Happy older man eating healthy food

Can High Cholesterol Cause Hair Loss?

Highlights  

  • Cholesterol supports cellular function on many levels.
  • Scientists have long known that abnormal cholesterol levels can cause hair loss.
  • Drugs that affect cholesterol levels may cause hair loss in some patients.
  • There is hope that someday we may be able to restore hair by optimizing cholesterol levels.
  • If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, try an at-home testing kit.

Dr. Michael DiLeo
Latest posts by Dr. Michael DiLeo (see all)

The only obvious connection between high cholesterol and hair loss is that they’re both age-related conditions. Researchers suspect, however, that high cholesterol may play a role in balding. Science does not yet understand how high cholesterol can cause hair loss, but it’s becoming more apparent that there is a connection.

The Role of Cholesterol in the Body

Cholesterol has earned a bad reputation in popular culture. You have most likely learned about the existence of this “evil” compound through the complaints of your elders.

Far from being a net negative, cholesterol plays an important role in our bodies. Here’s why:

  • Living tissue cannot exist without cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol is an essential component of our cell membranes.
  • It plays an essential role in many biochemical processes.
  • It forms a barrier on our skin, protecting us from external chemicals and toxins.
  • It serves as insulation, called myelin, around nerves, essential for rapid nerve conduction.
  • Our bodies use it to make hormones.
  • It plays a role in defining the color of our skin.

When you hear someone complaining about high cholesterol, that person has elevated levels of “bad” (or “lousy”) cholesterol — low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the form of cholesterol that clings to the walls of your arteries and accumulates over time. Eventually, the buildup can clog your arteries, leading to life-threatening health problems.

High-density lipoprotein cleans up the cholesterol from your arteries, taking it back to your liver. HDL cholesterol is, therefore, the “good” (or “healthy”) cholesterol. When available in sufficient amounts, HDL cholesterol protects you from disease.

The worst cholesterol combination you can have is high LDL and low HDL. The best combination is low LDL and high HDL.

Cholesterol and Hair Growth/Loss

Scientists don’t yet understand how cholesterol affects hair growth, but they know that a connection exists between high cholesterol and male-pattern hair loss.

We have long known that if you are bald or balding, you are more likely to suffer from heart disease. Now researchers have figured out that if you suffer from hair loss, you are more likely to have abnormal cholesterol levels as well. The two are somehow connected.

Abnormal lipid levels are in some ways involved in hypertrichosis (abnormally abundant hair growth on the face and other normally hairless areas). When your cholesterol is out of control, it may also contribute to scarring and permanent hair loss.

Though there’s much more to learn, scientists already understand some of the pathways through which cholesterol could theoretically affect hair growth.

How Can High Cholesterol Cause Hair Loss?

In addition to being a building block of our cell membranes, cholesterol also regulates cell signaling. It plays a part in biochemical processes that have a significant impact on hair growth.

These processes involve:

  • The hedgehog protein. Cholesterol determines how much or how little hedgehog protein our body creates. The role of the hedgehog protein in the body is complex, but suffice it to say that a shortage of this biochemical compound may result in hair loss.
  • Wnt signaling. Cholesterol can turn Wnt signaling on and off. Wnt signaling plays a crucial role in hair growth and preventing hair graying. Researchers have even considered it as a possible pathway for fighting male-pattern baldness.
  • The sebaceous gland. It would not be farfetched to assume that cholesterol can affect the functioning of the oil glands in our scalp. These tiny lipid-rich organs produce more oil in the balding areas of the scalp. Often, an oily scalp is the first sign of balding. In many hair-loss cases, abnormal oil production persists after the complete loss of hair.
  • Cholesterol synthesis. Altered cholesterol synthesis in the scalp tissue surrounding the hair follicles can lead to scarring alopecia.
  • Glycerol kinase 5. This compound regulates cholesterol synthesis in the skin. When it suffers a disruption, it can lead to lipid accumulation in the skin and gradual hair loss.
Healthy and oily hair graphic
Cholesterol may be responsible for oily hair.

These cellular signaling pathways are only a few of the many pathways that regulate hair growth and cycling. Cholesterol is involved in many more of them. It affects a type of protein that can delay stem cell activity in the hair bulb. It can delay the anagen(growth) phase of the hair cycle and extend the telogen (resting) phase.

The bottom line? High cholesterol can cause hair loss in more ways than science can currently comprehend.

Can High Cholesterol Cause Alopecia Areata?

Cholesterol is involved in inflammation, autoimmune responses, and hair disorders. And it looks like statins, drugs that lower bad cholesterol levels, may treat alopecia areata.

Doctors used a combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe to treat alopecia areata and prevent flare-ups of the disease. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, some statins also modulate immune responses.

Can Low Cholesterol Cause Hair Loss?

High levels of LDL cholesterol can cause hair loss in many ways. Evidence shows that low HDL cholesterol can have similar effects. A study performed on middle-aged women found a link between low HDL cholesterol and hair loss.

Granted, men experience hair loss differently than women, but the results are still interesting. If we consider that testosterone may lower HDL cholesterol levels in men aged 20-50, cholesterol starts to make even more sense as a reason for hair loss.

Does Cholesterol Medicine Cause Hair Loss?

Cholesterol plays many roles in hair growth and loss. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that drug therapies that target cholesterol can have devastating effects on your hair. Some of these drugs can make your hair fall out. Others can grow hair where you don’t want to have any.

Doctors are aware that statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, can cause hair loss as a side effect. Statins exert their action in the liver, blocking an enzyme the liver uses to make cholesterol.

Only about one percent of patients using statins have complained about losing hair, and we don’t yet understand how these drugs make hair fall out. To further complicate the cholesterol-hair loss link, researchers used simvastatin, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, to regrow hair in some alopecia areata patients.

Bottle of Simvastatin pills

While some statins help alopecia patients recover hair, others may cause hair loss. Researchers have established links between atorvastatin and hair loss. For now, however, despite a handful of case studies, this link between atorvastatin and hair loss is tenuous.

Can We Reverse High Cholesterol and Hair Loss?

We can manipulate our cholesterol levels to some degree through diet. We can eat foods that help raise HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL cholesterol levels. We can avoid foods that spike LDL cholesterol.

By altering our cholesterol balance, we should be able to reverse some of the ill effects of abnormal cholesterol.

In a 2018 study, Johns Hopkins’ researchers fed mice a cholesterol-rich Western diet. In response, the majority of the test animals began losing hair.

The scientist then fed the mice a compound that interfered with the formation of cholesterol. They successfully reversed some of the damage the unbalanced diet had caused to the hair of the test animals.

A Final Word

Although we don’t understand how cholesterol impacts hair growth, we can answer the question, “Can high cholesterol cause hair loss?” with reasonable certainty. It can, and it does.

So watch what you eat. Keeping your cholesterol levels in check can save your life and that mop on top of your noggin as a bonus.

Low cholesterol diet

Scientists may one day develop a solution that allows humans to reverse the damage of high cholesterol and restore hair. Until then, you can turn to FDA-approved solutions that already exist, like Propecia and finasteride.

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, consider a cholesterol and lipids test kit that allows you to safely check your cholesterol at home.

eDrugstore Can Help You Keep Your Hair

With eDrugstore, you get a complimentary consultation with a U.S.-licensed doctor who can provide you with the prescriptions you need. We will deliver your order quickly and discreetly, and we’ll ship it for free. Check out our FDA-approved hair restoration medications today.

Generic Viagra, Cialis or Propecia