What Vitamin Deficiencies Can Cause Hair Loss?

While various factors can contribute to hair loss, vitamin deficiencies are one potential cause. Vitamins play an essential role in hair follicle growth. Knowing what and how certain vitamin deficiencies can hinder hair growth is imperative. This article highlights the vitamins that help with hair growth and how lacking some might lead to hair loss.

Key takeaways:

What is vitamin deficiency?

Vitamin deficiency is a condition that occurs when your body fails to receive enough of a particular vitamin to function correctly. Vitamins are micronutrients essential for various biochemical reactions, such as metabolism, immune function, tissue repair, and hair growth.

When deficient in a particular vitamin, your body may not perform these functions properly. Eventually, you may develop several symptoms and health problems, including hair loss.

What causes vitamin deficiencies?

Several factors can cause vitamin deficiencies. Some important ones include:

  • Poor intake. Consuming a diet lacking enough vitamins can lead to vitamin deficiencies. This is especially common in vegans or vegetarians who do not consume adequate vitamin B12 or iron from plant-based sources.
  • Inadequate absorption. Certain gut problems like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatic disorders can interfere with your body's ability to absorb vitamins properly.
  • Increased demand. In some stages of life, such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, or recovery from illness, your body requires more vitamins than usual. If you do not fulfill the demand accordingly, deficiencies may ensue.
  • Pernicious anemia. In this disorder, your immune system starts attacking your stomach cells, which produce a factor essential for vitamin B12 absorption. As a result, you'll develop vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Medications. Certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can affect your body's absorption of vitamins and minerals.
  • Lifestyle factors. Alcoholism and smoking can negatively impact how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamins.

What vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss?

Vitamin deficiencies denote a modifiable risk factor for alopecia (hair loss), meaning you can treat or prevent hair loss if you address this factor.

Vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiency

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a complex water-soluble vitamin well-known for its hair growth benefits.

This hair vitamin converts certain amino acids into keratin, a key structural protein your body uses to build the structure of hair and nails. Owing to its keratin production, biotin can make your hair stronger, healthier, and less prone to breakage and hair loss. This protein also helps promote the growth of healthy hair follicles and increase hair elasticity.

Biotin deficiency can lead to thin, brittle hair and hair loss. A 2016 study on 541 women revealed biotin deficiency in 38% of women complaining of hair loss.

While biotin is a vital nutrient for hair growth, taking excessive doses of biotin supplements may not necessarily promote hair growth. The recommended daily adult dose of biotin is 30 mcg. According to the National Institutes of Health, you can easily get enough biotin through a balanced diet rich in biotin, such as egg yolk, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables.

Taking biotin supplements may not benefit individuals without hair loss. There is insufficient evidence to confirm its efficacy in promoting hair growth in such cases.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is essential for healthy hair growth. This fat-soluble vitamin helps activate genes involved in the development of hair follicles. Vitamin D speeds up the production of new hair follicles, promoting thicker, fuller hair. A review of scientific literature also shows how vitamin D aids in hair regrowth.

You can develop vitamin D deficiency due to lack of exposure to sunlight or inadequate intake of a vitamin D-rich diet. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to stunted hair growth, hair loss, and thinning. A 2016 study found that women who complained of hair loss were likelier to have low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your body, including your scalp and hair follicles, promoting hair growth. Lacking this vitamin can hinder hair growth and cause hair thinning or patchiness.

Some causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include inadequate intake of B12-rich foods, poor absorption, and certain medical conditions. Foods rich in vitamin B12 are primarily animal-based, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Consequently, those following a vegan diet are at a higher risk of developing B12 deficiency.

So, how to know if your hair loss is due to low B12? If you're deficient in vitamin B12, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Overall weakness. That includes fatigue, pale skin, tingling, or numbness in hands and feet, and difficulty walking.
  • Changes in hair texture. Including dryness, thinning, and brittleness.
  • Scalp issues. For example, dandruff, itching, and inflammation.

Your doctor will also perform tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and a vitamin B12 blood test to detect vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, improves hair growth primarily via the following mechanisms:

  • By enhancing your body’s natural collagen production. Collagen is a key structural component of hair. Collagen provides strength and elasticity to your hair.
  • By boosting iron absorption. Iron deficiency also contributes to hair loss.
  • By shielding hair from damage caused by free radicals through its antioxidant properties.
  • By increasing the production of sebum, an oily substance that helps keep hair and scalp moisturized.

Free radicals are highly unstable and damaging oxygen species formed naturally or introduced in your body from external sources such as pollution, cigarette smoke, and certain chemicals.

Without enough vitamin C, your hair will become fragile, brittle, and prone to breakage. Moreover, reduced oil production will make your scalp dry and prone to dandruff, contributing to hair loss.

Vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to protect hair follicles from damage. It also helps direct blood circulation to your scalp, promoting healthy hair growth. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to hair loss and thinning.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A affects your skin and hair in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that too much or too little of it will have harmful effects.

Vitamin A promotes hair growth by several means, most of which are:

  • It aids in producing sebum, which keeps your scalp and hair moisturized and prevents breakage.
  • It plays a crucial role in the growth and development of hair follicles.

When there is a vitamin A deficiency, your hair follicles become weak and brittle, leading to hair loss. It can also cause dryness and flakiness of the scalp, which can further add to hair loss. This is because a dry and flaky scalp can lead to inflammation, damaging hair follicles and hindering hair growth.

How you fix a vitamin deficiency

The treatment for a vitamin deficiency depends on the specific vitamin that is deficient and its severity. Here are some general ways to fix a vitamin deficiency:

  • Change your diet. If you have a mild deficiency, you can often correct it by upping your intake of foods rich in deficient vitamins. For example, if you have a vitamin C deficiency, you can add more citrus fruits, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Take vitamin supplements. If you have a more severe deficiency or if changing your diet doesn't work, you may need to take a supplement. Supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and liquids. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.
  • Get vitamin shots. Some vitamin deficiencies, such as severe B12 deficiency, may require injections. Your healthcare provider can administer these injections.
  • Treat the underlying condition. If an underlying medical condition is responsible for your vitamin deficiency, treating that disease will help fix the shortage.

Can too many vitamins cause hair loss?

Just as not enough vitamins can cause hair loss, excessive intake of vitamin A supplements can lead to hair loss and other health problems. Therefore, it's essential to maintain a balanced and healthy diet that provides all the necessary nutrients in the right amounts. However, be sure to take the dose as recommended by your doctor.

What are the best vitamins to prevent hair loss?

Several vitamins are crucial for preventing hair loss. These include:

BiotinThis B vitamin helps to strengthen hair and prevent breakage.
Vitamin DThis nutrient helps to stimulate hair follicles and prevent hair loss.
Vitamin CThis vitamin plays a role in collagen production, essential for healthy hair growth.
Vitamin EThis vitamin is an antioxidant that can help protect hair follicles from damage caused by free radicals, preventing hair loss.
Vitamin AThis vitamin is necessary for sebum production and is a natural moisturizer for the scalp. A dry scalp can lead to hair breakage and hair loss.

Do B12 shots help hair growth?

Vitamin B12 is vital to overall health and can impact hair health. Limited scientific evidence suggests that B12 shots can directly promote hair growth.

A study on women with diffuse alopecia (hair loss) with low B12 levels showed improvement after daily vitamin B12 supplementation. It is worth noting that excessive B12 supplementation or shots can have potential side effects and should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

If you suspect a vitamin B12 deficiency, you must consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. In addition, eating a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, including vitamin B12, can help support overall hair health.

In conclusion, vitamins significantly impact hair growth but should not be considered a cure-all. Other factors such as genetics, diet, and lifestyle also play a role in hair health. It's best to get a balanced diet and seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have hair loss or thinning concerns.

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