Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/27/2021
If you’re taking (or considering taking) sertraline or another antidepressant to treat depression, you may have gone down a rabbit hole reading about all the potential side effects.
One that may have caused you a little bit of concern? Risk of hair loss.
While taking antidepressant medications can be incredibly beneficial, we can all admit that hair loss isn’t exactly the most fun experience.
Truth is, hair loss is a sertraline side effect — but it’s very rare.
Keep reading to learn more about sertraline and other antidepressants, why they sometimes can lead to hair loss and how you can treat that hair loss if it does happen to you.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, sertraline is best known under the brand name Zoloft. It is part of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of antidepressant medications.
In fact, sertraline is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market. Tens of millions of prescriptions are written for it every year in the United States.
Sertraline is considered to be a safe and effective prescription medication. However, just like with any antidepressant (or medication in general), there are some side effects of sertraline that could happen.
Common adverse effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth and heartburn.
There are also some more serious, rare side effects that may accompany sertraline use — including seizures, hives, blood pressure issues, chest pain, muscle pain and difficulty breathing.
If you experience any of these side effects, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Sertraline-related hair loss is not common, but it can happen. Some case studies have connected antidepressants (including sertraline) with hair loss in a small number of people.
To better understand telogen effluvium, you have to know a bit about how your hair grows.
Then there is the catagen stage, when your strands transition from the anagen phase and growth stops.
The final phase is called the telogen phase, which is the resting stage.
The risk of hair loss from antidepressant medication is not restricted to sertraline. In fact, there is quite a list of antidepressants that may cause diffuse hair loss, especially other SNRIs and SSRIs.
These include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR), according to the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Citalopram (Celexa) may also cause hair loss, says The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychology.
However, patients taking the mood stabilizers lithium, valproate, and carbamazepine may notice an increased degree of hair loss, according to another Annals of Clinical Psychiatry report.
Before we dive into treatment options, a warning: It’s not a good idea to stop taking sertraline in hopes that it will make your hair grow back.
It’s important to seek medical attention before altering antidepressant dosage in any way. If you suddenly stop, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, like severe mood swings.
Plus, there’s no need for the discontinuation of sertraline just because of hair loss — since there are many other treatments you can try. Keep reading to learn more about them.
There are a few hair loss medications that may be able to help encourage hair regrowth. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one popular option is finasteride, a prescription medication commonly used to treat male pattern baldness.
It works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which is what causes you to lose hair.
The good news: It really works. In one study, it was found that 99.1 percent of men who took finasteride over a ten-year period stopped their hair loss from worsening.
Of those men, 91.5 percent of them noticed regrowth.
Finasteride is a tablet that must be taken on a daily basis. You can easily purchase finasteride online after obtaining a consultation with a healthcare professional. (Which you can also do online.)
While its exact mechanism of action is unknown, it’s believed to work by stimulating hair follicles to enter the anagen (growth) phase.
Minoxidil also increases blood flow to your scalp, which can stimulate hair growth. In fact, a 2019 review published in Drug Design, Development and Therapy of minoxidil found that it improved hair growth in those who suffer from pattern hair loss.
Finasteride and minoxidil work perfectly well on their own, but can be really effective when used together.
One study published by Dermatologic Therapy found that 94.1 percent of men dealing with hair loss showed an improvement in hair growth when taking both medications.
In the study, this was compared to 80.5 percent who saw an improvement using just finasteride and 50 percent who saw an improvement using only minoxidil.
The Hims Hair Power Pack offers you the chance to try both.
Another option to treat cases of hair loss or promote regrowth is to use a shampoo specifically made to thicken hair and stimulate growth.
When an International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology study compared finasteride and saw palmetto to see how they performed in encouraging hair regrowth, finasteride was found to be most effective, but saw palmetto also seemed to help.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, biotin — known as the healthy hair vitamin — is naturally found in foods like eggs, milk and bananas.
If you’re not getting enough naturally in your diet, a biotin supplement could help.
There are so many reasons to quit smoking: The habit wreaks havoc on your health and can lead to very serious (even fatal) health conditions.
While smoke is a pollutant that can damage your hair, cigarettes have also been found to damage the DNA of your hair follicles.
Although rare, hair loss could be one of the most unwanted side effects of taking an antidepressant.
The type of hair loss sertraline and other antidepressants could trigger is called telogen effluvium — which is essentially excessive shedding.
Thankfully, there are treatments that can help reverse this type of temporary hair loss and encourage regrowth.
If you are experiencing hair loss of any type, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment options for you.
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