Question of the Month
What are your thoughts on reported connections
between acne treatments tetracycline/minocycline and hair loss? I began to
experience mild acne a little less than a year ago and was prescribed
tetracycline. After a couple of months the acne cleared, but I also noticed
significant thinning in the temple areas. I stopped taking the medication over 5
months ago and there's been no regrowth. My dermatologist told me there was no
connection, but I had no lifestyle changes besides the medication to cause the
I am asked similar questions frequently.
Acne is due to the action of testosterone on
the skin. Female alopecia (hair loss) is
also usually due to testosterone action. Testosterone can also cause
hirsutism (excessive or unwanted facial
and body hair). For this reason, many women who have one of the three problems (acne,
alopecia) have one or both of the other
problems. Accutane (isotretinoin) is the only acne
medication which might contribute to alopecia.
Antibiotics and topicals will not. Most birth control pills, if they have any
effect, will help alopecia somewhat, but
there is suspicion that those containing the progestin levonorgestrel could
contribute to alopecia. However no one
should stop or change her medications without discussing with her physician.
So to answer your question directly, when a woman with
unwanted hair has alopecia, it is
likely that the hair loss is due to the underlying condition rather than
Very few medications, other than cancer chemotherapy, cause hair loss. As
discussed in my web article on alopecia,
even if testosterone is normal it can still cause female hair loss.
Hope this is helpful.
Geoffrey Redmond, MD
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