Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/14/2022
Does Cymbalta cause hair loss? You’re not the first person to ask this question.
Before taking any medication, it is helpful to have a good understanding of the common side effects. Otherwise, you could experience eye pain, musculoskeletal pain, changes in blood pressure or weight loss and totally freak out, not realizing these are normal side effects for the class of medication you’re on.
That said, even if you read about the common side effects, you may hear about certain things that aren’t on the list.
Take Cymbalta, for example. Used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), this medication is associated with a whole list of relatively benign adverse effects. Along with this, there’s some buzz online around the question: Does the medication Cymbalta cause hair loss?
If you’re taking this medication, that’s probably a very important question to answer. Read on to learn more.
Before diving into the connection between Cymbalta and hair loss, you need a bit of a primer on this medication.
Cymbalta, also known by the generic name duloxetine, is a prescription medication used in the treatment of major depressive disorder. It’s also commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
Considered an antidepressant, Cymbalta is under a classification of medications known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These prescription drugs work by boosting the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain.
Common side effects of this antidepressant medication include:
Weight gain or weight loss
Decreased sex drive
These adverse effects may go away or lessen as your body adjusts to the medication. If you experience intense side effects (like an allergic reaction), contact a healthcare professional immediately.
If you want to stop taking Cymbalta, don’t quit cold turkey. If you do, you could experience withdrawal symptoms. Instead, work with a healthcare provider to taper your dosage until you’re totally off it.
As for the big hair loss question, the answer may relieve you.
A comparative retrospective cohort study looked at different antidepressant medications (including duloxetine, fluoxetine and citalopram). SNRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other types of antidepressants were reviewed for their hair-loss capabilities.
Researchers found that bupropion had the highest risk of hair loss, while most of the others — duloxetine included — had a very low risk of hair loss.
But we should note the study didn’t conclude that it cannot happen — only that it’s rare.
If you do notice hair loss caused by Cymbalta intake, it would fall under a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. The condition is defined as excessive shedding of hair that doesn’t leave behind scarring.
When hair grows, it’s actually a three-phase process. Those phases are:
Anagen. This is when your hair grows.
Catagen. In this phase, growth stops.
Telogen. Here, your hair is resting.
Certain medications can shorten the length of the telogen phase, which can make the hair release from the follicle. As a result, you may see an increase in hair shedding and loss.
Thankfully, Cymbalta hair loss from telogen effluvium is usually not permanent. Once the cause is identified and addressed, hair tends to return to normal within six to eight months.
But if you’re taking Cymbalta for major depression, you can’t just stop. After all, managing your depression is hugely important to your quality of life, and as mentioned above, quitting cold turkey isn’t advised.
If your hair loss is severe — which is rare — contact a healthcare professional. They may be able to adjust your dosage of Cymbalta. You could also ask for medical advice about whether another medication could work to treat your mental health condition.
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If you’re one of the few people who notice hair loss as a result of taking Cymbalta, don’t freak out. There are a number of things you can do to encourage less hair shedding and even help with regrowth.
Again, it’s best to discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider. Here are some of the things they may suggest.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that comes in liquid and foam formulas. It’s more commonly known by the brand name Rogaine. This FDA-approved medication doesn’t require a prescription, making it easy to try.
It’s believed to work by stimulating hair follicles to make them enter the anagen phase. As a reminder, this is the growth phase for hair.
It also increases blood flow to your scalp, which brings nutrients to your hair and can stimulate hair growth.
Bear in mind Minoxidil isn’t an instant fix, and it may take a few weeks of treatment before you start noticing a difference.
Along with medication, you can incorporate lifestyle tweaks that are good for healthy hair. For example, studies have shown that not getting enough iron and zinc can be bad for your strands.
When people increased these nutrients in their diet, an improvement in hair growth was found.
Looking to get more zinc? Foods like crab, pork chops, cashews and oatmeal are good sources. If you’d like to increase the amount of iron you consume, you can eat more spinach, meat and seafood.
While we’re on the topic of lifestyle habits, smoking is a no-no (for all the reasons!). Researchers have connected smoking and hair loss. Smoke is a pollutant that can damage your hair, plus cigarettes damage the DNA of your hair follicles.
Certain shampoos are formulated to thicken hair and stimulate growth. Hims has a thickening shampoo made with saw palmetto, a natural ingredient that may reduce hair loss.
One study compared finasteride (a hair loss medication used for genetic hair loss) and saw palmetto. While finasteride was found to be most effective, saw palmetto also helped with hair regrowth.
Biotin is another thing that can help with growth. One study found that taking this B vitamin encourages faster hair growth in those with thinning hair.
That said, study subjects were given a marine complex containing not just biotin but also zinc and other nutrients, so it’s tough to say whether the B vitamin was solely responsible for faster hair growth.
Biotin can be found in certain foods, like bananas, eggs and milk. If you’re already tweaking your diet to include zinc and iron, it could be worth adding these to ensure you’re getting more biotin.
Another option is to take a supplement. Hims has a Biotin gummy that also has Vitamin D in it. Being low in vitamin D has been found to contribute to hair shedding.
From noticing dark urine to blood pressure issues and even eye pain, different medications come with different side effects.
If you’re taking Cymbalta (which is prescribed for major depression and generalized anxiety disorder), you may notice a few relatively mild side effects, like stomach pain and even weight loss.
One very, very rare side effect is hair loss. While a majority of patients on the antidepressant duloxetine don’t experience hair issues, it’s not impossible.
If you notice hair loss for any reason, you can work with a healthcare provider to determine what treatment options may be best for you.
Blog Experiment: MultiHair