Last modified on June 26th, 2023
Hair loss can be extremely difficult to deal with emotionally, but what we often don’t understand is that there are underlying vitamin and nutritional deficiencies that can contribute. It isn’t always the case, but there are some situations where identifying deficiencies that cause hair loss and then working to remedy them means that you can regrow hair, or you can strengthen your hair.
Your hair and its growth rely on metabolic processes that need certain vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes.
Micronutrients are essential to the cycle of normal hair follicles.
If you are concerned about hair loss and the potential that you have certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies, a good starting point is to speak with your doctor. They may even be able to test you for vitamin deficiencies.
So specifically, what deficiencies cause hair loss?
What deficiencies cause hair loss? One of the major ones could be vitamin D. We are increasingly finding out just how important vitamin D is. For example, vitamin D deficiency may mean worse outcomes if you contract coronavirus. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to many chronic diseases and even cancer, and it’s possible vitamin D deficiency can be linked to hair loss.
Vitamin D can stimulate hair follicle growth. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata. Some research shows that people with alopecia areata have lower vitamin D levels than those without this autoimmune condition.
Separate research has found that women with other types of hair loss also tend to have lower vitamin D levels.
So why might vitamin D deficiency be linked to hair loss?
Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in the health of most parts of the body, including hair and skin. In order for you to create new hair follicles, you need vitamin D. When you have new hair follicles, it helps keep your hair thick.
Another link between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss may occur because this vitamin is important for immune health.
If you have an immune system disorder, it may then attack your hair follicles leading to hair loss or poor growth.
Other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency aside from hair loss can include changes in mood such as anxiety or depression, slow wound healing, chronic pain, and constant fatigue.
You could have a vitamin D deficiency because you don’t get a lot of sunlight or because you don’t eat foods high in vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiencies are also common in people with underlying health conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease because they can’t fully absorb nutrients.
Certain medications can also cause vitamin D deficiency, such as antifungals, glucocorticoids, and anticonvulsants.
You can increase your dietary intake if your vitamin D deficiency is leading to hair loss or any other symptoms. The issue with this is that vitamin D isn’t naturally found in many foods. For example, most vitamin D in the American diet comes from fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice.
You might also consider a vitamin D supplement.
- Vitamin D helps stimulate cell growth and create new hair follicles
- Vitamin D deficiency is linked to alopecia
- You should take at least 600 IU of vitamin D a day, and if you’re over the age of 70 that goes to 800 IU
- Studies have found that among women between the ages of 18 and 45 with alopecia or other types of hair loss, they often have low vitamin D levels
Iron is another answer to the question of what deficiencies cause hair loss.
Iron is a mineral that plays a vital role in our body’s production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is in our red blood cells, and it’s needed so these cells can carry oxygen throughout the body.
That oxygen is then used by cells for many processes, including hair growth.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.
You might have anemia when you’re deficient in iron, along with hair loss. Anemia means your red blood cells aren’t able to properly deliver oxygen throughout your body. Symptoms include pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.
Women, and particularly women who have heavy periods, are most likely to have anemia. Your doctor can do a blood test to determine your low iron levels.
It can be dangerous to take an iron supplement without first having a blood test, however.
There are two types of iron—heme and nonheme. Plant sources usually have nonheme, while animal sources tend to have heme iron. Heme iron is more bioavailable.
If you take an iron supplement, you might also want to take it with vitamin C because it helps your body better absorb it.
- If you are deficient in iron, your body can’t produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries the oxygen needed for your cells to grow and repair themselves. This includes the cells needed to stimulate hair growth.
- Hair loss related to iron deficiency usually isn’t permanent. Your doctor can measure your iron levels.
- Along with supplementing with iron, you might also want to supplement with vitamin C, which helps you better absorb iron.
When it comes to answering what deficiencies cause hair loss, vitamin A is less talked about than some others for whatever reason.
Vitamin A is important not just for healthy hair growth, but it plays a role in your immune system, reproductive system, vision, skin, liver, kidneys, bones, and almost every part of your body.
You don’t want to have too much or too little vitamin A. Most dietary vitamin A comes from dark green, yellow, red, and orange vegetables.
It’s a good idea to try and get vitamin A from your food rather than supplements if possible.
- All cells require vitamin A for growth including hair, which is the fastest growing tissue in our body
- If you have a vitamin A deficiency, hair loss is just one of the possible symptoms
- Vitamin A also helps your skin make something called sebum, which moisturizes your scalp and helps maintain health hair
- Vitamin A is found in animal products like eggs and milk, as well as cod liver oil
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that’s important for collagen production, iron absorption, and the immune system.
If you’re deficient in vitamin C, it could lead to hair loss or weak, brittle hair. Vitamin C helps produce collagen. Collagen is necessary for the production of strong hair, and it also helps keep your skin healthy.
Vitamin C can help with collagen production and, as has been touched on, can help with hair growth because it helps your body better absorb iron.
Vitamin C is water-soluble, meaning your body doesn’t store an excess of it. You have to keep replenishing it through your diet or supplements.
Dietary sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, spinach, citrus fruits, and dark, leafy greens.
- Vitamin C is water-soluble, and our body doesn’t store it, so it’s easier to become deficient than you may think
- Vitamin C is required for tissue growth and repair throughout the body
- Vitamin C helps produce collagen which is essential for healthy hair
- When you’re vitamin C deficient your hair may fall out easily along with being weak and brittle
Most Americans are magnesium-deficient, and this deficiency can not only contribute to hair loss but can have far-reaching effects on mental and physical health.
Our bodies use magnesium to grow, function, and divide cells. More than 300 reactions in our bodies use magnesium, including hair growth.
If you don’t have enough magnesium, it can cause your hair to weaken or fall out, especially in women going through menopause.
Magnesium supports a healthy immune system and helps produce protein and energy.
Signs you could be deficient in magnesium and hair loss may include nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, and muscle contractions.
- Magnesium deficiency is incredibly common, especially among women
- One reason magnesium deficiency can contribute to hair loss is because it can cause excess testosterone in women, which then leads to facial hair and loss of scalp hair. Those are symptoms common with PCOS.
- Magnesium deficiency can have many other serious effects aside from hair loss including increased blood pressure and an increased risk of mental disorders like anxiety and depression
If you’ve ever purchased a supplement for hair growth, you’ve likely seen it contains B vitamins primarily.
There are 8 B-complex vitamins, and they play different roles, including helping our bodies produce healthy cells, preventing free radical damage, and supporting our mood and brain function.
When it comes to what deficiencies cause hair loss, biotin is often the focus. Biotin is vitamin B7. Biotin supports hair growth because it strengthens the hair shaft’s keratin structure. This is the part of your hair that you can see. You may have a biotin deficiency if you have dry skin and hair loss.
Foods with biotin include meat, nuts, and eggs.
Biotin is good not only for your hair but also your skin, and it can keep your nails strong and reduce your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Some of the factors that could contribute to biotin deficiency include chronic alcohol use, antibiotics, smoking, and taking certain acne medicines.
Along with hair loss or weak hair, other side effects of biotin deficiency may include memory problems or confusion, nausea, muscle pain, and the development of a skin rash on the face.
- B vitamins include B7 which is biotin, as well as B6, B12, and B8, which is inositol
- When your body doesn’t have enough of the right vitamins and nutrients it will try to maintain energy for essential functions. Hair growth is frequently first affected.
- Other symptoms of a B vitamin deficiency along with hair loss can include low energy, dry skin and sleep problems
Vitamin E is important because it helps balance antioxidants in your body, and it plays a role in protecting you against damage from free radicals.
In people with alopecia areata, the levels of vitamin E are often lower than in people without this hair loss disorder.
Signs of a vitamin E deficiency can include hair fall, dry, flaky skin, and eye and vision problems.
Vitamin E deficiency can also lead to hormonal imbalances and may even play a role in conditions like PCOS.
If you have a diet rich in vitamin E or take a vitamin E supplement, it can reduce inflammation in your body.
Foods with vitamin E include certain fruits like papaya, leafy green vegetables, dry fruits, flax seed, shrimp, and almonds.
- Vitamin E deficiency can lead to hair fall
- If you get enough vitamin E or take a supplement, it can regenerate dead hair cells and follicles
- Other symptoms of vitamin E deficiency can include dry, flaky skin, and eye problems
- Vitamin E is also linked to hormonal imbalance and conditions like PCOS and pre-menopause
Finally, when discussing what deficiencies cause hair loss, zinc can’t be left out.
Zinc is important for the growth and repair of hair tissue. Zinc is also necessary to make sure our oil glands around our hair follicles work the way they should. Some studies show the use of zinc supplements can reduce hair loss if it is indeed linked to a zinc deficiency.
You don’t want to take too high of a zinc dose, however, because that can actually lead to hair loss.
Foods that naturally have zinc include oysters, spinach, beef, and pumpkin seeds.
- Zinc is an essential mineral, meaning our body doesn’t produce it, so we have to consume it from food or in supplements
- One of the earliest signs of a zinc deficiency is hair loss
- Other signs of zinc deficiency can include reduced taste or smell, slow wound healing, low testosterone in men, and lethargy
- Zinc is linked to hair loss and growth because it helps with cell growth and division, synthesis of protein, and the production of hormones, including thyroid hormones
Summing Up—What Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss?
If you are experiencing hair loss, look at your diet first. Speak with your doctor or a nutritionist about any nutritional deficiencies you may have. You may find that hair loss is one of many symptoms linked to a certain nutritional deficiency. When you identify what deficiencies cause hair loss, it’s possible you can reverse it and potentially experience better overall health.