Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss: Things To Know In 2023
Female pattern hair loss and male pattern baldness, along with other forms of hair loss, are common issues affecting 50% of men and women by age fifty. This hair loss can sometimes be caused or exacerbated by vitamin deficiencies.
Inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals can lead to hair loss by impeding hair growth and causing damage to the scalp and follicles. Getting enough nutrients through a healthy diet or supplementation is vital for maintaining strong hair growth and reducing the risk of developing nutritional-based hair loss.
Of course, plenty of forms of hair loss are unrelated to nutritional deficiencies and may benefit from medical interventions, such as low-level laser therapy. However, if you suspect your sudden shedding of locks is due to your diet, read on to find out what you can do about it.
- Hair loss is thought to affect 50% of men and women by the age of fifty.
- Multiple nutrient deficiencies have been linked to hair loss, but studies on many are limited.
- The vitamin deficiencies with the strongest links to hair loss are vitamin D, zinc, protein, and iron.
Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss?
Lack of which vitamin causes hair loss, you may ask? Here’s the thing, it isn’t just one specific nutrient that might cause it; it can be one of many or even a combination. The vitamins and minerals most commonly associated with hair loss and healthy hair growth are Vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, vitamin C, biotin, zinc, iron, folic acid, and vitamin D. However, according to recent literature reviews, some of the links are tenuous at best, and require more research.
All hair is subject to three distinct growth phases. The anagen phase is the active growth phase, lasting anywhere from two to six years. During this time, follicles produce hairs that become longer and thicker. After the anagen phase comes the catagen phase, during which hair stops growing and detaches from the blood supply. Finally, the telogen phase is when the hair will fall out, followed by a resting phase.
Nutritional deficiencies can disrupt this natural cycle leading to excessive shedding or alopecia. A diet lacking essential vitamins and minerals can negatively affect your hair’s growth cycle, causing delays in the anagen-catagen transition and premature hair loss. Therefore, it is essential to have a balanced and healthy diet to support your hair’s normal growth cycle.
The most well-studied vitamins linked to hair loss are
- Vitamin D
As always, a visit to your health care provider is recommended to test for nutrient deficiencies (although these tests are available without a doctor’s prescription online) or to see if your hair loss may be related to other issues, such as a thyroid disorder. Some of the nutrients found in hair growth formulas can be toxic in high doses or have the opposite effect on your hair and cause it to shed, so you want to make sure you are deficient in them before supplementing.
Vitamin Deficiencies Strongly Linked To Hair Loss
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency and hair loss have been linked. Low vitamin D supplementation can improve symptoms of androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium. Vitamin D receptors have also been studied as integral to proper hair follicle cycling.
Zinc: Zinc deficiency can hinder healthy hair growth. It helps to block the production of dihydroxy testosterone, a hormone that can cause hair loss. It is particularly useful in the treatment of male-pattern baldness.
Protein: Protein is an integral part of a healthy diet and essential for healthy hair growth. Consuming adequate amounts of protein helps to strengthen the follicles and keep hair strands from breaking off easily.
Iron: More commonly seen in women, those with hair loss have been found to benefit from iron supplementation. Vitamin C intake from foods, not supplements, should be adequate also to assist with iron absorption. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause hair loss. Anemia can cause hair loss because it causes a lack of oxygen in the body. This lack of oxygen starves the hair follicles, resulting in hair thinning or sometimes even complete baldness.
Vitamin Deficiencies That May Be Linked To Hair Loss
Vitamins B2: Vitamin B2 helps to maintain healthy hair growth, and a deficiency of it may lead to thinning of the hair. However, B2 deficiency is very rare in healthy adults. Vitamin B2 helps to support healthy hair growth by aiding in the production of red blood cells and improving the circulation of oxygen-rich blood to follicles.
Vitamin B3: This vitamin may help with hair growth by preventing premature entry of the hair into the catagen phase.
Vitamin B6: This vitamin was shown to increase hair follicle density in rabbits, but not enough recent studies have been performed on its mechanism of action for hair fall or hair health in humans.
Vitamin C: vitamin C is important for tissue health and collagen synthesis, which is critical for strong and healthy hair follicles. However, vitamin C has only been linked to hair loss if the person is affected by iron deficiency-induced hair loss.
Vitamin B5: Vitamin B5 helps regulate sebum production, an oily substance secreted by the scalp. This helps to keep the hair hydrated and healthy and may prevent breakage and hair fall.
Biotin: Biotin or vitamin H plays a role in strengthening hair follicles and encouraging healthy growth. Theoretically, biotin deficiency may lead to dry, brittle hair resulting in excessive shedding and breakage. Still, limited studies have been performed on biotin deficiency and hair loss, as biotin deficiency is very rare. Supplementation with the nutrient of a biotin-replete individual has shown no effect on hair loss.
Essential Fatty Acids: Along with other nutrients, these omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help build a strong hair shaft while preventing dull color and dry scalp. A dry scalp may lead to itching and hair loss. A 2022 study reviewed the role of essential fatty acids in the hair cycle and their potential for relieving alopecia and inflammatory scalp conditions such as psoriasis.
Tips To Prevent Vitamin Deficiencies And Hair Loss
To prevent hair loss from nutrient deficiencies, it is important to ensure you eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet and supplement any nutrients you may be missing. Some foods that are excellent sources of nutrients commonly associated with hair loss are:
- Beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of zinc, and essential fatty acids can be found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale and red meat are excellent sources of iron.
- Foods that are good sources of vitamin B3 include whole grains, legumes, fish, poultry, and eggs.
- Good sources of vitamin B6 include pork, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C can be found in oranges, berries, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other citrus fruits.
- Sources of vitamin B5 include broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, whole grains, and eggs
- Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, fortified milk or yogurt, beef liver, and egg yolks, but the best and most bioactive source is the sun.
- Good sources of biotin include eggs, nuts, legumes, dairy products, whole grains, and organ meats such as beef liver or biotin gummy supplements.
- Foods rich in zinc include oysters, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and spinach.
- Good protein sources include animal products such as meat, poultry, and fish, eggs and dairy, nuts and seeds, and legumes such as beans and lentils.
- Good sources of essential fatty acids are, for example, fatty fish like salmon, avocados, flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and whole grains.
Other Tips To Prevent Hair Loss And Promote Growth
- Take a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure adequate intake of all essential vitamins and minerals. Note that multivitamins do not contain essential fatty acids. These must be obtained from the diet or a separate supplement.
- Use topical scalp treatments to encourage hair growth externally.
- Avoid crash diets, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies that cause hair loss.
- Exercise regularly but not excessively to stimulate blood flow and get the necessary vitamins and minerals to the scalp for healthy hair growth.
- Manage any underlying medical condition that may be causing hair loss, such as thyroid disorders, vitamin D deficiency, or anemia.
- Avoid over-styling or using too much heat on your hair, as it can damage the hair follicles.
- Avoid excessive use of chemical products such as dyes and bleaches, which may lead to hair breakage.
- Avoid excessive levels of vitamin A and selenium. While vitamin A deficiency and hair loss have been linked, vitamin A excess and hair loss have been well studied.
- Get regular trims to keep split ends from traveling further up the shaft, leading to more damaged strands
- Add rosemary or peppermint oil to your shampoo and massage it into the scalp. Some oils have shown evidence of stimulating blood flow to the hair follicles and promoting growth.
- Look into a vitamin subscription service to have a supplement created that caters precisely to your needs.
- Measure your vitamin and mineral status by using an online service to order nutrient tests or visit your doctor for a nutrient profile. The most comprehensive nutrient tests available are online and do not require a prescription while utilizing the same labs that your doctor uses.
Sample Diet Plan For Healthy Hair
There are plenty of superfoods for healthy hair, and you can add some to your diet with this sample diet plan!
- Two eggs for protein and biotin.
- One slice of whole grain toast with almond butter for iron and vitamin E.
- Berries or a banana for vitamins A, C, B6, and fiber.
- Grilled salmon for omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
- Roasted sweet potatoes for beta carotene and antioxidants.
- Leafy green salad with olive oil dressing for vitamins A, C, E, iron, and essential fatty acids.
- Greek yogurt with nuts and seeds for protein, healthy fats, biotin, and zinc.
- Quinoa for protein, iron, and magnesium.
- Roasted vegetables and leafy greens for vitamins A, C, and vitamin E, iron, and folic acid
- Avocado or olive oil for healthy fats and vitamins E and K.
The Bottom Line
A lot of the information in this article may come as a shock if you take hair vitamins that include biotin and selenium when in reality, it probably is not a deficiency of either that is causing any hair loss.
Visiting a doctor or even a dermatologist is the first step to establishing what might be the cause of hair loss or other vitamin deficiency symptoms, as there are so many, and deciding whether or not the nutritional intervention will help in the first place. Of course, a nutrient test should also be part of the plan when visiting a dermatologist to rule out any nutrient deficiencies or excesses.
In the meantime, following a healthy, balanced diet and supplementing with the nutrients identified as being low in your nutrient lab test is a great way to address any current deficiencies to curb potential effects on your hair growth.
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