In this article I’m going to be talking about vitamin D deficiency and hair loss.
A lot of people cope with hair loss and thinning hair and it’s very distressing.
You may not be aware of the fact that there is a connection between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss.
Vitamin d deficiency gets a lot of publicity. We know that people nowadays seem to be low in vitamin D and it’s associated with poor immune function, bone health and mood problems.
When people are struggling with hair loss, one of the first things I want to know is is there something in my diet that’s causing this or is there a supplement that I should be taking that can rectify this.
Dermatologists start looking for causes of the hair loss before they advise on whether or not any type of supplement or dietary modification is going to be necessary.
When it comes to hair loss and healthy hair, you have to think of it as a garden and the scalp health is like the soil. You want to make sure that the soil is rich in vitamins and minerals.
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A big part of ensuring healthy hair growth is cleansing the scalp regularly to remove sebum buildup that can contribute to inflammation and subsequent hair loss.
Your scalp needs good nutrients in order to facilitate healthy hair growth.
The skin cells called the keratinocytes metabolize vitamin D and these are the cells that are responsible for making keratin. That is protein that constitutes our skin, our hair and our nails. It’s really important to strong and healthy hair, skin and nails.
When vitamin D is low, then the keratinocytes in the hair follicle slow down in terms of making strong healthy hair and you can get an increase in hair shedding.
This is known as a telogen effluvium.
When you go to a dermatologist presenting with a complaint of hair loss, one thing that’s going to be checked is your vitamin D levels and there is some evidence that these are associated.
But overall how common is it that vitamin D deficiency is the cause of hair loss?
There are so many types of hair loss out there that it isn’t always the case. I’m pointing this out because I don’t want you to just start taking a vitamin D supplement in an effort to improve your hair or improve your hair growth.
It’s important to understand though that low vitamin D it’s not the only cause of hair loss. It’s really important that you see a board certified dermatologist for evaluation of your hair loss and for a complete workout to figure out what the cause is.
That includes blood work, checking for vitamin D, but they are also going to check other things like your iron levels. Low iron too can contribute to hair loss. Make sure that there isn’t some underlying medical cause. Also thyroid hormone would be another
thing that we would check.
In many cases, depending on the physical exam, meaning after they examine your scalp and take a look at your hair, in many cases they also might perform a scalp biopsy and that is a really valuable tool in getting a correct diagnosis.
I get a lot of questions what can I recommend for hair loss, what can I recommend for hair growth. The diagnosis is what I recommend. You have to get a diagnosis before you can ever begin to address your hair loss needs, because there are so many different types of hair loss.
You are doing yourself a disservice by not having that diagnosis because how do you really know how to navigate it beyond just scalp cleansing and scalp hygiene.
There are specific treatments for these different types of hair loss.
One of the more common types of hair loss that is associated with the low vitamin D situation is something called telogen effluvium.
That is basically hair shedding. It can happen after any type of stressful event.
Rreally what it is is that your body sees a stressful event and it’s like this is not the time to prioritize growing strong healthy hair and that may be because you are low in vitamin D, leading to more shedding. Or low in some other vitamin or mineral.
Maybe you have gone through a very stressful life event, strong emotional stress can trigger this. Or maybe you had surgery, that is a stressful event. Or maybe you took a new medication that just shifted the hair cycle around a bit and put more of your hair in the shedding phase.
This type of hair loss, telogen effluvium, typically presents six weeks to six months following the stressful event as an increase in shedding hairs.
It doesn’t lead to baldness, but what can happen is that it can uncover another type of hair loss that is common in women androgenetic alopecia or female pattern hair loss.
Basically the hair follicles are more sensitive to the male hormones. They miniaturize and that first presents as a widening of the part and a lot thinning of the hair around the temples.
If you undergo a telogen effluvium that’s going to be something that’s much more obvious to you as those hairs are shedding and you’ll be like ‘wow not only am I losing all this hair, but my hair is really thin and I’m seeing patches where I can see my scalp’.
Low vitamin D may be the cause or it may not. It may be one of these other things. That’s why the diagnosis is so important.
Beyond taking care of the health of your scalp, make sure that you have a healthy diet that is balanced and includes fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals.
A well-balanced diet that supports healthy hair growth has protein in it too. Keratin is really what makes up your hair and nails and skin and so if you are getting good quality proteins in the diet, you are providing amino acid building blocks for strong healthy hair.
Fruits and vegetables not only contain tons of vitamins and minerals that nourish that scalp soil, but they also have a lot of antioxidants that can fight off some of the inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation and oxidative stress can impact the hair cycle in the scalp.
That’s part of why you need to cleanse the scalp to remove dirt, oil sebum, pollutants, gunk that creates irritation and can contribute to oxidative stress and affect the hair cycle.
The other thing is delivering some anti-inflammatories through the foods that you eat, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds. These are all good sources of those.
Eating a balanced diet and consistently washing your hair as frequently as your hair type tolerates, those are things that you can do to ensure strong healthy hair growth and keep your scalp healthy to really ensure that inflammation is to a minimum.
But if you do develop hair loss and you see your dermatologist and you find out that your vitamin d is low, what is the treatment?
Typically it is supplemental vitamin D at a thousand international units daily for 12 weeks. It’s not that you need to necessarily supplement for the rest of your life.
It’s a very slow process for return to baseline, but with time and if there are no other external stressors that go on and further know shift your hair cycle around, then you can get restoration of your hair density and return to normal hair growth.
But if you have an underlying female pattern hair loss that was made more obvious by the telogen effluvium, this is not going to stop that. That is a process that happens in relation to hormones in the body, namely the testosterone that we all have.
In summary vitamin D is really important for healthy hair, skin and nails. It can be obtained from the diet and if necessary from supplements.
Always see your healthcare provider for diagnosis. Don’t just start taking supplements marketed for hair loss without getting that diagnosis first, because you could be just taking supplements unnecessarily and not helping your cause and losing time for appropriate treatment that will correct things.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.