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If you’ve been experiencing hair loss lately, you’re likely wondering what could be causing it. Is it your lifestyle? Are you using hot tools too much? Do you pull your hair up into too many ponytails, updos, and buns? Or perhaps you have a vitamin deficiency? We’re here to touch on that last one. After all, while all of the aforementioned causes can lead to stress on the hair, vitamin deficiencies are the most likely culprits for the actual loss of strands.
Of course, the vitamins (or lack thereof) responsible for loss might not be as obvious as you’d think. After all, it doesn’t always come down to biotin. Instead, a vitamin D deficiency might be to blame. But it’s not always cut and dry. With that in mind, we spoke with two dermatologists about everything there is to know about vitamin D-related hair loss.
Meet the Expert
- Michele Green, MD, is a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist.
- Scott Paviol, MD, is a dermatologist in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Is There a Link Between Hair Loss and Vitamin D?
While vitamin D deficiency is most notably connected to mood, bone health, and the immune system as a whole, cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green says that it plays a role in hair health (and loss), too.
“Vitamin D is metabolized in the skin by keratinocytes,” she says, noting that keratinocytes are skin cells that produce keratin, a protein responsible for keeping hair, skin, and nails looking (and feeling) their best. “When the body does not have enough Vitamin D, the keratinocytes in hair follicles have trouble facilitating hair growth resulting in shedding and hair loss,” she explains.
While vitamin D deficiency is linked to hair loss, it’s not likely the cause of loss for most people who deal with hair loss. Rather—while the evidence is controversial—several studies (here, here, and here) have found that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in various non-scarring alopecia, including telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, and alopecia areata.
Don’t think you have non-scarring alopecia? You might want to think again. According to dermatologist Scott Paviol, the non-scarring forms of alopecia mentioned above are caused by common occurrences such as hair thinning due to life stressors (telogen effluvium), age-related hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), and autoimmune hair loss (alopecia areata).
More Common Causes of Hair Loss
While many people might be dealing with vitamin D-related non-scarring alopecia and not even know it, Green says that there are plenty of other reasons why hair loss might be occurring. Namely, she nods toward genetics, hormones, and major lifestyle changes (ie: during pregnancy, while processing trauma, undergoing surgery, etc.). That said, she says that the three most common types of hair loss are telogen effluvium (mentioned above), alopecia areata (also mentioned above), and Trichotillomania. While the first two are influenced by vitamin D deficiencies, Trichotillomania is an uncontrollable impulsive disorder in which a person pulls out their own hair.
“It can take six weeks to six months from a stressful event for hair loss to occur,” Green says, noting that if Trichotillomania is at play, and if the hair doesn’t initially come out, it could fall out down the road. And, if it’s not treated in its early stages with growth boosters (which your dermatologist will be able to advise), the loss could be permanent.
Outside of the most common causes of hair loss, Green says that living in a physically toxic environment can also lend to loss. “Studies have shown that toxins and carcinogens in polluted air can interfere with the protein-producing processes within the body which stimulate hair growth,” she explains.
Since so many things could be at play, Green says that the best way to treat hair loss is to start by finding the underlying issue that’s causing it. After all, you don’t want to start treating your hair loss for the wrong cause. With that in mind, she highly recommends consulting with an experienced dermatologist who will be able to assess your condition and offer all the best treatment options.
How to Treat Vitamin D-Related Hair Loss
First things first, make sure that your hair loss is, in fact, being caused by a vitamin D deficiency. “Before you start to treat Vitamin D deficiency suspected hair loss, I’d recommend going to see a dermatologist get a proper diagnosis,” Paviol says, noting that hair loss and hair thinning can be complex and multifactorial. “I liken the scalp to a garden, and for the flowers to grow, you need to make sure all of the factors (vitamins and medications) are in place to ensure maximum growth.”
In addition to checking vitamin D levels, your doctor will be able to check iron levels and blood counts and examine your scalp to see if anything else might be at play.
“If you are deficient in Vitamin D, for most patients, I will recommend Vitamin D 1,000 IU daily for 12 weeks,” Paviol shares. While supplementing is a great way to boost vitamin levels, Green recommends focusing on a well-balanced diet (rich in Iron, omega-3 acids, magnesium, selenium, iodine, protein, vitamins, zinc, and biotin), as well. After all, you are what you eat, and if you eat a bounty of hair-boosting vitamins and minerals, chances are, your mane will show it.
That said, if your vitamin D levels are deficient, Paviol says that there are other, more intensive ways to supplement the vitamin. Your dermatologist will be able to walk you through them.
Hair loss is common but, in the moment, can feel anything but. Thankfully, it’s a problem that you can improve with vitamin and mineral supplementation. “Patients with hair loss often inquire whether nutritional supplements can help restore hair growth or prevent further hair loss,” Green says. “Vitamins and minerals are important for normal cell growth and function and may contribute to hair loss when they are deficient.”
That said, before adding dozens of supplements to your routine, Green says you should speak with a doctor first to ensure that you’re taking the right amount and targeting the proper cause.