When you hear the word ‘steroid’, your eyes are quickly set on the goal of bulging muscles and a ripped six pack, right? Yet many of us try to ignore the potential side effects, including the debate between steroids and hair growth.
However, steroids weren’t actually created for people to get shredded and have many medical uses extending far beyond performance enhancement and bulking up.
As with any medication, there are side effects that you should be aware of. Some of these queries come up time and time again, including do steroids cause hair loss?
Corticosteroids vs anabolic steroids
Generally, there are two kinds of steroids that are most frequently used: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids offer a wide range of medical uses, including:
- Treatment of skin issues and allergies
- Blood disorders
- Arthritic conditions
- Eye conditions
Whilst anabolic steroids are primarily used to stimulate muscle tissue, encouraging it to grow and bulk up in response to exercise, affecting androgen levels. This can cause problems related to androgenic alopecia (aka male pattern baldness).
Do steroids cause hair loss?
It’s a common question for eager bodybuilders to ask: ‘can steroid injections cause hair loss?’. And the simple answer is: Some steroids do, and it’s not pretty.
The longer answer is that certain corticosteroids may contribute to hair loss. The FDA mentions that prednisolone has possible rare side effects that include thinning of the scalp hair.
However, the National Library of Medicine has suggested that prednisolone’s side effects and off-label benefits may actually increase hair growth – although we’re not quite convinced.
On the other side of the table are anabolics, a synthetic testosterone, that can have significant side effects, including on your hair. Unsafe for bodybuilding use, these types of steroids are often prescribed to treat medical conditions like hormone imbalances or diseases that cause muscle loss. But… It’s also these kinds of steroids that are abused most often by athletes and bodybuilders seeking enhanced performance.
These enhancements come at a risk, however. Anabolics can impact your whole body, with adverse side effects that interfere with all sorts of bodily functions, from sexual performance to hair loss.
If you don’t take anabolics for a genuine medical condition, they can have some nasty side effects that will impact your health as well as your hair. In short, they’re not worth it.
Steroids and hair growth: Can steroids treat hair loss?
Again, the simple answer is… it depends. In some cases, certain steroids have side effects that cause hair loss or damage whilst others encourage growth.
There’s also research that suggests that corticosteroids such as prednisone, typically used to treat inflammation and conditions such as allergies and arthritis, may also be a treatment for hair loss – but we’re not totally on board just yet.
However, this is typically in specific and rare cases where someone is suffering from alopecia areata – hair loss caused by autoimmune disease. Alopecia areata is a rare form of patchy baldness that affects about 2% of the general population and derives from the same kind of issue that corticosteroids are designed to treat! Seemingly, the boost to hair growth may come from the way it’s administered.
Popular safe and legal steroid alternatives
How to protect yourself from steroid hair loss
What should you do if you’re experiencing hair loss and you believe it might be steroid-induced? If you’re worried about steroids and hair growth – listen up.
Well, the first step is to contact your doctor or healthcare provider. They need to be aware of any side effects that you’re experiencing. This way, they can adjust dosages, recommend alternative/additional treatments, or even monitor the issue.
If you’re taking any steroids that a doctor hasn’t prescribed and you start to experience side effects, you need to tell them immediately. Steroids are a medical treatment and can be unsafe if acquired outside of a healthcare setting.
Unfortunately, those questioning ‘do steroids cause hair loss?’ are usually using them in a bodybuilding setting – not for medicinal use. Since they haven’t been prescribed by a medical professional, their side effects aren’t to be trusted.
Four ways to treat hair loss from steroid use
If you’re experiencing hair loss due to steroid use (or for any reason), there are several treatment options available that your healthcare provider can suggest and prescribe.
Also Read: Beginner Steroid Cycle Guide
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, two of the most effective products for hair growth are minoxidil and finasteride.
- FDA-approved Minoxidil is capable of stimulating hair growth. Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine and works by increasing blood flow to hair follicles, which can encourage them to return to the anagen phase, which is the hair growth phase of the hair cycle.
- Alternatively, finasteride is a prescription medication that regulates dihydrotestosterone (aka DHT), a hormone thought to be integral to male pattern baldness. By taking it daily, finasteride can reduce your DHT levels – in some cases up to 70%.
- Pay attention to your diet! Ensure that you’re getting a balanced intake of vitamins. Essential vitamins for hair health include vitamin A, vitamin D and biotin.
- Special shampoos with ingredients targeting hair growth and work to prevent hair loss might also help stimulate your scalp and hair follicles.
Steroids without hair loss: The rise of SARMs
With anabolics having such nasty and potentially life-altering side effects, how can you maximize your gains safely and without losing your hair? No matter which anabolic steroid you opt for, one popular concern is Anavar and hair loss. But that’s not the only steroid here to avoid.
So, how can you avoid worrying about whether steroids cause hair loss? By choosing natural steroids and SARMs. Over the past few years, the rise in SARMs has many reconsidering if their bulking aspirations are worth the side effects, particularly the risk to their hair.
With natural steroids and SARMs alternatives, you don’t need to worry that you’re risking your health whilst working towards your muscle goals.
Also Read: The benefits of slow weight loss for cutting
However, even SARMs come with their concerns, especially with the FDA. Anavar and hair loss aside (and other popular cutting steroids), while SARMs may have fewer side effects (including the impact of steroids and hair growth), they’re all best avoided.
But there is another way.
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