Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/19/2021
For people taking Anavar®, it's a lifeline. This medication is important for people recovering from injuries, illness, infection and surgeries who need to regain muscle mass and gain weight after significant loss.
But medications often have serious side effects, and one of the side effects most commonly associated with steroids like Anavar is hair loss.
Whether you’re taking Anavar or a healthcare professional has suggested taking it, you may have seen information on the internet suggesting that hair loss is a possible side effect, as this medication begins to work on your body.
A possible side effect of Anavar use is indeed hair loss, but it’s not a certainty. The side effects of steroids aren’t particularly cut and dry.
We’ll address how Anavar might affect your hair growth, but before we get into that, it’s important to cover some of the important basics about hair, steroids and how they interact.
There are two kinds of steroids that are most commonly known to the medical profession: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids have a litany of medical uses. They can be beneficial in treating issues of the skin, blood disorders, arthritic conditions and eye conditions, as well as certain allergies.
Anavar is a brand-name version of the DHT-derivative generic anabolic steroid oxandrolone.
Oxandrolone is an anabolic steroid often prescribed for a variety of reasons. It's most often prescribed as a way to help patients regain weight after weight loss due to surgery.
It can also help with weight gain after severe trauma or injury, or due to chronic infections.
In some cases, it's also used to treat bone pain related to osteoporosis.
Oxandrolone can cause a variety of side effects and androgenetic effects, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, breast enlargement, changes in sex drive and changes in sex ability.
It may also cause swelling in the arms, hands, feet, ankles or lower legs.
Oxandrolone may cause more serious adverse effects, and if you experience any of these you should consult a healthcare professional immediately.
These include new or worsening acne, alter menstrual cycle or cause you to skip menstrual periods altogether, cause difficulty with controlling urination, make urination frequent, difficult or painful, deepen your voice, cause facial hair and body hair to grow, and hair loss or androgenetic alopecia. It may also cause clitoral enlargement.
In children, oxandrolone may prevent normal growth.
Steroids have a complicated relationship with hair growth and hair loss.
Certain corticosteroids may contribute to hair loss. FDA listings for corticosteroids like prednisolone mention thinning of the scalp hair as a possible side effect.
It’s not a common side effect of prednisolone, but it’s one that you should be aware of.
But the reverse may also be true in certain circumstances. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) suggests that some side effects (and off-label benefits) or prednisolone may include — you guessed it — increased hair growth.
The other side of this coin is anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are simply a synthetic version of testosterone, and they can have major anabolic effects on your hair.
Anabolic steroids are often prescribed to treat hormone imbalances and can help to treat diseases that cause muscle loss or weight loss from loss of muscle tissue, but they’re often abused by athletes for performance advantages.
It’s a bad idea because these steroids can mess with tons of processes — everything from brain and sexual function to, yes, hair growth.
Anabolic steroids simultaneously cause hair loss in men and hair growth in women, and they have some nasty side effects for people who don’t need them for medical reasons.
You should take a moment to read about the many side effects according to the National Institutes for Health.
For the average woman, the sight of hair in the shower, sink, bed, hat or wherever else you may find lost follicles is totally normal. In fact, it’s normal to see hair in these places on a daily basis.
The average person has more than 100,000 hairs on their head, and shedding around 100 a day is totally normal and expected, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Most of the hairs you see on the floor and in the shower aren’t doing anything for your locks. In fact, they’ve likely been dead for some time.
Every hair has a unique and independent lifespan, which can be broken into three phases: anagen phase, catagen phase and telogen phase.
For a normal woman, about 90 percent of the hair on her head will be in the anagen phase, also known as the growth phase.
Hair will exist in this phase for most of its life cycle, and only when it begins to wind down its journey will it enter the catagen phase.
You can think about this like a sort of retirement phase for the hair follicle — no more growing, just riding out the last few days.
When the telogen phase begins, the hair is dead, and begins to release from the follicle.
The good news is that this is a highly trafficked phase: average people will have about nine percent of their hair in this phase.
Whether you’ve been counting or eyeballing it, you may be worried to see that you’re shedding more than 100 hairs per day. Just remember that your daily hair loss may vary.
But, if your numbers are consistently higher than average, you may be experiencing hair loss.
There are a few common types of hair loss that most people who are losing hair will experience — some treatable, some temporary and some permanent.
Here’s a brief overview of the main sources of hair loss.
Androgenic alopecia is (especially for older women) the most common type of hair loss in women. Androgenic alopecia can show up as early as your late teens or 20s, though it may take years to develop.
The symptoms of androgenic alopecia in women mostly appear as thinning hair — no receding hairlines or bald spots on the crown, which are typically seen in men.
Androgenic alopecia may be caused by genetics, hormones and/or age — science hasn’t pinned down an exact mechanism.
The information actually would point to a third option: that corticosteroids like prednisone may also be a treatment for hair loss in certain rare cases — specifically for alopecia areata — a type of hair loss caused by autoimmune disease.
It’s possible the effects may be from the way it’s administered.
FDA guidance discusses the medication being administered as an oral tablet, but prednisone can also be delivered as an injection, too.
Why would this be a potential treatment for hair loss? Well, because alopecia areata is really an autoimmune disease that damages hair.
It’s a rare form of patchy baldness that occurs in about two percent of the general population, and it comes from the same sort of problem corticosteroids are designed to treat.
As we mentioned, research has shown that some corticosteroids are actually an effective treatment for certain kinds of hair loss.
But if you’re experiencing hair loss and you believe it might be drug-induced hair loss, the first step you should take is contacting your healthcare provider.
They need to know about side effects you may be experiencing, so they can make further recommendations for whether or not to stop treatment, adjust dosages or change medications.
This extends immediately and entirely to anabolic steroids not prescribed by a healthcare professional.
In addition to being illegal and dangerous, they’re also often unsafe when acquired through a third party.
A healthcare provider will tell you that, too.
If you’re experiencing hair loss for any reason, they’ll also suggest treatment options.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, two of the products that are effective in hair regrowth are minoxidil and finasteride.
Minoxidil is a medication capable of stimulating hair growth, and it's an FDA-approved hair loss treatment.
You should also pay close attention to key vitamins for hair health, including vitamin A, vitamin D and biotin (the stuff found in hers’ Biotin Gummy Multivitamins).
You might also benefit from using shampoos with ingredients shown to prevent hair loss.
It’s time for some tough love for those engaging in illicit steroid use.
No steroid should be taken without the guidance of a healthcare professional, and even if you’ve done that for some reason (stop), side effects should be reported immediately to a healthcare professional for your own safety.
Hair loss has a variety of causes — including lifestyle and other conditions — but using steroids without a prescription can be way more trouble than it’s worth.
Not everyone experiencing hair loss is doing something wrong, of course, and for anyone seeing side effects to necessary medication, there are resources available.
A healthcare professional will be able to help you find the right tailored response to any follicle loss you’re seeing.
If you’re seeing the effects of hair loss and want to learn more about what’s going on and how to get your healthy hair back, check out our Female Hair Loss 101 guide for more resources.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, we can help. You can find out more about sudden hair loss with our guide, and we also have hair care products for treating many hair problems — you can also purchase them together in our Complete Hair Kit.