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Does semaglutide (Ozempic) cause hair loss?

Semaglutide, sold under the brand name Ozempic, is a medication primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes. While side effects can vary from person to person, hair loss is not commonly reported as a side effect of semaglutide.

Image of a girl showing off her long blonde hair

Key takeaways

  • Hair loss is not commonly listed as a known side effect of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, according to official prescribing information.
  • Semaglutide-induced significant weight reduction may trigger temporary hair loss, potentially worsening by pre-existing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which can increase susceptibility to alopecia areata.
  • Certain diabetes and weight loss medications, such as semaglutide,and metformin, can potentially induce hair loss as a side effect.
  • If you're experiencing hair loss while taking semaglutide, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the cause and explore appropriate management options.

Ozempic, containing the active ingredient semaglutide, is a prescription medication utilized to mitigate the impact of type 2 diabetes by aiding the body in insulin hormone production. Semaglutide is a medication classified as a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA).

Wegovy, also semaglutide-based medication, aids weight management in adults with obesity or overweight conditions, often accompanying health issues like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. While it primarily targets weight loss by regulating appetite and food intake through and mimicking the GLP-1 hormone, it also carries the potential risk of side effects, including hair loss.

How semaglutide works

Semaglutide works in the following ways:

GLP-1 Receptor Agonist

Semaglutide functions by activating the GLP-1 receptors, which are typically stimulated by the natural hormone GLP-1 found in the gut. GLP-1 helps regulate your blood sugar level by triggering insulin release from the pancreas and inhibiting the release of glucagon, a hormone that elevates blood sugar levels.

Blood Sugar Regulation

By activating the GLP-1 receptors, semaglutide assists in blood sugar management through various mechanisms:

  • Enhancing insulin release from the pancreas when blood sugar levels are high, aiding in the reduction of post-meal blood sugar levels.
  • Suppressing the secretion of glucagon, thereby diminishing glucose production by the liver.
  • Slowing down the digestive process by delaying the emptying of food from the stomach into the intestines, which aids in regulating blood sugar increase after meals.

Weight Management

At higher doses, semaglutide has received approval for treating obesity as well. Its weight loss efficacy results from appetite suppression and reduced food consumption, resulting in calorie restriction and eventual weight loss.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Certain research indicates potential cardiovascular advantages associated with GLP-1 receptor agonists, including semaglutide, such as a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. However, the precise mechanisms underlying these benefits are still under investigation.

In summary, semaglutide enhances blood sugar management in individuals with type 2 diabetes by emulating the effects of GLP-1, resulting in improved glycemic control and possibly additional health advantages.

Does semaglutide cause hair loss and hair thinning?

Semaglutide on its own does not commonly cause hair loss or hair thinning. An FDA record does show various reports of hair loss (alopecia) associated with semaglutide, but there is no substantial evidence yet that conclusively indicates that this medication does cause hair loss.

However, hair loss is a common occurrence when you lose significant weight, whether the weight loss is achieved through medications, self-directed dietary changes, or surgical procedures. This phenomenon is more commonly observed in women and is often attributed to hormonal shifts associated with weight loss, rather than being a direct result of the medication itself.

The primary reasons for hair loss during obesity treatment typically stem from swift weight reduction and deficiencies in essential vitamins and trace minerals.

It's not uncommon to observe cases of hair loss associated with GLP-1 medications like semaglutide, as they can induce significant and rapid weight loss similar to very low-calorie diets. However, hair tends to regrow within three to six months after weight stabilizes, especially with nutrient supplementation and close dietary management or nutritional counseling.

Possible reasons for experiencing hair loss when on semaglutide

Hair loss while taking semaglutide may be due to various factors:

1. Rapid Weight Loss

Semaglutide can lead to significant weight reduction, and rapid weight loss is a known cause of hair loss. The body may respond to rapid changes by shedding hair temporarily. Ozempic, used for weight loss, may trigger telogen effluvium, hair loss due to body stress from rapid weight reduction.

2. Hormonal Changes

Hair loss can be influenced by changes in hormone levels, which might happen during weight loss or as a result of medication. These hormonal fluctuations can disrupt the normal cycle of hair growth, leading to hair loss.

3. Nutrient Deficiencies

Weight loss caused by semaglutide may lead to a reduced intake of essential nutrients, which could result in deficiencies crucial for maintaining healthy hair. 

Among individuals experiencing hair loss after bariatric surgery or significant weight loss, the most prevalent deficiencies in vitamins and minerals typically include zinc, iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12.

Additionally, inadequate protein intake might contribute to hair thinning. It's worth noting that excessive vitamin A supplementation has also been associated with increased hair loss.

4. Underlying Health Conditions

Hair loss might signal underlying health conditions like thyroid disorders or autoimmune diseases, which could become more pronounced or revealed during obesity treatment involving semaglutide. 

While type 2 diabetes isn't autoimmune, those with it may be more prone to alopecia areata, where the body attacks hair follicles.

If you are experiencing hair loss while taking semaglutide, it's essential to consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate management strategies.

5. Medications

Hair loss is linked to various medications, including certain antidepressants and birth control pills and if you are taking these medications along with semaglutide, you may experience hair loss.

Before approving Wegovy, the FDA highlighted hair loss as a concern in Novo Nordisk's trials. Similarly, doctors observed increased alopecia reports in Eli Lilly's trials of tirzepatide for obesity.

The hair on the surface of your body is far more complex than it appears. It contributes to your physical appearance and helps transmit sensory information. Changes in your hair can tell a lot about the state of your health.

Side effects of semaglutide

Side effects of semaglutide vary among individuals because individual responses to medications can vary. 

Some of the side effects of semaglutide include:

Less common side effects of semaglutide include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Kidney problems.

It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and monitoring while taking semaglutide.

Other diabetes and weight loss medications that may cause hair loss

Some diabetes and weight loss medications that may potentially cause hair loss include:

Metformin

While not commonly reported, some individuals taking metformin, a widely used medication for type 2 diabetes, have reported hair loss as a side effect. 

Metformin works by lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity.

Hair loss has been associated with the use of metformin, in rare instances. The connection might be indirect, as long-term use of metformin could elevate the risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency, a condition known to contribute to hair loss. 

Nevertheless, it's important to note that hair loss experienced by individuals on metformin may also result from underlying health issues rather than solely from the medication itself.

Wegovy (Semaglutide)

Wegovy is a relatively new medication approved for chronic weight management. It's a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, similar to other drugs like Victoza (liraglutide). 

Hair loss isn't typically listed as a common side effect of Wegovy, but any medication that affects hormonal balance could potentially impact hair health.

Mounjaro (tirzepatide)

Mounjaro is a prescription medication, which contains tirzepatide. Like Wegovy, Mounjaro is a GLP-1 receptor agonist used for weight management. 

While hair loss isn't a commonly reported side effect, it's important to monitor for any changes in hair health while taking this medication.

How to prevent hair loss while on semaglutide

Preventing hair loss while taking semaglutide involves a combination of proactive measures:

  • Make sure your diet provides vital nutrients such as iron, zinc, biotin, and vitamins A, C, D, and E, as they are essential for maintaining healthy hair.
  • Stay adequately hydrated by drinking enough water daily to help keep your scalp moisturized, thereby promoting healthy hair growth.
  • Avoid overusing heat styling tools, tightly pulling hairstyles, and harsh chemical treatments, as they can harm hair follicles and result in breakage.
  • Reducing stress is important, as it can contribute to hair loss. Incorporate stress-relief techniques into your routine, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Semaglutide might influence vitamin absorption, it's advisable to consult your healthcare provider regarding the monitoring of your vitamin levels and potential supplementation, particularly for vitamin B-12.
  • Stay in communication with your healthcare provider regarding any alterations in your hair condition while on semaglutide. They can provide advice and make necessary adjustments to your treatment regimen.

When to see a doctor for hair loss

It's advisable to consult a doctor for hair loss if you notice:

  1. Sudden or significant hair loss
  2. Hair loss accompanied by other symptoms like itching, pain, or skin irritation
  3. Hair loss after starting a new medication, including semaglutide
  4. Hair loss that persists despite making lifestyle changes or using over-the-counter remedies
  5. Hair loss that affects your self-esteem or emotional well-being

A healthcare provider, especially a dermatologist or a specialist in hair disorders, can help diagnose the underlying cause of hair loss and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Final words

In conclusion, while hair loss is not commonly listed as a known side effect of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, it's important to recognize that individual responses to medications can vary. 

Some users may experience hair loss as an uncommon or rare side effect, possibly due to factors such as changes in vitamin absorption or underlying health conditions. 

If you are experiencing hair loss while taking semaglutide, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance. They can determine whether the hair loss is indeed linked to the medication or if there are other contributing factors and provide appropriate recommendations for management.