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Vitamin D & Hair Loss: Is There a Connection?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
14th July 2021

In 30 Seconds… 

Vitamin D boasts a range of health benefits, from improving bone density to boosting your immune system, regulating mood, and helping with weight loss. 

However, it also plays an important role in hair regrowth. Vitamin D stimulates both old and new follicles in your hair cycle, maintaining thickness and reducing hair loss.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin D in your diet — or you’re not safely enjoying the sunshine — you could suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Research suggests this lack of vitamin D could lead to hair loss. 

Vitamin D and Hair Loss

Vitamin D plays a vital role in several bodily functions — so much so that a deficiency in this essential nutrient can lead to health problems, from your head to your toes. 

In this article, we explore vitamin D deficiency and hair loss in particular, and answer the question: is there a connection between the two? 

Does Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

The role of vitamin D is more commonly associated with our bones. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium from your diet. Without enough vitamin D, your body takes calcium from its stores in your skeletal system, leading to weakened bones.

However, that’s not the only role vitamin D plays in your body. It’s also crucial for hair growth

Vitamin D (which contains vitamin D3) stimulates both old and new hair follicles, which in turn help to maintain your hair’s thickness. So, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, the health and quality of your hair could suffer.  

The Science Linking Vitamin D & Hair Loss

Over the years, there have been several studies pointing to a connection between vitamin D and hair loss.

  • A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that those suffering from alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that causes unpredictable, patchy hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere on the body) had lower levels of vitamin D than those who don’t.
  • Another study shows a “significant correlation” between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness). 
  • Meanwhile, a 2007 study suggests that it’s the vitamin D receptor (VDR) that’s essential for hair follicle integrity. 
  • And research published on PubMed in 2013 found that women suffering from telogen effluvium (TE) or female pattern hair loss (FPHL) also displayed lower levels of vitamin D than those with no hair loss. 

In short, there’s a case for a strong connection between the two. 

So, What Are the Symptoms of Low Vitamin D? 

If you’re noticing an increase in hair fall on your pillow or strands in your shower drain, you might be wondering if a lack of vitamin D is the culprit. 

Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency can be difficult to pin down. Symptoms can change over time, and sometimes they won’t present at all. 

Here are a few common symptoms to look out for:

  • Mood changes
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Loss of bone density (resulting in frequent fractures, osteomalacia, or rickets in children)
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Thyroid problems 
  • Tingling sensation in the hands, feet and toes

What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?

Two of the most common causes of vitamin D deficiency are simply a lack of sunlight and/or not eating enough vitamin D-rich foods (see below).

Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, hence its nickname: the sunshine vitamin. If you spend too much time indoors you could prevent your skin from absorbing enough of the nutrient. 

Side note: It was once thought that wearing too much sunscreen could prevent vitamin D absorption, but studies found little evidence that this was the case

Meanwhile, underlying health conditions such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can also prevent the body from properly absorbing nutrients.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Every Day?

According to the NHS, you need 10 micrograms or 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. For most people in the UK, this can be achieved by simply enjoying 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure every day between late March and the end of September.

However, during the winter months, this can be more difficult, and so your vitamin D intake has to come from your diet. 

Here’s How to Add More Vitamin D to Your Diet

There are a variety of vitamin D-rich food sources you can add to your meal plan. These include:

  • Oily, fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, halibut, mackerel, and sardines
  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Beef liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified orange juice, milk, and breakfast cereals

You can also top up your levels with vitamin D supplements if you’re deficient. A recent study found that around 1 in 5 people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D and would benefit from supplementation. 

A word of caution, however. You can have too much of a good thing. High doses of vitamin D (over 100 micrograms per day) can lead to toxicity. Calcium can begin to build up in your system, weakening your bones and causing damage to your heart and kidneys. 

To be on the safe side, always discuss dietary supplements with your doctor or healthcare provider before you start taking them.

Which Other Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss?

Vitamin D isn’t the only vitamin linked with hair loss. Other vitamin deficiencies can also contribute to thinning, baldness, or excessive shedding. 

We explore these in more detail in this article, but the top line is this: a deficiency in iron, biotin (vitamin B7), vitamin A, and selenium can all, to a certain extent, affect the health of your hair. 

And this isn’t an exclusive list, either. The likes of vitamin B12, vitamin E, and vitamin C — alongside essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 — should form the basis of a healthy diet if you want to guard against hair loss. 

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Key Takeaways… 

The science would suggest that, yes, there is a strong connection between vitamin D and hair loss.

If you’re worried that your hair loss is linked to vitamin D deficiency, make an appointment with your doctor. It could be that your thinning head of hair has a relatively simple fix — spend more time outside, eat a healthy diet, and take a regular supplement.

References

  1. A. Aksu CermanS. Sarikaya SolakI. Kivanc Altunay (2014). Vitamin D deficiency in alopecia areata – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjd.12980

  2. Sarita Sanke MDSuvarna Samudrala MDAnuja Yadav MDRam Chander MDRajeev Goyal MD (2020). Study of serum vitamin D levels in men with premature androgenetic alopecia – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ijd.14982

  3. Marie B. Demay, Paul N. MacDonald, Kristi Skorija, Diane R. Dowd, Luisella Cianferrotti, and Megan Cox (2007). ROLE OF THE VITAMIN D RECEPTOR IN HAIR FOLLICLE BIOLOGY – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1876678/

  4. H RasheedD MahgoubR HegazyM El-KomyR Abdel HayM A HamidE Hamdy (2013). Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role? – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23428658/

  5. R E NealeS R KhanR M LucasM WaterhouseD C WhitemanC M Olsen (2019). The effect of sunscreen on vitamin D: a review – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30945275/

  6. NHS.uk – Vitamin DVitamins and minerals – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/

  7. British Nutrition Foundation – New reports, New advice on vitamin D – https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/new-reports/983-newvitamind.html

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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