Can Drinking Too Much Alcohol Be Bad For Your Hair?

The drawbacks and benefits of alcohol consumption have been debated by medical professionals and regular citizens alike for decades. While it is generally accepted that moderate consumption, defined by theĀ Mayo Clinic as seven drinks or fewer per week for women, can provide some advantages to heart health, one facet that seems rather unexplored is the substance's effects on hair health. While there may not be any official link between alcohol and hair loss, breakage, or other negative effects, this doesn't necessarily mean your hair won't be affected if you drink heavily.

It has been well documented by institutes such as Michigan State University that alcohol use has an effect on the body's ability to perform vital functions like properly absorbing key vitamins and nutrients. It also has been shown to significantly affect blood sugar levels and sleep patterns. Is it possible, then, that the potential disruption of these bodily functions could result in a secondary side effect that affects hair growth or appearance? Here's what you need to know.

Hydration and nutrient absorption

Many people aren't aware of the fact that alcohol is a diuretic. What this means is that it removes water and sodium from your body the same way prescription drugs designed to alleviate excess fluid caused by hypertension and congestive heart failure do. When a person with normal fluid levels ingests a diuretic and doesn't increase their water intake to replace the lost fluid, the result is often dehydration. Drinking alcohol heavily on a regular basis can lead to chronic dehydration. Since your hair needs hydration to grow and remain strong and healthy, it can be majorly affected by chronic dehydration. When your body is low on fluids, it will direct any water you consume to your vital organs, leaving your hair to become dull and brittle. As a result, according to Arlington Dermatology, it will break more easily, fall out more, and may even stop growing at all.

Alcohol's interference with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients can have a similarly negative effect on hair health. Normally, the nutrients you consume in food and drink are absorbed by the cells that make up the lining of your stomach and intestines. Alcohol damages these cells, as reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and prevents key vitamins and nutrients from being absorbed and utilized. Heavy alcohol use also interferes with the liver's ability to store nutrients. Without access to enough protein, iron, and zinc, hair becomes susceptible to loss and breakage.

Blood sugar and sleep quality

Alcohol is processed by the body in the same way that sugar is, according to Drinkaware. This means consuming it increases blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of insulin, which then rapidly drops blood sugar. This blood sugar roller coaster can be dangerous, especially if you're diabetic. It can also wreak havoc on your hair. Blood sugar spikes can lead to damaged blood vessels, as reported by Medical News Today. When these vessels sustain damage, blood flow is restricted, and vital oxygen and nutrients can't reach their intended destinations. If your scalp isn't receiving enough oxygenated blood, hair can no longer grow.

It may come as quite a surprise that alcohol is a sleep disruptor. While its effects as a central nervous system depressant can include drowsiness and sedation that can help with falling asleep, sleep quality is reduced. In fact, according to theĀ Sleep Foundation, having just one drink can negatively impact your sleep quality by nearly 10%. When sleep quality is disrupted, your body begins to produce less melatonin. While melatonin is commonly known as the sleep hormone, it is also strongly associated with hair growth. A lack of melatonin can equal a lack of hair growth. It can also lead to insomnia-induced stress, which can lead to elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is also associated with hair loss. Restoring sleep quality can regulate melatonin and cortisol levels and reverse hair loss over time, according to Dr. Shridevi Lakhe of Hairfree & Hairgrow Clinic.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).