However, if you’re losing much more than this, you may wonder if you’re doing something wrong. Could that glass of wine you enjoy in the evenings be harming your hair?
It isn’t likely. There’s no direct link between alcohol use and hair loss. That being said, heavy drinking may lead to situations, like nutritional deficiencies or hormonal issues, that can thin out your locks.
Keep in mind there are multiple types of hair loss, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your type of hair condition and potential cause.
Other lifestyle factors that often go along with drinking, like smoking, may make hair loss worse and lead to other issues related to appearance as well. Here’s what you need to know.
Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to deficiencies or malabsorption of key nutrients. In particular, there’s evidence that not getting enough zinc, copper, or protein may lead to hair shedding.
Iron may have a role in hair loss in certain people, but how it exactly affects hair remains unclear. Results from studies have been inconsistent.
In some cases, people who drink heavily may not eat enough nutrients due to poor diet. In other cases, alcohol actually interferes with the way the body processes and uses food during digestion.
Excessive drinking can lead to a decrease in the amount of iron-rich foods a person consumes.
Scientists are still unclear if there’s a direct link between iron deficiency and hair loss. A 2013 study suggested iron may be a factor in a certain type of hair loss in women. But there’s no recommendation for iron supplementation broadly as a treatment.
Recommended daily intake of iron is between 11 and 18 milligrams for most nonpregnant adults.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Here are the common signs and symptoms of an iron deficiency.
Zinc and copper
Alcohol may affect zinc and copper absorption.
A 2013 study involving people with four different kinds of hair loss — alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, female pattern hair loss, and male pattern hair loss — revealed zinc deficiency may contribute to hair loss.
According to the researchers, other investigators have concluded that low serum levels of copper may be a factor in hair loss, too. Scientists are still looking to figure out exactly why this might be.
According to the National Institutes of Health, most people in the United States get adequate zinc from their diet. However, there’s a concern that adults older than 60 may be at risk for zinc deficiency, particularly if access to food is limited. The recommended daily amount of zinc for most adults is 8 to 11 milligrams.
It’s not common in the United States to experience copper deficiency due to diet. However, people who have had weight loss surgery or have celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease may be at risk for lower than normal levels.
The daily recommended amount of copper is 2 milligrams.
Drinking alcohol may also interfere with the absorption of protein or lead to lower protein consumption.
Studies show a severe deficiency in protein can lead to a number of skin, hair, and nail issues. You may experience anything from flaky skin and brittle nails to thinning hair or hair loss. Here are more signs and symptoms of a protein deficiency.
In general, the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To get your individual recommendation for grams of daily protein, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.
Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can affect your thyroid and the overall hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis. It can also affect other hormone interactions responsible for regulating a wide variety of processes in the body, like hair growth and hair shedding.
In fact, severe or long-lasting hypo- and hyperthyroidism may cause hair loss and thinning of the hair across the whole scalp. This may happen suddenly or over the course of months to years. That said, scientists share that mild or short-term cases of these conditions don’t typically lead to hair loss.
There’s also a link between alcohol withdrawal and thyroid disorders. Researchers explain that chronic damage from alcohol to the thyroid gland may be to blame in these cases.
Sometimes, social drinking and smoking go hand in hand.
Smoking is associated with skin issues like wrinkles. The nicotine in cigarettes, along with other chemicals, affect the skin and hair. It can narrow blood vessels and impact blood flow so the skin isn’t able to get necessary oxygen and nutrients.
- slows wound healing
- promotes cancer
- increases the risk of certain ongoing skin conditions, such as psoriasis
There are also some 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke that can damage collagen and elastin, leading to sagging skin and premature aging.
One study specifically explored the relationship between smoking and baldness. It found a significant link between the two. This is likely from the effects of smoke on the hair itself. It can damage the hair follicles and impair other factors of the hair growth cycle.
Heavy alcohol use can have other effects on your overall appearance. Again, this is usually because alcohol interacts with normal body functions and may lead to deficiencies in key vitamins and nutrients.
Other effects can include:
- puffiness in the face
- ruddy complexion
- rosacea or psoriasis
- spots on the skin
- bloodshot eyes
In addition, alcohol-related liver injury can go on to affect the skin and scalp.
The good news is that treating the underlying cause of your hair loss may help you jump-start the growth process.
If your alcohol use and its associated effects might be a factor, consider how much you drink. Experts recommend keeping alcohol use to moderate levels. This means one drink per day or less for most women and two drinks per day or less for most men.
A single drink is equivalent to:
- 5 ounces of wine
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits
However, a recent study that looked at the health impacts of alcohol worldwide suggests there’s no absolute safe level of alcohol use.
Once you address your drinking, do the following:
- Eat a balanced diet. Focus on nutrients like iron, zinc, copper, and protein. Ask your doctor about supplementation to address any nutritional deficiencies.
- Drink plenty of water. On average, men should aim to drink about 15.5 cups of fluids each day, women should aim for 11.5 cups.
- See your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your hair loss. Depending on your type of hair loss, you many need to have your thyroid levels checked. Medication or other treatments may be needed to get your levels back to normal ranges.
- Stop smoking. Your doctor can help point you to resources and local support to quit smoking. They can also prescribe medications that may help you quit. You can also visit SmokeFree.gov.
Keep in mind that even temporary hair loss may not immediately respond to these measures. In general, it can take six to nine months for normal hair growth to resume. People who have hereditary hair loss and other conditions may not see regrowth without specific treatment.
If you’ve noticed an increased rate of hair shedding or areas of hair loss, contact your doctor. Heavy drinking and associated conditions or lifestyle factors may have an impact on your skin and hair.
That said, there are many types of hair loss and other medical conditions that can cause hair loss or shedding. Some conditions may need additional medical attention before hair growth can resume. Your doctor can run the necessary tests to help identify the root cause of your issues.