Hair loss and lupus

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

A lupus diagnosis often brings many physical changes, including hair loss. Hair loss is a common side effect of lupus and the medications used for treatment. Recent severe illness, thyroid problems, certain nutritional deficiencies, genetics and specific skin diseases of the scalp can also cause hair loss. 

Whether or not hair grows back on the scalp depends on whether there is scarring, as well as how much scarring there might be. When the hair loss is widespread, but there is no scarring, the hair will often grow back. 

If hair loss is caused by medication, you may have to wait until your lupus is under control to treat the hair loss. This type is mostly reversible.

If there is too much damage to the skin, the hair may not be able to regrow. Hair loss associated with discoid lesions and scarring is generally permanent, so early treatment is key.

The most important way to control hair loss is to control disease activity.

If you have lupus and find that you are experiencing hair loss, do not use over-the-counter hair loss treatments, like Rogaine, before speaking with your doctor. Rogaine is for treating male- and female-pattern alopecia, which is a completely different type of hair loss than we usually see in lupus. 

Brittle hair also is common, and many treatments—including steroids and immunosuppressives—cause hair to thin. It is important to work with your doctor to discover the cause and identify the best way to treat or manage the hair loss.

Dr. Victoria P. Werth

is a professor of dermatology and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. She is also a member of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Council.

Medically reviewed on