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Does Semaglutide Cause Hair Loss?

Apr 11, 2024
Does Semaglutide Cause Hair Loss?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus, is used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. These medications are associated with significant weight loss. Hair loss is one potential side effect that semaglutide users have mentioned, which has led to inquiries like “Does semaglutide cause hair loss?” and “Is semaglutide hair loss reversible?” Is semaglutide hair loss the result of taking the medication or rapid weight loss?

Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. These medications work by stimulating the release of insulin and suppressing the release of glucagon, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Semaglutide (Ozempic, Rybelsus) has been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in people with diabetes.

Semaglutide also slows stomach emptying while reducing hunger and cravings. Weight loss was observed in early clinical trials for GLP-1 agonists. Wegovy is an injectable medication that treats obesity with higher doses of semaglutide.

Hair loss is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. A variety of factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, and certain medications, can contribute to hair loss. Recently, there has been some speculation about a possible link between semaglutide and hair loss. Some patients have reported experiencing hair loss while taking the medication, leading to concerns about its potential side effects.

In Wegovy clinical trials, 3% of adults and 4% of children aged 12 or older reported hair loss in the Wegovy treatment arm, compared to 1% of adults and 0% of adolescents taking the placebo. Hair loss is not reported as a side effect in the Ozempic medication insert.

Since some people report hair loss while taking semaglutide, what’s the link? Rapid weight loss, no matter what the cause, is linked to hair loss. This condition is called telogen effluvium.

A woman with hair loss.

Does Semaglutide Cause Hair Loss?

The exact mechanism by which semaglutide may cause hair loss is not yet fully understood. However, the stress of rapidly losing weight may contribute. Hair growth occurs in cycles, with each hair follicle going through a growth phase (this phase may last for years), a transition phase (lasts about 2 weeks), and a resting phase (2 to 3 months, when hair is shed). Rapid weight loss may disrupt this cycle, leading to increased hair shedding and hair loss.1

Acute telogen effluvium occurs within 2 to 3 months of the trigger, in this case, rapid weight loss. In About 95% of cases, acute hair loss resolves.

When hair loss lasts longer than 6 months, it is classified as chronic telogen effluvium.1

Is Semaglutide-Induced Hair Loss Reversible?

The reversibility of semaglutide-induced hair loss is still uncertain. Telogen effluvium is a condition in which hair goes into its resting phase more quickly, resulting in hair shedding and thinning. The hair follicle is not damaged, so hairs can return to their typical growth pattern.

Hair loss is common (57% of patients) after bariatric surgery, especially in those with low zinc, folic acid, and ferritin levels. Bariatric surgery is used to treat obesity, and, like GLP-1 medications, it can trigger rapid weight loss. Researchers report that hair loss stopped within about a year after surgery.2

More research is needed to determine whether hair loss stops when weight loss stabilizes and what factors contribute to hair loss.

Managing Hair Loss while taking Semaglutide

If you are experiencing hair loss while taking semaglutide, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. They may need to rule out a nutritional deficiency or a medical problem as a contributing cause.

Tips for Preventing or Minimizing Hair Loss with Semaglutide

While completely preventing hair loss while taking semaglutide may not be possible, there are steps you can take to minimize its impact, including:

  • Consume a well-balanced, nutritious diet to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Try to incorporate more protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains into your diet. Work with a nutritionist or dietician to ensure you are consuming plenty of protein.
  • To prevent damage to hair follicles, avoid excessive heat styling, chemical hair treatments, and harsh hair care products.
  • Check the side effects of other medications you are taking to verify whether they might contribute to hair loss.
  • Learn strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Ask your doctor about whether B complex, iron, biotin, and zinc supplements may help.
  • Ask your doctor whether topical minoxidil will help speed up hair regrowth.

The Potential Side Effects of Semaglutide

It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of any medication, including semaglutide. Hair loss is just one of many potential side effects that have been reported with semaglutide use. Other side effects may include:  

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dyspepsia
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal distension
  • Burping
  • Low blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Excess gas
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Gastritis

If you experience any side effects while taking semaglutide, talk with your doctor to see if you need any changes in your semaglutide dosage or dosage escalation plan.

While there may be a link between semaglutide and hair loss, the most likely cause is rapid weight loss. Talk with your doctor if you experience any side effects from the medication.

Invigor Medical, an online telewellness platform, offers several weight loss treatment plans, including semaglutide. If you have increased hair shedding or hair loss, contact an Invigor Medical healthcare provider to learn more about age management, lifestyle supplements, and finasteride, a medication used to treat male-pattern hair loss.

Disclaimer
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Does Semaglutide Cause Hair Loss?

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.

References

  • Asghar F, Shamim N, Farooque U, Sheikh H, Aqeel R. Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020 May 27;12(5):e8320. doi: 10.7759/cureus.8320. PMID: 32607303; PMCID: PMC7320655.
  • Zhang, W., Fan, M., Wang, C., Mahawar, K., Parmar, C., Chen, W., Yang, W., & on behalf of Global Bariatric Research Collaborative. (2021). Hair loss after metabolic and bariatric surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Surgery, 31(6), 2649–2659. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11695-021-05311-2

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