Does Wegovy cause hair loss?

Reviewed by Beverly Tchang, MD, 

Written by Jessica Migala 

Reviewed by Beverly Tchang, MD, 

Written by Jessica Migala 

last updated: Jun 21, 2024

4 min read

Key takeaways

  • Although not considered a common side effect, hair loss on Wegovy has been reported in some studies and in anecdotal accounts on social media. 

  • Sudden and rapid weight loss may cause a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium. 

  • While hair loss on Wegovy tends to be short-term, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider if you notice any changes and to address other contributing factors, such as nutrient deficiencies.

If you’ve recently started taking Wegovy (semaglutide) or been considering giving the medication a go, you likely expect to lose weight—not hair. After all, hair loss isn’t considered a common side effect of Wegovy. Still, however, a quick search online reveals anecdotal reports of hair loss and shedding experienced on the drug. 

So, what’s the deal? Does Wegovy actually cause hair loss? Keep reading to find out that answer, why some folks might experience hair loss on Wegovy, and how to prevent and treat this potential side effect. 

Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

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Does Wegovy cause hair loss? 

It can.

In clinical trials, 3% of adults who took the drug said they experienced hair loss. For reference, 44% had nausea, 30% diarrhea, and 24% vomiting on Wegovy—all of which are considered far more common side effects than shedding strands. 

Nevertheless, it’s evident from the studies—and the anecdotal reports of users on social media—that hair loss on Wegovy is possible. So, why can it happen?

Wegovy is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, a type of medication that mimics the GLP-1 hormone naturally found in the gut that regulates appetite and satiety. By binding to GLP-1 receptors, the drug tells the pancreas to release more insulin post-eating, which helps lower and stabilize blood sugars. Wegovy also slows down gastric emptying, increasing the time it takes for food to move from the stomach to the intestines and leaving you feeling fuller sooner. The result? Reduced appetite, fewer total calories consumed, and, when taken in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet, weight loss. 

In one study, participants on Wegovy lost nearly 15% of their body weight on average after 68 weeks (a little over a year). Depending on certain factors (e.g. starting body weight), this can translate to a quick and significant weight loss—and that’s where hair loss can come in. 

Studies show that drastic drops in weight and changes in diet can cause hair loss, specifically a condition known as telogen effluvium (TE). TE is characterized by hair loss from all over the scalp, in a pattern that’s different from other types of hair loss, such as “male-patterned baldness” or “androgenic alopecia.” The condition is commonly triggered by psychological or physical stress, such as childbirth, moving to a new home, experiencing a death in the family, as well as, yup, sudden weight loss. This already understood clinical phenomenon is what leads some experts to believe TE may be one reason some people experience hair loss on Wegovy as well as other GLP-1s

Hair follicles cycle between phases. In a healthy, normal scalp, 90-95% of the follicles are in the growth (anagen) phase while the remainder are in the resting (telogen) phase. During the latter, you shed about 100-150 strands daily, but it’s often not drastic enough to sound alarm. 

However, going through a period of stress can signal to your body to send more of your hair follicles into the resting phase, leading to increased shedding 2-3 months after the stressful event. Yes, you read that right: TE occurs quite a bit after you, say, suddenly dropped several pounds, which can make the shedding “en masse” (to quote researchers) particularly unexpected and challenging to diagnose. 

Aside from significant weight loss, hair loss on Wegovy may also be the result of nutritional deficiencies. Decreased hunger due to the medication can lead you to consume fewer calories and potentially skimp on certain key nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin D—all of which can contribute to hair loss

While more research is needed to understand how GLP-1 drugs, such as Wegovy, are directly linked to hair loss, there are also benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity and better blood flow around the body (including to the scalp), which may improve the health of follicles and support healthy hair growth. 

How common is Wegovy hair loss?

While Wegovy can cause hair loss, it’s not likely to do so. 

As mentioned above, clinical trials found that about 3% of adults taking Wegovy reported hair loss while about 1% of those in the placebo group did. That suggests that although hair loss may be possible, most people taking the medication won’t experience it. 

How to prevent and treat Wegovy hair loss 

Unfortunately, there’s not all that much you can do to prevent hair loss on Wegovy.

But if you’re noticing that you are losing strands while on the medication, contact your healthcare provider. Not only can they help determine whether your shedding is truly due to TE, but they can also make sure other underlying causes aren’t to blame. For example, your provider may suggest blood tests to rule out anemia (or a low red blood cell count) and other medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, which can also lead to hair loss. Some providers may even check a zinc level, because zinc deficiencies can contribute to hair loss as well.  

Keep in mind that the goal of taking Wegovy is to lose weight to improve your overall health, and that the medication should be taken in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet—not a crash diet or a drastic cut of calories. Instead, try to follow a balanced diet that’s packed with nutrient-rich foods, such as those high in protein and fiber. Need help maintaining these positive dietary changes? Don’t be afraid to turn to a healthcare provider. Through Ro, for example, you can get access to ongoing care to help you navigate your weight loss journey and reach your goals with optimal nutrition. 

Fortunately, TE tends to resolve on its own, and hair should start to regrow within 6 months. That being said, certain hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil, might help address your shedding. Before trying out these treatments, however, it’s a good idea to (as you probably guessed) consult your healthcare provider. 

Oral Minoxidil Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

DISCLAIMER

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.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

June 21, 2024

Written by

Jessica Migala

Fact checked by

Beverly Tchang, MD


About the medical reviewer

Beverly Tchang, MD, is an Obesity Medicine Advisor for Ro. She is also an assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and triple board-certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, and Obesity Medicine.

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