Birth control pills can cause hair loss due to their effect on a person’s hormones. Many prescription and nonprescription treatments are available for hair loss, or a person can switch to a nonhormonal form of birth control.

Any hormonal form of birth control — including oral pills, skin patches, hormone injections, and implants — can potentially cause hair loss. The ingredient in these products that may cause hair loss is progestinTrusted Source.

Progestin is a hormone that has androgenic activity, which means that it acts similarly to male hormones.

This article discusses birth control pills, their side effects, and how they may cause hair loss. It also examines the risk factors and treatments for hair loss. 

How birth control pills work

Birth control pills reduce the likelihood of pregnancy in a couple of waysTrusted Source.

Firstly, they prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. Secondly, they thicken cervical mucus, which helps keep sperm from reaching the egg.

Other forms of hormonal birth control, including skin patches, minipills, progestin shots, and vaginal rings, all work in the same way.

Types of birth control pills

There are two types of birth control pills: combined and progestin-only. Doctors prescribe them, and a person takes one daily at the same time each day. Depending on the type of pill, some people might have a 7-day break from taking it each month.

Combined pill

A combined birth control pill, which some people simply call “the pill,” is a combination of progestin and estrogen.

Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone, a hormone that the ovaries release naturally. The estrogen in the pills is also synthetic.

Due to the possible side effects, doctors may not prescribe these pills for:

  • people older than 35 years
  • those who smoke
  • individuals with a history of breast cancer or blood clots
Progestin-only pill

The progestin-only pill is sometimes called the minipill.

It contains only progestin and is an option for people who cannot take estrogen.

Side effects

Both types of birth control pills can cause side effects, which can vary among individuals.

Combined pill

Side effects may include:

  • breast tenderness
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • breakthrough bleeding

The combined pill also carries some health risks, which include:

Progestin-only pill

Bleeding changes are the most common side effect of progestin-only pills.

The changes may be unpredictable and involve short cycles of spotting. Less often, people taking the progestin-only pill may experience heavy bleeding or no bleeding at all.

Other side effects may include:

  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • nausea

Progestin-only pills do not have the risks that are associated with combined pills.

How the pill causes hair loss

Progestin is the component of birth control pills that causes hair loss.

Unlike natural progesterone, this synthetic form of the hormone has androgenic activity, so it may produce effects similar to those of male hormones.

The androgenic activity of birth control pills may cause various negative effects, including hair loss. Some progestins have a greater androgenic effect than others.

Birth control pills are more likely to cause hair loss in females who are hypersensitive to hormonal changes or have a predisposition to hormonal-related hair loss.

Those with a family history of hair loss should also be aware of this possible side effect. Anyone with concerns about hair loss can speak with a doctor about taking a pill that has low androgenic activity. Alternatively, they can ask about nonhormonal forms of birth control.