Does Ozempic cause hair loss?
last updated: Dec 11, 2023
4 min read
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Ozempic has revolutionized the world of weight management, but as more and more people start using this drug and others like it, stories are surfacing about an association between Ozempic and hair loss. We spoke with Dr. Raoul Manalac-––a board certified Obesity Medicine Specialist––about whether Ozempic causes hair loss. Read on.
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Does Ozempic cause hair loss?
“Hair loss is not a common side effect currently listed in the prescribing information of semaglutide [the active ingredient in Ozempic],” says Dr. Manalac. “That being said,” explains Manalac, the association between rapid weight loss and hair loss exists: “Sometimes people can experience hair loss as a result of losing weight in general, and hair loss did occur in a minority of patients receiving treatment with semaglutide as observed in clinical trials.”
Studies show that a sudden decrease in calorie intake, like from crash dieting, can cause hair loss, and this dip in calorie consumption can be common with drugs like Ozempic, even if you’re not using them for weight management.
While Ozempic wasn’t initially designed as a weight loss treatment, the weight loss effects of the drug were so significant that they sparked studies that eventually resulted in the medication being approved under the brand name Wegovy as a weight loss treatment. How does it work? The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is a GLP-1 receptor agonist (or GLP-1 for short).
This class of medications mimics a naturally occurring hormone in your body known as GLP-1, which plays an important role in appetite and digestion. By mimicking this hormone, Ozempic and drugs like it (including Wegovy, Zepbound, Mounjaro, and others) slow the transit of food through the digestive system, helping you feel fuller for longer. They also reduce cravings, resulting in an overall reduction in food intake.
GLP-1’s can produce some minor side effects, but they typically affect your digestive system (like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea).Semaglutide works best for weight loss when combined with exercise and a healthy diet, which for some people means rapid weight loss (an average of up to 15% of body weight in one year when combined with diet and exercise). This means that people may experience hair loss at the same time as taking semaglutide, due to the rather quick weight loss, but not necessarily because of the drug itself.
That said, some of the health conditions that can prompt people to take semaglutide in the first place can cause hair loss, too. We’ll explore both of these concepts in more detail below.
Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Zepbound Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Mounjaro Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
How common is Ozempic hair loss?
According to clinical trials on semaglutide, only 3% of adults taking the highest dose of the drug for weight loss (2.4mg per week) experienced hair loss. In other words, most people are able to lose weight while taking semaglutide without losing their hair.
So, while possible, hair loss while taking semaglutide isn’t very common. “Hair loss is more typically associated with people who lose the most weight and do so rapidly,” says Dr. Manalac.
What could be happening?
Healthy hair growth depends on a number of factors, including a person’s nutrition and diet, hormone balance, and overall health. Hair grows in a cycle, passing through several phases as it grows and is later shed. Some disruptions to this cycle, like nutritional deficiencies and health conditions, can cause hair loss to occur.
Hair loss and dieting
Hair loss is actually not uncommon in people who lose weight by dieting. According to Dr. Manalac, the human body is highly sensitive to intense changes—especially those that are due to weight loss efforts involving severe calorie restriction. “Crash dieting can often cause hair cycling issues and decrease energy supply to the hair matrix,” says Dr. Manalac.
This type of hair loss, called telogen effluvium, is associated with weight loss, lack of nutrition, and stress. Dr. Malanac explains that, in a normal scalp, about 5 to 10% of hair follicles are in the resting or 'telogen phase' of the hair growth cycle at any given time. “If intense stress or nutritional deficiency triggers telogen effluvium, hairs get shifted into the telogen phase.”
Telogen effluvium usually results in hair shedding over the entire scalp (as opposed to hair loss in a particular shape or due to a change in the health of the hair shaft itself, as can happen with other types of hair loss). While this can be stressful, Dr. Manalac reassures that “telogen effluvium does not typically progress to balding even though it might seem like a lot of hair is being lost.” Commonly, a person will experience excess hair shedding for two or three months, after which point their hair will stabilize and begin to regrow; it can take 6 to 12 months for a person’s overall hair appearance to significantly improve.
Hair loss and diabetes
Another possible cause of hair loss can be the health issue a person using Ozempic is trying to treat: Diabetes. Hair loss can be linked to diabetes, and may sometimes even occur as an early sign of type 2 diabetes.
This can occur for a few reasons. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with uncontrolled blood sugar levels, which may disrupt the cycle of hair growth and regrowth. High blood sugar can damage your blood vessels, especially tiny vessels called capillaries that are responsible for circulating blood, nutrients, and oxygen to organs and skin tissue—including your scalp. When the scalp can’t get the nourishment it needs, it can’t grow and replace hair like it normally would.
There may also be a link between diabetesand other autoimmune conditions that affect the thyroid, which can cause hair loss as well.
How to treat Ozempic hair loss
Chances are that if you’re taking semaglutide, you’ve been working to lose weight for some time. If you notice hair loss at any point in your weight loss journey, be sure to tell your healthcare provider. If you’re dieting, your calorie intake may be too low—which can put you at risk for hair loss due to telogen effluvium.
Fortunately, since telogen effluvium tends to resolve on its own, you may not have to worry much about taking extra steps to regrow your hair. Semaglutide is designed to be used in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet, so you won’t be doing your health (or your hair) any favors by crash dieting along with your prescribed dose of medication. Try to eat a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Your provider can help to evaluate your diet as well as guide your next steps for managing hair loss. An understanding of where hair loss is occurring on your head and establishing how much hair you’re losing will inform what treatment options may be available, such as a topical medication like minoxidil or finasteride.
Again, hair loss that’s due to rapid weight loss tends to be short-term and improves over time. However, Dr. Manalac emphasizes that a healthcare provider should be made aware of hair loss that continues or becomes more severe in case there’s an underlying health issue that may benefit from additional treatment.
Oral Minoxidil Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Finasteride Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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