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Do anabolic steroids cause hair loss?

Do anabolic steroids cause hair loss?

Hair loss is a common, everyday issue. Indeed, we all lose hair daily and this process is normal. However, there can be instances where an abnormal hair loss is observed, which could potentially lead to baldness in the long run. External factors can promote, or even trigger, this hair loss process. Among these, anabolic steroids are suspected to be part of the various causes of hair loss.

Summary
Published January 31, 2024, by Manon, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Anabolic Steroids, what are they?

Anabolic steroids are substances that mimic the activity of testosterone in the body. They were developed in the late 1930s with the aim of treating hypogonadism, a condition related to insufficient production of testosterone.

These anabolic steroids are a form of synthetic testosterone to be taken as a supplement in order to restore natural testosterone. This latter is a hormone that plays a crucial role in the development of typically male characteristics. Taking steroids stimulates the production of certain proteins responsible for muscle development or bone growth.

Anabolic steroids, for which the androgenic effects have been reduced in favour of anabolic effects, were primarily used by professional athletes around the 1950s. Their use thus offered them numerous advantages in developing their strength and muscle mass. However, in 1975 they were banned by the International Olympic Committee.

It is crucial to bear in mind that the consumption of anabolic steroids is not without risk to our health and it has several side effects. Among them, hair loss is often mentioned: but is this really the case?

Do anabolic steroids cause hair loss?

Until now, no scientific study has officially proven that the intake of anabolic steroids leads to hair loss. However, it has been demonstrated that it promotes certain phenomena associated with hair loss.

Indeed, anabolic steroids are responsible for an enlargement of the sebaceous glands leading to an increase in sebum secretion. This is due to the binding to androgen receptors present in sebocytes which activates sebum secretion. An excess of sebum can disrupt hair growth and cause long-term hair loss.

Furthermore, the intake of anabolic steroids has shown a enlargement of the sebaceous glands correlated with the enzymatic activity of 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The latter is a more concentrated form of testosterone. Some studies have shown that DHT increases the expression of IL-6. This is an interleukin that accelerates the transition between the anagen and catagen phases. Thus our hair spends less time in the growth phase and quickly moves into the catagen and then telogen phases, during which the hair no longer grows and eventually detaches from its hair follicle.

Certain types of anabolic steroids could increase the risk of hair loss by elevating the levels of dihydrotestosterone DHT. This is the case for: winstrol, trenbolone, and anadrol.

Generally speaking, if you notice an abnormal hair loss, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist who will guide you towards the appropriate course of action.

Sources

KWACK M. H. & al. Dihydrotestosterone-Inducible IL-6 Inhibits Elongation of Human Hair Shafts by Suppressing Matrix Cell Proliferation and Promotes Regression of Hair Follicles in Mice. Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2012).

Thèse de Pauline BAZIN. Conséquences du dopage à long terme chez l’homme – Cas particuliers des stéroïdes anabolisants, de l’érythropoïétine et de l’hormone de croissance. (2017).

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