Doxycycline is an antibiotic shown to reduce inflammation (even in the presence of DHT) and treat two major types of hair loss.
This guide will introduce you to doxycycline. This will include a breakdown of the latest scientific research. In addition, you will 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. Doctors prescribe it for a variety of infections (1).
As a broad-spectrum antibiotic, doxycycline is quite versatile. 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 various mechanisms through which doxycycline treats them. Here is a closer look.
Scarring (Cicatricial) Alopecia
Scarring alopecia, as the name suggests, is a form of alopecia where hair loss is accompanied by scarring.
There are two forms of scarring alopecia (2):
- Primary. The inflammatory process specifically targets the hair follicle.
- Secondary. The inflammatory process is caused by an incidental occurrence like infections, burns, radiation, etc. It 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. Lymphocytes and neutrophils are the two most common inflammatory cells involved.
Doxycycline is useful when lymphocytes are causing inflammation. In this case, doxycycline is typically prescribed as a prolonged treatment. A topical or injectable corticosteroid may also be used to kickstart the treatment.
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia
Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) is a specific form of scarring alopecia and one that may be particularly responsive to doxycycline treatment (3).
FFA is scarring alopecia that occurs predominantly in the frontotemporal region of the scalp. Eyebrow loss may also be present.
A study in 2010 followed 36 patients who underwent treatment for the condition (4). Only four patients in the study received doxycycline treatment. These were the results:
LPPAI stands for Lichen Planopilaris Activity Index, and it is used to rate the severity of symptoms in individuals with Lichen Planopilaris (LPP – another type of scarring alopecia) and FAA (5).
As pictured, only two of the patients (patients 18 and 20) saw favorable results. Another patient did not respond at all (patient 21). The last one responded initially, but results waned by the end of the study (patient 32).
This shows that while doxycycline can be effective in treating scarring alopecia, patients will respond differently.
Androgenetic Alopecia (Pattern Baldness)
Scientists do not exactly understand what causes the most common form of alopecia, Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). However, they believe the main factor is sensitivity to DHT.
DHT is a natural hormone our body produces when 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme) combines with testosterone (4). The DHT then attaches to androgen receptors at the hair follicle, initiating a process known as hair follicle miniaturization.
Many patients with AGA also show signs of inflammation. It is not clear if the inflammation is a cause or consequence of AGA. At any rate, it is a sign of an unhealthy scalp environment.
A recent study found that doxycycline can reduce inflammation even in the presence of DHT (6).
This is one of the reasons why dermatologists may recommend a course of doxycycline to AGA patients, even if it is just to jump-start the process.
Side Effects of Doxycycline Treatment
As with any medication – especially antibiotics – there can be 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 are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, doxycycline should NOT be taken. It can negatively affect the fetus’ bone development and growth. In addition, doxycycline DOES pass through breast milk, so avoid it if you are nursing.
Speak with your doctor about your questions and concerns. Only a medical professional can determine if this is the right course of treatment for you.
Natural Alternatives to Doxycycline Treatment
Whether you would like to go the all-natural route, or you would 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.
Shop-bought shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products contain unnecessary chemicals and preservatives. These only harm your scalp’s natural pH. You can fix this, however, by making your own shampoos at home.
Take a look at this simple recipe below.
- 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 two to three 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 serves 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 that supports the intake of your body’s necessary vitamins and minerals. It is not enough to just add foods, though, but to remove (or at least reduce) certain ones as well.
You should limit foods that are high in added sugars, which contain preservatives, or that are high in unhealthy fats. It is okay to indulge every now and again, but your diet should be made up of healthy foods at least 80 percent of the time.
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 are not often enough.
A healthy, balanced diet will ensure that even your hair follicles are getting the support they require.
So while you are 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 will make note of any symptoms you experience which might be related to a dietary 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 do not suffer from an autoimmune disorder, this exercise can be enlightening.
3. Reduce Stress
Unfortunately, there is 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 require awareness of the self and release of tension.
To get started, here is an abdominal breathing exercise for beginners:
Place one hand on your chest, and one on your abdomen. It is 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. 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 6-10 deep breaths per minute in a 10-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.