Can Diabetes Cause Hair Loss?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/29/2021

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you probably already know that the disease can affect many different parts of the body. 

You may have come to terms with the various symptoms of the disease, but did you know that your luscious locks may also be in jeopardy?

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between hair loss and diabetes. We’ll take a look at the hair growth cycle, if diabetes medication can cause hair loss and treatment options that may be right for you.

The Connection Between Hair Loss and Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects blood sugar levels, which subsequently affects every system of the body. 

It damages blood vessels and causes a chronic decrease in your body’s supply of oxygen and nutrients.

One side effect of type 2 diabetes can be hair alterations like severe hair loss, hair thinning, hair fragility, the sparseness of hair or decreased hair growth speed. 

In fact, shedding hair at a noticeable and significant pace can be one of the first warning signs of unchecked diabetes.

Different mechanisms in the body can explain the connection between hair loss and diabetes.

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

Diabetes causes poor blood circulation which can affect the ability of hair follicles to operate normally. 

This results in the follicle not producing a new strand of hair. When the old strand dies and falls, there is no replacement for the fallen hairs. 

This gradually changes your scalp, resulting in thinner and more sparsely located hairs.

Diabetes also causes both physiological and psychological stress and anxiety. Anxiety and stress are clear-cut factors in hair loss. 

Dehydration is a factor as well. When coupled with stress, it can result in severe hair loss.

In patients with type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. 

High blood sugar levels are very damaging to the body and need to be moved into cells as soon as possible. Insulin works by telling the liver and muscles to store blood sugar in the cells. 

Over time, cells in the body stop responding to all that insulin—they’ve become insulin resistant.

Some studies have found an association between androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and insulin resistance. 

It has been proposed that insulin resistance could produce microvascular impairment, thus playing a role in the development of AGA.

The key to getting your diabetes under control is discovering it early and treating it immediately. This will also aid in reducing further severe hair loss from the disease.

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The Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth takes place in a cyclical model that has three stages: growth phase (anagen), regression phase (catagen) and resting phase (telogen). 

The exogen phase refers to the hair shedding and does not occur during every cycle. The kenogen phase refers to a brief interval in which the hair follicle remains empty after the hair loss. 

During kenogen, the hair follicle rests, but duration and frequency are greater in AGA—possibly accounting for baldness. 

In addition to the classic hair growth cycle, the hair follicle may follow an alternative route during which the telogen phase ends with leaving the follicle empty.

Diabetes Medication and Hair Loss

Certain medications used for the treatment of diabetes can interrupt the normal cycle of hair growth. 

Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for people with diabetes. 

There are, unfortunately, some isolated reports of hair loss being a side effect of taking this medication. 

A 2013 study suggested that long-term use of metformin and folate can lead to a decrease in levels of Vitamin B12, resulting in hair loss. 

However, it’s important to note that the link between metformin and hair loss isn’t completely clear.

More often than not, if the hair loss is being caused by medication, it is reversed as your body adjusts to the medication later on.

Hair Loss Treatments

If your diabetes is causing hair loss, there are a few hair loss treatment options that may help you.

Medication

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a topical medication that comes in either the form of either a liquid or a foam. Minoxidil is designed for direct use on the areas of your scalp with noticeable hair loss. 

When minoxidil is applied to your scalp, it shortens the telogen (resting) phase of the hair cycle and encourages your hairs to enter into the anagen (growth) phase early.

Minoxidil usually produces noticeable results after around two months, with the most significant results usually visible after four months of regular use.

Minoxidil may be a good option for people with diabetes who are suffering from hair loss. We offer minoxidil online, either on by itself or as part of our Non-Prescription Hair Loss Kit.

Finasteride

DHT is the primary hormone responsible for AGA, or male pattern baldness. If you’re genetically sensitive to DHT, the small amount of DHT that’s produced by your body can have a serious negative impact on your hair over the long term.

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

As we mentioned earlier, some studies have found an association between AGA and insulin resistance. 

It has been proposed that insulin resistance may damage blood vessels, thus playing a role in the development of male pattern baldness.

It typically takes about six months before seeing results of finasteride on hair growth.

We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you.

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Diabetes and Hair Loss

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects many of your body’s components — including your hair follicles. 

If you have diabetes and are currently struggling with hair loss, we have solutions. Talk to your doctor to see if our treatment options may be right for you.

12 Sources

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.

  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/

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.

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