It’s no secret that these days it’s the middle-aged, middle class Britons who are drinking the rest of us under the table. Surveys show that over-50s in the UK have become ‘problem’ drinkers, with their leisurely bottle of wine over dinner every night causing more long-term health issues than the binge drinking of those in their 20s and 30s.
Among the problems associated with long term excessive alcohol consumption – that’s regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limit of 2-3 units for women or 3-4 for men – are diabetes, obesity and liver disease. But could heavy drinking also cause hair loss?
There are a number of ways in which drinking can affect hair loss, both directly and indirectly. Not only can alcohol make genetic hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, worse, but it can also actually cause hair thinning in some instances.
Direct causes of hair loss
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes drinkers to urinate more often, which not only leads to dehydration, which can make hair dry and brittle, meaning it breaks easily and is more likely to fall out, but also to mineral depletion.
Zinc and iron are both essential for healthy hair growth, and iron depletion in particular is a leading cause of hair loss in women. When drinkers urinate more frequently, they are not just getting rid of the excess liquid in their system, but also shedding important vitamins and minerals – such as zinc and iron – before they have had a chance to be absorbed by the body.
Hormone imbalance is known to be linked to hair loss, with conditions such as hyperthyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome as well as the menopause all linked to thinning hair. Diabetes is also a hormone-related disease, and is often caused by excessive drinking, as alcohol contains high levels of sugar.
Hormone problems can affect the hair growth cycle, making hair fall out more frequently, or slowing down the rate at which it grows back.
So if you are in your 50s or 60s and think that your drinking might be a problem, it is worth considering that not only are you doing your body some serious damage, you could also be inadvertently causing premature hair loss. If you want to keep a full head of hair for as long as possible, try cutting down to just one or two drinks per week.