Hair Treatments


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What are hair treatments?

The term hair treatment can refer to any therapy that is intended to slow, or reverse alopecia, which is hair loss (baldness). Whereas alopecia occurs more often in men, women also can experience the condition, as a result of genetics, hormonal changes, or cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, or radiation therapy that involves the scalp. Hair therapy can include surgical transplantation of hair follicles (hair transplant), or patches of scalp, or removal of small areas of baldness, but it also includes drug therapy. This report covers the latter category, which includes two main medications. One medication, called minoxidil, is applied topically to the scalp. The other medication, called finasteride, is taken internally as a pill, as is a similar medication called dutasteride. Since these drugs work by interfering with the interaction between male hormones and cell surface molecules called receptors, their value is greatest in treating male baldness, and there has been some controversy regarding whether they can help thicken hair in women. Nevertheless, research suggests that the drugs do help some women thicken their hair, and consequently there is a growing number of women using the therapy.

As for cosmetic hair treatments, such as those administered at hair salons, these are generally considered safe for pregnant women, although if you work in a hair salon administering hair treatments while pregnant, you should use gloves and other precautions. This is because your exposure to chemical agents in the various reagents applied to hair will be much higher than the exposure of a woman who simply receives the treatment once in a while. For some of the pros and cons of using hair dye during pregnancy, check out this article from our blog, The Pulse.

Is there a safe level of hair medication that I can use during pregnancy?

There is growing concern that finasteride and dutasteride could be harmful to male babies, because they are hormonal drugs called 5-alpha reductase Inhibitors. They promote hair growth by interfering with receptors for male hormones. This means that there is a strong reason to think that the medication could affect male babies in particular. This concern requires evidence to back it up, which means that studies are needed. To be safe, however, you should consider avoiding finasteride while pregnant. There is also some concern that minoxidil could harm the developing baby, if absorbed into the mothers bloodstream, but this also is not proven and requires study.

Can hair medication make it harder for me to get pregnant?

There is a great deal of concern among researchers that use of finasteride by men can have a negative impact on fertility through mechanisms involving sperm quality, libido, and erection capability. Pregnancy by males taking finasteride has been documented however, and studies are needed to determine whether, and how much, finasteride interferes with male fertility. In the meantime, keep in mind that it is possible that it could be harder for you to become pregnant, if your male partner uses finesteride.

Can hair medication cause a miscarriage?

Hair medications, such as minoxidil, finasteride, and dutasteride are not known to cause spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).

Can use of hair medications during my pregnancy cause a birth defect?

There is growing concern that finasteride and dutasteride could produce birth defects in male babies, especially a penile malformation called hypospadias. However, the issue requires more study before a connection between these drugs and birth defects can be established. There is some concern that minoxidil might harm a developing baby if the mother absorbs a lot of the drug through her skin, but this shouldnt happen if you use it carefully, and more studies are needed to establish a connection between the drug and problems for the baby.

Are there long-term consequences to my baby from my hair medication?

Many researchers and physicians are concerned that finasteride and dutasteride could produce long term problems for male babies, although more research is required before any connection between these drugs and birth defects can be established. One particular concern is a penile malformation called hypospadias, but this can be corrected surgically when the child is young.

I just found out I am 6 weeks pregnant and last weekend I used hair medication. Will my baby have a problem?

Probably not. However, if you are taking finasteride or dutasteride and want to be on the safe side, you should consult with your dermatologist to consider discontinuing that drug until you know the gender of the developing baby, and if it is a boy, to remain off the drug until the end of pregnancy. Although there are many unknowns, the risk of problems for the baby is probably much lower if the baby is a girl.

Is it ok to use hair medications after the first trimester?

If you are having a boy, the safe option is to avoid finasteride and dutasteride for the duration of pregnancy, although minoxidil is probably safe, if you apply it according to the instructions. Although there are many unknowns, the risk of problems for the baby of a mother taking finasteride or dutasteride is probably much lower if the baby is a girl.

How will I know if my hair medication has hurt my baby?

Every pregnancy begins with a 2 3.5 percent chance of a birth defect, independent of use of drugs, or other factors. However, if you take one of the hormonal hair medications while pregnant, and give birth to a male infant with malformations of sexual organs, it will be reasonable to suspect that the treatment has caused the problem.

Is there any hope for a baby who has been exposed to hair medication throughout pregnancy?

Yes. Minoxidil, which is applied to the skin, is thought to be fairly safe. As for finasteride and dutasteride, an association with male birth defects is not yet clearly established, and the biggest concern surrounds the possibility of hypospadias, which can be corrected surgically.

Can I use hair medications while breastfeeding?

Since minoxidil as a hair treatment is applied topically, it is though to be very low risk for nursing mothers. As for the hormonal hair medications, it is not known whether they are excreted into breast milk. To be on the safe side, it is better if you do not use them while breastfeeding, or do not breastfeed if you take them.

What if the father of the baby uses hair medication prior to conception?

There is some concern that finasteride and dutasteride could make it harder for a man to get a woman pregnant, but once conceived the there should be no consequences for the baby if the father has used one of these drugs.

Resources on hair treatments use in pregnancy:

For more information about hair treatments during pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446] or contact the following organizations:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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