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Lupus and Hair Loss: Treatment Options

Jill Johnson

Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/23/2022

From genetics to bad habits, there are a variety of reasons women lose hair. One reason that’s often not talked about is lupus. 

A number of people with lupus report that they lose even more hair than normal. Some people also experience breakage around the hairline, leading to a sparse appearance. There’s no one way that this type of hair loss looks — you may notice patchy hair loss or other types of hair loss patterns. 

Since knowledge is power, read on to learn a bit more about what lupus is — along with how you can treat hair loss caused by this disease. 

What Is Lupus? 

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. There are actually different types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common. With this, the immune system attacks the tissue in your body, causing inflammation.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is a skin condition that causes sores and scarring — particularly on the face and scalp. 

Lupus is a disease that primarily affects women — specifically females between the ages of 15 and 45. However, it can affect men or women outside of that age range. 

Lupus seems to be even more common among women who are African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian.

Symptoms of lupus include:

  • Swelling in the joints

  • Fever

  • Rashes (most frequently in the face)

  • Chest pain

  • Sun sensitivity 

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Fatigue

To diagnose lupus, a healthcare professional will likely take a medical history, perform an exam, do some blood tests and possibly take a skin biopsy and/or a kidney biopsy.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lupus and it requires lifelong management.  

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Does Lupus Cause Hair Loss? 

It’s important to note that not everyone with lupus experiences patchy hair loss, or any type of hair loss. That said, many people living with lupus do notice hair loss — specifically, thinning hair or hair breakage around their hairline

So, what gives? As we mentioned before, discoid lupus erythematosus can cause rashes—especially on the face and scalp. These rashes can lead to hair loss. This is considered scarring alopecia.

Additionally, medications sometimes prescribed to treat symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (like steroids and immunosuppressants) can also have side effects of hair loss. This type of hair loss is considered non-scarring alopecia. 

It’s normal for people to lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day. With regrowth, you may never even notice this hair shedding. But, with lupus, you may lose significantly more than this and your body is unable to regrow hair fast enough to make up for it. 

One study looked at non-scarring alopecia in four women with systemic lupus erythematosus. These four women lost between 55 and 100 percent of their hair. 

This is a very small study and a much larger one would need to be done to solidify conclusions—but it is interesting to note the wide range of hair loss experienced in women with systemic lupus erythematosus.

Treating Hair Loss from Lupus

If lupus causes rashes that leave behind scarring, your hair may not grow back. However, treating your skin issues can help prevent further hair loss. 

The best way to do this is to avoid things that cause your lupus to flare up. For example, you should be careful in the sun. See, lupus can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Even a little bit of time in those UV rays can cause your lupus to act up. 

To protect your skin, always wear a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection and has a SPF of 30 or above.

Watching your stress levels is also wise. Emotional stress can cause your lupus to get worse. So keeping stress at bay is a must. 

If you’re on steroids or other medication to treat your lupus, you may also want to ask a healthcare professional if they could be causing your hair loss. If they are, you can always ask if there are other options that won’t affect your strands. 

From there, you may want to consider treatments that can boost the health of the hair you do have. Such as: 

  • Minoxidil: Topical minoxidil (also known under the brand name Rogaine®) comes in a 2% solution or 5% foam. When applied, it encourages your blood vessels to open so that more nutrients and oxygen can get to the hair. Plus, it stretches out the growth phase for hair, so more hair follicles are created to replace lost hair.

  • Hair loss shampoo and conditioner: Dry, brittle hair is prone to breakage. And since lupus can lead to hair breakage to begin with, you definitely don’t want any additional issues. 
    Thankfully, there are options specifically formulated to boost moisture in your tresses. Try to use a hair loss conditioner after every time you use a hair loss shampoo to prevent fragile hair.

  • Biotin: One study suggests that taking biotin produces faster hair growth in people who have thinning hair. You can get your biotin fix through your diet: It’s found in eggs, milk and bananas. Or, you can take a supplement. Hers has a biotin gummy that also contains vitamin D, which, when low, can increase hair shedding.

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Lupus and Hair Loss

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that can cause inflammation and joint pain, as well as rashes. There are actually two types of lupus: systemic lupus erythematosus and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). 

DLE is most associated with causing skin rashes (also called discoid lesions) that are particularly common on the face and scalp and can lead to scarring in those areas. People with lupus also notice broken hairs around their hairline

This scarring can lead to permanent hair loss in people with lupus. In addition to this, medications often used to manage symptoms of SLE can lead to non-scarring alopecia. 

To keep your hair in tip-top shape, you’ll want to limit lupus flare ups. Some of the ways to do this are to limit stress and protect yourself from the sun. 

If you’re dealing with non-scarring hair loss, you may also want to speak with a healthcare professional about whether your medications are causing you to shed more hair.

You can also keep the hair you do have healthy by using minoxidil and/or a hydrating shampoo and conditioner

Hair loss from lupus can be frustrating. But you’ll feel much better if you grab the bull by the horns and are proactive in trying to do something about it. 

If you’re unsure where to start, consider making a virtual appointment to speak with a healthcare professional

16 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4875-lupus
  2. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lupus/facts/detailed.html#:~:text=Systemic%20lupus%20erythematosus%20(SLE)%2C,%2C%20kidneys%2C%20and%20blood%20vessels.
  3. Discoid lupus erythematosus. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aocd.org/page/DiscoidLupusErythe#:~:text=Discoid%20lupus%20erythematosus%20(DLE)%20is,a%20scaling%20and%20crusty%20appearance.
  4. Lupus. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/lupus.html
  5. Parodi, A., Cozzani, E., (2014). Hair loss in autoimmune systemic diseases. Dermatologia E Venereologia.. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Emanuele-Cozzani/publication/260378310_Hair_loss_in_autoimmune_systemic_diseases/links/555c843208ae6aea08185eb5/Hair-loss-in-autoimmune-systemic-diseases.pdf
  6. Lupus and Hair Loss. Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved from https://www.lupus.org/resources/hair-loss-and-lupus
  7. Parodi, A., Cozzani, E., (2014). Hair loss in autoimmune systemic diseases. Dermatologia E Venereologia.. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Emanuele-Cozzani/publication/260378310_Hair_loss_in_autoimmune_systemic_diseases/links/555c843208ae6aea08185eb5/Hair-loss-in-autoimmune-systemic-diseases.pdf
  8. Do You Have Hair Loss or Hair Shedding? American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  9. Gong, Y., Ye, Y., Zhao, Y., et al., (2013). Severe diffuse non-scarring hair loss in systemic lupus erythematosus - clinical and histopathological analysis of four cases. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22176340/
  10. Lupus and Your Skin: Tips to Reduce Flares. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/lupus-self-care
  11. What is a Lupus Flare? Lupus Foundation of America. Retrieved from https://www.lupus.org/resources/what-is-a-flare#:~:text=What%20can%20trigger%20a%20lupus,bring%20about%20a%20lupus%20flare.
  12. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., Leerunyakul, K., (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Theory, 13: 2777-2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/#:~:text=Minoxidil%20is%20a%20common%20medication,as%20increasing%20body%20hair%20growth.
  13. How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  14. Ablon, G. (2015). A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Dermatology Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/
  15. Biotin (2020). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/313.html
  16. Khan, Q., Fabian, C., (2010, March). How I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency. Journal of Oncology Practice, 6(2):97-101. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835491/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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