Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss?
Remember when your parents (or grandparents) used to tell you to take your vitamins? Turns out, they were onto something.
Essential nutrients like vitamins are crucial for growth and overall health. For example, vitamin D is key for strong bones, and other vitamins and minerals have their own vital functions in the body.
But did you know that vitamins also play a critical role in maintaining healthy hair? Certain deficiencies can lead to hair loss and other issues. Not to worry, though – it’s never too late to restore your locks to their former glory.
Join us as we explore how vitamin deficiencies can impact hair health and discover how you can restore your hair to its full potential.
A Look at Hair Anatomy
While we can definitely play around with the style and color of our hair, the actual type and texture are genetically determined. Hair is one of the phenotypes (physical traits) we inherit from our parents. Other traits include eye color, height, blood type and more.
Regardless of your hair type, a healthy head of hair starts at the root. The hair root rests just below the skin’s surface with the hair follicle. This is where new hair and regrowth happen.
Within the hair follicle, cells band together to form a hardening protein known as keratin. This is the building block of hair. Keratin forms the entire hair shaft (the part of the hair we see). The hair shaft is made of three layers of this important protein.
- The medulla is the inner layer of keratin. This layer is generally only present among individuals with thicker hair types. It features transparent cells and a thin, soft core of air spaces.
- The middle layer of keratin is called the cortex. The pigment cells responsible for your hair color are housed within the cortex. This layer makes up the majority of the hair shaft.
- The cuticle is the outermost layer. It serves a protective role for the hair shaft. Using overlapping cells, the cuticle helps keep harsh products from penetrating the hair shaft. This layer of keratin is also responsible for that beautiful hair shine.
Thankfully, our scalp is equipped with oil glands (sebaceous glands) that provide our hair with hydration and shine. These natural hair oils, called sebum, help lubricate the hair strand from root to end.
The only downside is that too much of these natural hair oils can leave the hair looking greasy.
What Are the Phases of Hair Growth?
The hair on your head exists constantly in a state of ebb and flow. Like a revolving door, the hair growth cycle is always in motion. New hair is always growing, and old hair is shedding.
Here’s a quick look at the phases of hair growth.
- Anagen phase – This is the growing phase of the hair cycle. It can last for years. Generally, the anagen phase is responsible for roughly 90 percent of the hair on your head.
- Catagen phase – The catagen phase is known as a transition phase. During this time of the hair cycle, the hair follicles stop growing.
- Telogen phase – The telogen phase is known as the resting phase. During this phase, old hairs are pushed towards the surface to shed naturally and are replaced.
Hair shedding is a regular part of life. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. However, hair shedding and hair loss are not the same.
The Types of Hair Loss
Hair loss and hair thinning are quite common for both men and women. Male and female pattern hair loss or baldness is called androgenetic alopecia. Pattern baldness is responsible for 95 percent of hair loss in men.
Other types of hair loss can include:
- Anagen effluvium, associated with chemotherapy
- Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder
- Telogen effluvium, thinning of the hair due to stress
To some, it may come as a surprise to learn that vitamin deficiency can also be a contributing factor to hair loss. Let’s explore the connections between hair loss and vitamin and mineral deficiencies as we delve into this often-overlooked topic.
Vitamin Deficiencies That Can Cause Hair Loss
Vitamin D Deficiency
Although vitamin D is commonly associated with bone health, it also plays a key role in hair growth. Studies have shown that low levels of this essential nutrient can contribute to hair loss and autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata.
Luckily, maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D is straightforward and simple with supplements and a balanced diet that could include dairy products (alternatives include fortified plant-based milks, or mushrooms for vegans), fatty fish, eggs, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) Deficiency
Vitamin B7, or biotin, is a water-soluble B vitamin critical for helping enzymes break down macronutrients in foods. It is naturally occurring in foods like beef liver, eggs and avocados. Biotin deficiency has been linked to symptoms like thinning hair and brittle nails.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C is popular for being a potent antioxidant for immune system support. In short, vitamin C helps support immune function by fighting off the effects of oxidative stress.
However, vitamin C is also critical for proper iron absorption. Low iron levels can slow hair growth and lead to hair loss.
B Vitamin Deficiency
We mentioned biotin above, but deficiencies in other B vitamins can also lead to hair loss. For example, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and vitamin B12 all have roles to play in hair cell growth, enzyme metabolism, and gene regulation.
They also support healthy hair growth as they help carry oxygen and red blood cells to the scalp.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant and essential nutrient. In a balanced diet, vitamin E is found primarily in leafy greens. It has long been popular for its topical use in skincare.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of scalp health when it comes to promoting strong, healthy hair. The truth is, the scalp is skin too, and keeping it in good condition is crucial for optimal hair growth. Without enough levels of vitamin E, the scalp can become a less hospitable place for hair follicles to grow.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A is a superstar when it comes to skin health and overall wellness. In fact, retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a key ingredient in many anti-aging creams and serums. Plus, it’s a popular blemish-fighting ingredient.
Did you know that vitamin A also plays an important role in maintaining the health of your scalp? Low levels of dietary vitamin A can lead to skin issues like dryness, scaliness, and itchiness, which can all contribute to hair loss on the scalp.
Other Nutrients Deficiencies That Can Cause Hair Loss
Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for tissue growth and synthesis and is necessary to help over 100 enzymes carry out chemical reactions. Zinc is also critical for building proteins, such as keratin, the building block of hair. Though deficiency is rare, low levels of zinc can contribute to hair loss.
Selenium is another trace mineral to know about. It plays an important role in DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone metabolism and more. Selenium helps produce selenoproteins (a type of amino acid), which can contribute to new hair growth. However, low selenium levels can exacerbate iron deficiencies and also lead to hair loss.
The body needs iron to create hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the cells in the bloodstream. If you don’t get enough iron — be it through your diet or through certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease — it can lead to conditions like iron deficiency anemia and hair loss.
For vegetarians and vegans, iron supplements can be incredibly helpful in maintaining adequate iron levels.
Preventing Vitamin Deficiencies and Hair Loss
Some vitamin deficiencies are rare. Most people get adequate amounts of essential nutrients in their daily diet.
However, here are some tips to avoid vitamin deficiencies.
- Make sure you maintain a healthy weight and balanced diet. That means avoiding extreme or rapid weight loss or crash diets. These could trigger hair loss.
- Stick to antioxidant-rich foods, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats (omega-3essential fatty acids).
- Seek medical advice from your healthcare provider if you have concerns about vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
For hair health and growth support, our best-selling Hair + Energy formula boosts essential minerals like Zinc and Iodine to help support hair health when dietary intake is inadequate.
The Bottom Line
Essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals are vital to maintaining healthy growth and function. When vitamin deficiencies are present, a whole host of issues can arise, including hair loss.
Thankfully, most vitamin deficiencies are rare and can be managed with a balanced, healthy diet.
What is the structure of hair and how does it grow? | NCBI Bookshelf
Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? | AAD
Zinc | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review | PMC