Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/24/2022
Steroid medications can provide a wide range of benefits for our health and wellness such as helping to treat diseases and inflammatory conditions. But can corticosteroid injections work for hair loss? And what if that hair loss is hormonal?
Corticosteroid injections can help reduce inflammation whether in your joints or scalp, but when it comes to hair loss and your individual needs, so much depends on you and your health.
Read on to learn more about corticosteroid injections and how they might be able to help with hair loss.
Steroids can be a little complicated to understand, so let’s start with the basics. In the world of medicine, there are two predominant categories of steroids: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. Both of these can be used to treat diseases, disorders and a variety of health conditions, depending on your needs.
Anabolic steroids are essentially a replacement for testosterone, and they are used predominantly to manage the levels of androgen hormones. These hormones have many purposes, but for our context, the most important thing that androgens do is affect your hair, especially when it comes to male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenic alopecia.
Corticosteroids, on the other hand, are injectable, oral or topical immunotherapy used for a variety of skin conditions, blood disorders, conditions of the eye, arthritic issues and even allergies.
Corticosteroids work in two primary ways: They suppress inflammation and immune system responses.
A corticosteroid may be used to treat hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease or IBS, leukemia, lymphoma, arthritis, adrenal issues, dermatitis, asthma or be used in the ongoing management of the immune system with regards to organ transplants.
In other words, corticosteroids can do a lot.
Unfortunately, all those benefits can come with an equally hefty tow of adverse effects.
Corticosteroids can reduce bone density and lead to osteoporosis, they can over do it with adrenal suppression, they can cause diabetes, myopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, psychiatric disturbances and weakened immune systems.
When it comes to hair and hair loss, you may be wondering: Can corticosteroid injections work for hair loss — and hormonal hair loss?
The answer is a little complicated.
In short, yes, some corticosteroids like prednisone can operate as a treatment for hair loss in some cases. Specific conditions like alopecia areata ( hair loss caused by autoimmune disease) can be managed with corticosteroids under the medical supervision of a healthcare professional. (A healthcare provider can inject the steroid into your scalp, to help reduce inflammation.)
Extensive alopecia areata may take more than the hair on your head too; it may kill off your body hair or cause patches of hair loss elsewhere.
Corticosteroid injections may be just what is needed when your own immune system begins going haywire and attacking your hair follicles as if they’re foreign bodies.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) points out that some off-label benefits of certain corticosteroids may indeed include increased hair growth, when it comes to reducing inflammation.
The number of people this helps, however, is pretty small — really due to the fact that only about two percent of the population is at risk for alopecia areata hair loss.
On the other side of the coin, some FDA listings for corticosteroids share a risk to your hair follicles from use. Thinning of the scalp is one of the potential side effects of prednisone, and while it’s not a common side effect, it makes the use of prednisone and other corticosteroids a gray area when it comes to hair safety.
There have not been many studies looking at corticosteroid use with regards to other types of severe alopecia and extensive hair loss, and it does not appear from the body of medical literature that anyone is suggesting corticosteroids as a first or second tier treatment plan when you start seeing some thinning up top.
In addition, when it comes to hormonal hair loss or hair regrowth: Corticosteroids aren’t necessarily your answer.
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It’s first best to see a healthcare provider, to determine what might be causing your hair loss. If you aren’t experiencing any autoimmune issues (which can lead to things like inflammation), your hair loss might be hormonal for example. A healthcare professional can help you determine the nature of your thinning hair.
Hair loss is a complex topic, in part because hair loss has so many forms and potential causes. Perhaps your hair loss will fit the profile of male pattern baldness, or it might be the result of another condition.
Depending on what your healthcare provider determines, they may recommend several avenues for oral or topical hair loss treatments.
The American Academy of Dermatology calls minoxidil and finasteride two of the most effective medications for treating hair loss.
These medications have different mechanisms of action, but both work to help you restore your hair to its original state.
Minoxidil is one of the FDA-approved topical treatments for hair loss designed to stimulate growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles themselves, which can in turn restart your hair’s growth cycle when some follicles are dormant.
In clinical trials, topical minoxidil solutions have been shown to be effective at treating a variety of hair loss disorders.
Your other option, finasteride, works by managing the levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (also known as DHT), which scientists believe has some responsibility for male pattern baldness. It’s unclear exactly how it affects follicles, but using finasteride to reduce DHT levels for your follicles has shown to be effective in protecting hair and allowing follicles to grow.
Aside from existing medications, your healthcare provider may also check to make sure you’re not deficient in key vitamins for hair health like vitamin A and vitamin D, as well as biotin (consider hims’ Biotin Gummy Multivitamins if you are deficient).
None of these things are guaranteed to give you your hair back, of course, but they’re important tools and, depending on your needs and personal hair-related problems, they may be just what you need to get your coif back.
Whether you’re experiencing alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness — effective treatment starts with a conversation between you and a healthcare professional. There are differences between diffuse hair loss, complete hair loss and patchy hair loss for example, that a medical professional can recognize.
Determining the type of hair loss you're experiencing will be your healthcare provider’s task, and because hair loss has a variety of causes, they will address topics like family history and hair diseases to solve the problem.
For more general information about the regrowth of hair or types of treatments for hair loss, check out our guide to hair growth.
Whether it's a corticosteroid or topical hair loss treatment, consulting with a healthcare professional (even online) can offer you the support to look and feel your best.