Which Nutritional Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss?
Healthy hair growth relies on healthy hair follicles, and these mini-organs require as much oxygen, vitamins, and minerals to function properly as any other organ in the body.
Nutritional deficiencies in B vitamins and vitamins D and E, trace minerals, collagen, and omega-3 fatty acids can cause hair loss and thinning hair. These deficiencies are also linked to hair growth disorders, including alopecia areata and male pattern baldness.
Discover which nutrients support healthy hair growth—and find out if you are at risk of mineral or vitamin deficiencies that can impact your hair growth.
Eight nutrients essential for healthy hair
While it has long been known that biotin and zinc play important roles in hair health, more evidence suggests a complex interplay between several nutrients, hair follicles, and the scalp.
Here are eight nutrients that are essential for healthy hair!
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been found to directly stimulate hair follicle cycling, explaining why vitamin D deficiency can lead to patchy hair loss, thinning of hair, and baldness.
Possible signs of low vitamin D levels are:
Bone and muscle pain
Depression and anxiety
While vitamin D has been suggested as a potential hair loss treatment, taking too much vitamin D can lead to elevated blood calcium levels, also known as hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia increases the risk of hair loss due to calcification of hair follicles.
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E increases blood circulation in the scalp and promotes oxygen-rich blood and nutrient supply to hair follicles.
Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that, similar to vitamin C, protects hair follicles from oxidation and damage by harmful free radicals, natural by-products of energy metabolism.
Possible signs of vitamin E deficiency are:
Tingling and numbness in hands or feet
Biotin belongs to the B vitamin family. Without biotin, hair follicles can’t produce keratin, the main protein that makes up hair.
It’s well established that biotin deficiency can lead to hair thinning and hair loss, and biotin supplements are an effective way to support thick and strong hair.
Possible signs of biotin deficiency:
Dry, scaly skin
Cracked corners of the mouth
Swollen and painful tongue
4. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a crucial nutrient for the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in pernicious anemia, a condition characterized by large and deformed red blood cells that cannot deliver oxygen and nutrients to the delicate blood vessels of the scalp.
A lack of oxygen can lead to disrupted function of hair follicles and is directly linked to hair growth disorders, hair loss, and thinning hair.
Possible signs of low vitamin B12:
Tingling in hands and feet
Unexplained weight loss
5. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is essential for protein synthesis and hair production. Without vitamin B6, hair follicles can’t transport adequate amounts of amino acids into cells, which are the building blocks for keratin, the main protein in hair.
Imbalanced testosterone levels can significantly reduce the number of hair follicles and shorten the hair follicle cycle phase that stimulates hair growth. Vitamin B6 has been found to modulate the impact of hormone imbalances on hair follicles and support normal hair growth.
Possible signs of vitamin B6 deficiency:
Numb hands or feet
Weakened immune system
Watch the video below to learn about the missing link in hair loss.
6. Trace Minerals
The body utilizes more than 90 trace minerals. Although you only need small amounts of these nutrients, they support many physiological functions and promote overall health and well-being.
Trace minerals are crucial cofactors for enzymes. Without trace minerals, biochemical reactions, including protein synthesis, DNA expression, digestion, and detoxification, would be impossible.
Possible signs of trace mineral deficiency:
Brittle hair and nails
Here are three trace minerals that are essential for hair growth.
Iron deficiency and hair loss are closely linked. Because iron is needed to supply oxygen-rich blood to the scalp, iron deficiency anemia and the lack of adequate blood supply to hair follicles greatly increases the risk of hair loss.
Zinc deficiency is common and can quickly result in hair growth issues. Without adequate zinc, the enzymes that trigger keratin production can’t be activated, causing brittle and thin hair that’s prone to shedding.
A group of research dermatologists published a study in the Annals of Dermatology investigating the link between zinc supplementation and alopecia. The authors concluded, “We suggest that zinc supplementation could become an adjuvant therapy for the alopecia areata patients with a low serum zinc level and for whom the traditional therapeutic methods have been unsuccessful.”
Selenium is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes chemically unstable free radicals linked to the oxidation of cells and tissues, including hair follicles. Selenium also protects the scalp from fungus linked to dandruff which has been found to disrupt normal hair growth regulation.
Collagen is essential for maintaining a healthy scalp and supporting strong hair. Collagen is a structural component of the dermis, the part of the skin that houses hair follicles.
A lack of collagen can lower the number of hair follicles and disrupt normal hair follicle function and lead to hair loss. In addition, collagen is made of amino acids needed to produce keratin.
Supporting healthy collagen levels helps strengthen hair and regrow new hair follicles.
Possible signs of low collagen:
Thin, papery skin that’s prone to wrinkles
Joint and ligament issues
Muscle pain or weakness
Poor wound healing
8. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats are essential fatty acids with potent anti-inflammatory properties that can lower the risk of inflammatory scalp conditions, including psoriasis and dermatitis. Inflammation of the scalp can significantly impact hair follicle health and result in hair shedding.
Possible signs of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency:
Dry skin and eyes
Why do nutrients affect hair growth?
Hair follicles grow hair strands and anchor them deep into the skin. Each hair follicle contains sebaceous glands that nourish hair and secrete antimicrobial substances to protect the scalp from microbial infections.
Hair follicles are functional structures that, much like any other organ, require energy, nutrients, blood supply, and oxygen. They have an unusual ability to completely renew themselves and go through a process called hair follicle cycling.
Follicle cycling is necessary to trigger new hair growth and the shedding of old hair strands. Each stage of the hair follicle cycle requires different nutrients to support cellular renewal, follicle proliferation, and keratin production for healthy hair growth.
Hair is mainly made of keratin, a protein produced within hair follicles that requires collagen, vitamins, and minerals.
A lack of adequate protein and nutrients can quickly result in disrupted hair follicle function and hair loss and can cause the growth of dry and brittle hair shafts.
Other causes of hair loss
Nutritional deficiencies are likely to blame for a significant percentage of hair loss. However, dysregulated immune function, hormonal imbalances, and medication use—including antidepressants and cholesterol-lowering drugs—are also linked to hair growth disorders.
Hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, directly influence hair follicle count and the rate of hair follicle cycling.
This explains why diminishing testosterone levels in older men are often accompanied by male pattern hair loss, and postmenopausal changes in estrogen are linked to female pattern hair loss.
Stress and anxiety can cause hair loss, and a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggests that elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol trigger the breakdown of proteoglycans, a group of proteins that provide structural integrity for hair follicles.
Although more research is needed to understand the link between digestive health and hair growth, there is evidence that a lack of bile salts and dysbiosis—an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the gut—can contribute to biotin deficiency linked to hair loss.
Hair loss can be a symptom of a wide range of medical issues, and it’s essential that you consult with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
A poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances can impact hair follicle function and increase the risk of thin and brittle hair that’s prone to shedding.
Vitamins D and E, B vitamins, trace minerals, collagen, and omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in the growth of hair and maintaining healthy hair follicles.
Following a Healthy Keto® diet and taking dietary supplements to support optimal vitamins, trace minerals, and fatty acid levels should be the first step to supporting hair follicle function and promoting healthy hair growth.
1. Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Deficiencies in vitamin D and E are linked to hair loss. In addition, low B vitamin levels, especially deficiency in vitamins B6 and B12, and biotin deficiency can impact hair follicle health and keratin production, which can worsen thinning hair and worsen hair loss.
2. What minerals are you lacking if your hair falls out?
Healthy hair production requires iron, copper, selenium, and zinc, which explains why a deficiency in trace minerals can cause baldness, hair loss, and dry hair prone to splitting.
3. Can a vitamin B12 deficiency cause hair loss?
Lack of vitamin B12 can cause malformed red blood cells that are too large to supply the small blood vessels of hair follicles with oxygen. Lack of oxygen significantly impairs hair follicle function and can lead to hair shedding and baldness.
4. Can a lack of vitamin D cause hair loss?
Vitamin D is vital for hair follicle health and immune system function. Nutritional deficiency of vitamin D significantly increases the risk of hair loss and immune-related hair disorders, including alopecia areata.
5. Can hair grow back after vitamin deficiency?
If hair loss is related to a nutrient deficiency, hair will likely grow back once the deficiency has been corrected. Research has shown that vitamin D supplements and iron supplements effectively restore hair growth related to nutritional deficiency.
6. How do I stop my hair from falling out and thinning?
To support optimal nutrient levels and promote healthy hair growth, follow a nutrient-rich diet like Healthy Keto® and take high-quality nutritional supplements to correct any potential nutrient deficiency you may have developed.
7. How do I know if I'm losing hair due to vitamin deficiency?
It can be challenging to identify potential vitamin deficiencies. However, if you experience hair loss in combination with brittle nails, dry skin, dandruff, and bleeding gums and are prone to infections and sleep issues, you likely have a deficiency in one or several vitamins.