drug or mineral intake, a very large number of medications may in certain circumstances cause adverse effects including hair loss, skin rashes and reactions upon various organs of the body. No drug or medicine is completely without risk or side effect. Many drugs particularly those mentioned above may cause the hair to change colour either to grey or in the case of some minerals such as copper salts, blond hair may turn green. Since these salts are frequently used to prevent algae growth in swimming pools, immersion of blond hair plus the oxidising effects of sunlight can produce a very disagreeable khaki-green colour which is very difficult to remove.
A number of drugs applied to the skin surface (topical drugs) may also cause hair colour changes by staining. Dithranol (Anthracene) for treating Psoriasis and Alopecia Areata may often stain dark brown. Minoxidil may darken hair if being regularly applied to improve hair growth. Hydroquinone which is sometimes used for skin lightening in pigment disorders may cause lightening or hair as a side effect.
Nutritional Effects on Hair Growth
Good nutrition will obviously be beneficial to the body, skin and hair. Regular meals are essential and should contain a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Since most of us eat too many fats and sugar, deficiency of these is extremely rare. A good diet should include white meat or fish, vegetables, fruit, salads, wholemeal grains either rice or bread or pasta. Sugar, chocolate, sweets and cakes, eggs, butter, milk and cheese should be taken only in moderation except for children who need the last four items for calcium content for bone growth.
Excessive or extreme dieting or fasting is dangerous and often causes diffuse hair loss due to changes in the body's metabolism. This is reversible with sensible dietary advice.
Hair loss is a common symptom of Anorexia Nervosa where people, usually teenage girls, create a distorted self image and starve themselves to achieve this. Bulemia - compulsive eating followed by self induced vomiting has the same effect. In extreme cases excessive body and facial hair may grow due to dysfunction of the adrenal glands.
Since many people in the world are overweight, strenuous dieting often causes a deficiency of carbohydrates, sometimes known as carbohydrate anorexia.
Carbohydrates are used by the body to create energy. Energy input must equal energy output. If you diet, cut down on fats and sugars, carbohydrates are essential. Many women and some men do not bother to have a breakfast. Even eating one slice of toast in the morning can help to solve some diffuse or general hair loss problems.
Buying large quantities of vitamins and minerals is no substitute for a well balanced healthy diet.
Scalp Disorders Affecting Hair Growth
Various scalp disorders may as a side-effect of the disease affect hair growth. Some disorders such as Seborrhoeic Eczema, Psoriasis and Pityriasis Amienticea are all scaling disorders in which the scale can build up sufficiently to pull out hairs if the scalp is scratched or the scaling area is caught by the teeth of a comb. In some cases, particularly with Pityriasis Amienticea large areas of baldness or thin patches may develop and the problem is mainly a scalp rather than hair disorder. Happily with suitable treatment of the skin the hair re-grows to its normal state once the disorder is brought under control.
« Back to articles