Doxycycline is an antibiotic that has been shown to reduce inflammation (even in the presence of DHT) and treat two major types of hair loss.
In this guide, I’ll introduce you to doxycycline. This will include a breakdown of the latest scientific research. In addition, you’ll learn what to expect during treatment, as well as natural methods you can use alongside it.
What is Doxycycline?
Doxycycline is an antibiotic within the tetracycline group, and it’s used for a variety of infections.
As a broad-spectrum antibiotic, doxycycline is quite versatile in use. Some common uses include bacterial pneumonia, acne, chlamydia, syphilis, and early-stage Lyme disease.
What Types of Hair Loss Does Doxycycline Treat?
One of the lesser-known uses for doxycycline is the treatment of hair loss.
As there are a variety of hair loss types, so too are there a variety of mechanisms through which doxycycline works to treat them. Let’s take a closer look.
Scarring (Cicatricial) Alopecia
Scarring alopecia is, just as it sounds, a form of alopecia where hair loss is accompanied by scarring.
There are two forms of scarring alopecia:
- Primary. The inflammatory process involved specifically targets the hair follicle.
- Secondary. The inflammatory process involved is caused by an incidental occurrence (infections, burns, radiation, etc.) and just happens to result in damage to the hair follicle.
The cause for primary scarring alopecia varies depending on the inflammatory cells that are targeting the follicles; though, lymphocytes and neutrophils are the two most common inflammatory cells involved.
The treatment used for this form of alopecia will differ.
Where doxycycline typically comes in is when lymphocytes are causing the inflammation. In this case, doxycycline is typically prescribed as a prolonged treatment, while a topical or injectable corticosteroid may be used to kickstart the treatment.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) is a specific form of scarring alopecia, but it’s one that may be particularly responsive to doxycycline treatment.
FFA is scarring alopecia that occurs predominantly in the frontotemporal region of the scalp. Eyebrow loss may also be present in those with FFA.
A study performed in 2010 followed 36 patients as they underwent treatment for the condition. Only four patients in the study were administered doxycycline treatment, but these were the results:
LPPAI stands for Lichen Planopilaris Activity Index, and it’s used to rate the severity of symptoms in individuals with Lichen Planopilaris (LPP) and FAA.
As pictured, patients 18, 20, 21, and 32 underwent doxycycline treatment, but only two (patients 18 and 20) saw favorable results.
For the other two patients, one did not respond at all (patient 21) and the other initially responded but results waned by the end of the study (patient 32).
Does this mean that doxycycline isn’t effective in treating FFA?
It can be, but not everyone will respond similarly to the treatment.
Androgenetic Alopecia (Pattern Baldness)
The most common form of alopecia, Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) is caused by a number of factors. However, the main factor is believed to be sensitivity to DHT.
DHT is a natural hormone that’s produced when 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme) combines with testosterone. The DHT then attaches to androgen receptors at the hair follicle, and a process known as hair miniaturization takes place.
Now, the DHT itself doesn’t cause hair loss; it’s the inflammation which accompanies it.
In theory, no inflammation means no hair loss.
This is why dermatologists may recommend a course of doxycycline to AGA patients, even if it’s just to jump start the process.
Side Effects of Doxycycline Treatment
As with any medication – especially antibiotics – there can side effects.
The majority include digestive upset as antibiotics are known to kill the good bacteria lining your gut. Fortunately, a proactive course of probiotics can lessen the symptoms and restore your gut health.
In addition, you may experience sensitivity to sunlight (resulting in sunburn) and rash.
Another thing to keep in mind during treatment is that certain substances can reduce the effectiveness of doxycycline. These include:
- Calcium supplements
- Iron products
- Laxatives containing magnesium
If you’re pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, doxycycline should NOT be taken as it can affect bone development and growth. In addition, doxycycline DOES pass through breast milk, so it should not be used it you’re nursing.
Of course, speak with your doctor more fully about your questions and concerns. Only a medical professional can determine if this is the right course of treatment for you.
To be clear, I definitely do NOT recommend using doxycycline to treat pattern hair loss. You will be damaging your body in many more other ways, while only mildly (if at all) helping your hair.
Luckily, there are far more effective proven and natural methods that you can use to regrow your hair.
That’s what this website is all about.
In fact myself, and many other people have managed to completely stop our hair loss (even though doctors told us it was ‘genetics’ and inevitable to lose our hair.
Natural Alternatives to Doxycycline Treatment
Whether you’d like to go the all-natural route, or you’d like to combine the doxycycline treatment with other hair growth methods, take a look at the alternative options below.
1. Use All-Natural Shampoos
No matter the exact cause of your hair loss, an underlying issue is likely to be related to the general health and well being of your scalp and hair follicles.
Through the use of shop-bought shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products, you’re harming your scalp’s natural pH by adding chemicals and preservatives into the mix.
You can fix this, however, by making your own shampoos at home.
Here is one of my favorite shampoos. Not only does it work well to cleanse and soothe the scalp, but it’s also super simple.
- Liquid castile soap (1/2 cup)
- Maple syrup (2 tablespoons)
- Carrot seed essential oil (5-10 drops)
- Castor oil (10 drops)
Combine the above ingredients in the bottle of your choice and mix well. Pour over your wet hair, and lather. Massage the mixture into your scalp for 2-3 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
As mentioned above, you want to balance the scalp’s pH while also cleansing. The four ingredients included in this recipe do just that.
The liquid castile soap is used as a gentle cleanser, breaking down buildup. The carrot seed oil has anti-fungal properties while also stimulating the scalp. In addition, the maple syrup and castor oil both soothe the scalp.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
If you suffer from scarring alopecia or frontal fibrosing alopecia, then a healthy diet change is unlikely to treat the condition. It could, however, make it easier to manage. And the same could be said of its use in the “treatment” of pattern baldness.
The human body requires a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to survive. You can certainly add a supplement or two to your daily routine, but the best way to get these into your body is through diet.
A varied diet – one which contains dark, leafy greens, lean meats, healthy fats, and whole grains – is one which supports the intake of your body’s necessary vitamins and minerals. It’s not enough to just add foods, though, but to remove (or at least reduce) certain ones as well.
Foods that are high in added sugars, which contain preservatives, or that are high in unhealthy fats should be limited. It’s okay to indulge every now and again, but your diet should be made up of healthy foods at least 80 percent of the time.
How does a balanced diet support hair growth?
Your hair follicles, just like any other organ, requires nutrients and minerals to thrive. When your diet is low in these, though, the more critical organs will take precedence. This leaves your hair follicles with the leftovers which aren’t often enough.
A healthy, balanced diet will ensure that even your hair follicles are getting the support they require.
So while you’re unlikely to see a significant change in your hair’s quality or growth rate, you should know that a healthy diet is supporting your hair from the inside-out.
If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder like scarring alopecia, you may also want to consider an elimination diet.
An elimination diet requires you to remove a certain food from your diet entirely. You remove it for six to eight weeks, and then slowly reintroduce it back into your diet. At this time, you’ll make note of any symptoms you experience which might be related to a sensitivity, like rashes, upset stomach, a flare in your condition, etc.
The elimination diet will take time and a lot of patience. It can be a worthwhile effort if you suffer from chronic medical conditions, however.
Which foods are the likeliest culprits? Dairy products, legumes, gluten, soy, eggs, nuts, and nightshade vegetables.
Even if you don’t suffer from an autoimmune disorder, this exercise can be enlightening.
3. Reduce Stress
Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely avoid all external stressors. However, you can do a few things to lower their effect on you, and leave you in a healthier and happier state of mind.
Meditation & Guided Breathing
Both of these practices are closely linked, and both require awareness of the self and release of tension.
But the greatest thing?
Both practices can be performed anywhere, anytime.
To get started, here’s an abdominal breathing exercise I recommend to beginners:
Place one hand on your chest, and one on your abdomen. It’s easiest to do this while lying flat, but if not possible you can do it standing or sitting.
Take a deep breath through your nose, and feel your diaphragm (not your chest) fill to capacity. This means your stomach should fill and lift your hand slightly, but your chest should remain still.
The goal is to complete six to 10 deep breaths per minute in a ten minute period (so 60 to 100 breaths total).
Use this technique prior to a stressful task or event, or just as a relaxation method upon waking or before going to bed.
While using non-prescription treatment methods to fight hair loss is an admirable goal, it may not always be possible when facing certain kinds of hair loss (such as scarring alopecia).
However, you can utilize natural methods alongside doxycycline treatment (under the guidance of your doctor) for improved results.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson.