Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
4th May 2021

In 30 Seconds… 

There are a number of factors that can contribute to hair loss. Common causes range from hormones, genetics, and stress, to poor diet and lifestyle. This means finding the root cause of a thinning or balding head of hair can take a bit of detective work.

One factor worth exploring early on is vitamin deficiency. Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B-vitamins like biotin and Vitamin B12, Iron, and Selenium are all important for hair growth and retention in their own way. A deficiency in any of these can result in hair loss.

If your vitamin intake is balanced and healthy, and you’re still experiencing hair loss, other factors are likely at play. In this case, it’s worth pursuing a tried and tested hair loss treatment, such as Minoxidil or Finasteride.

Causes of hair loss can vary from one individual to the next. If you’re experiencing hair thinning, baldness, or excessive hair shedding, it’s worth exploring every possible avenue in order to pinpoint the underlying reasons.

Stress, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, or plain old genetics are common culprits when it comes to male-pattern hair loss, but a poor diet and lifestyle can also play its part. 

If you’re not topping up your system with the right vitamins and minerals, this can lead to a deficiency — and hair loss can present as a common symptom. 

In this post, we take a look at five essential vitamins where hair health is concerned.  

5 Vitamin Deficiencies Which Cause Hair Loss

1. Vitamin D Deficiency 

When it comes to answering which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss, Vitamin D is perhaps the best-known offender. Found in foods like fatty fish, eggs, red meat, avocado, chia seeds, and nuts, Vitamin D is essential to hair growth as it stimulates both new and old hair follicles. 

What’s more, a lack of Vitamin D has been suggested as a cause of alopecia areata. Although this has not been proven conclusively, studies have shown that patients with alopecia areata report lower levels of Vitamin D when compared to those without alopecia.

Other symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, chronic pain, loss of bone density, depression, infertility, and muscle weakness.

How to get more Vitamin D:

  • Incorporate those foods mentioned above into your diet, especially oily, fatty fish; egg yolks; liver, and red meat.
  • Take Vitamin D supplements. According to recent research, almost 1 in 5 people in the UK have low Vitamin D levels and would benefit from supplementation.
  • Get outdoors and (safely) enjoy the sunshine.

2. Iron Deficiency

Iron is a vital nutrient involved in the creation of haemoglobin, a protein in the blood which carries oxygen to your cells. When you don’t have enough iron in your system, your body can’t produce haemoglobin in your red blood cells, which, in turn, means it can’t transport oxygen to grow and repair cells elsewhere — including those cells responsible for hair growth.

According to a 2013 study, hair loss caused by an iron deficiency may resemble traditional male-pattern hair loss. This means you may notice excessive hair build up in your shower drain, or more on your hairbrush or pillowcase than normal. You may even notice bald patches on your scalp in more serious cases.

Other symptoms of iron deficiency include tiredness, anxiety, brittle nails, shortness of breath, and a sore tongue. However, if you address it in the right way, these symptoms — and any hair loss associated — should be temporary. 

How to get more Iron:

  • Eat iron-rich foods, such as liver, red meat, chickpeas, red kidney beans, dried fruit, and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Take an iron supplement.

3. Biotin (Vitamin B7) Deficiency

In addition to converting certain nutrients, fats, and carbohydrates into energy, Biotin also plays a vital role in the health of your hair, skin, and nails. A lack of biotin in your system can present as a scaly, red rash, brittle nails, and the gradual thinning and loss of hair.

However, developing a biotin deficiency is extremely difficult. A healthy, balanced diet should deliver all you need, although smoking, chronic alcohol use, and certain antibiotics and medications can affect your biotin levels.

How to get more Biotin:

  • Take a biotin supplement; something that has grown in popularity due to growing buzz around its (claimed) energy and hair growth properties. However, a 2017 study found a lack of evidence to suggest that healthy individuals would benefit from supplementation.
  • Eat biotin-rich foods, such as organ meats (liver or kidney), egg yolk, almonds, peanuts, whole grains, mushrooms, or bananas.

4. Vitamin A Deficiency

The relationship status between Vitamin A and your hair? It’s complicated. It’s not just a deficiency that you have to worry about; consuming too much Vitamin A can also result in hair loss. 

This is because high levels of Vitamin A can send your hair follicles into overdrive, reaching the end of the growth phase faster than normal. As a result, your hair can start falling out — and If your body can’t keep up, you’ll experience noticeable hair thinning, or even baldness.

A lack of Vitamin A, on the other hand, can be bad news for your luscious locks as it’s an essential nutrient for cell growth, including hair. It also helps your skin glands create something called “sebum”, which moisturizes your scalp and keeps your hair healthy.

How to get more/less Vitamin A:

  • If you’re experiencing a deficiency, you should eat more Vitamin A-rich foods, such as dark yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, eggs, liver, and dairy products. 
  • If you have too much Vitamin A in your body, you need to scrutinize your diet, medications, supplements, and cosmetic creams and treatments. It could be possible that you’re unknowingly consuming too much Vitamin A either via your diet or your skin. Once you reduce your Vitamin A intake to normal levels, you should see hair loss slow and stop.

5. Selenium Deficiency

Selenium is an antioxidant which contributes to the healthy functioning of your immune system and offers protection to cells from oxidative stress. And if you have low levels of this mineral in your system, the health of your hair could suffer as a result.

That being said, selenium deficiency is relatively rare, affecting only certain countries and regions where selenium content in the soil (and, therefore, plants) is lower. Your body only requires a small amount of selenium, and this can generally be achieved via a varied and balanced diet.

If you drink too much alcohol or smoke too many cigarettes, you can make it difficult for your blood to properly absorb selenium, leading to a deficiency in this crucial mineral. Symptoms of selenium deficiency typically present as fatigue, problems with concentration, and, of course, hair loss.

How to get more Selenium:

  • Eat selenium-rich foods like fish (yellowfin tuna, sardines, salmon), brazil nuts, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, sunflower seeds, and fortified cereals, pasta, or wholemeal bread.
  • Take a selenium supplement. Like Vitamin A, there’s an upper limit of selenium consumption that’s considered healthy (400 micrograms a day in adults). Anything above this could lead to toxicity and a range of harmful side effects.

How to Treat a Vitamin Deficiency

The above vitamin deficiencies are among the most common where hair loss is concerned. 

However, there are a number of other vitamins and minerals which also affect the health and quality of your hair. Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C, along with essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6, should all appear in a healthy, balanced diet to guard against baldness and hair loss.

Treating nutritional deficiencies, meanwhile, isn’t a case of loading up on any one type of vitamin or mineral in the hope that you’ll feel and look better. If you suspect that your hair loss is linked to a lack of vitamins, sidestep self-diagnosis and get professional help. A simple blood test should reveal all, and you can get one easily through the Manual Wellness programme

Once you have the results, we can recommend a personalised plan, including the right supplements and treatments, dietary guidelines, and lifestyle advice. 

The Complete Hair Loss Plan

Finasteride & Minoxidil

This powerful combo promotes hair growth by blocking DHT – a hormone linked to hair loss – and by increasing blood flow around your follicles.


Best for
Overall thinning hair
Effectiveness
Over 9/10 Men
Contains
One-a-day tablets (Finasteride) / Daily Spray (Minoxidil)

Key Takeaways… 

Getting your fair share of vitamins and minerals as part of a balanced diet is crucial for healthy hair, mind, and body. If you’re worried that your hair loss is linked to a vitamin deficiency, make an appointment with your doctor to explore further. It could be that your thinning head of hair has a relatively simple fix — eat more good stuff, and cut out the bad.

And if that doesn’t do the trick (i.e., something more complicated is causing your hair to fall out), you can move on to a tried and tested hair loss treatment

References

  1. Mahmud MahamidOmar Abu-ElhijaMosab SamamraAmmad MahamidWilliam Nseir (2014). Association between vitamin D levels and alopecia areata: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25058999/

  2. webmd.com- Alopecia Areata: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/alopecia-areata#1

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

  4. Song Youn Park, Se Young Na, Jun Hwan Kim, Soyun Cho, and Jong Hee Lee (2013). Iron Plays a Certain Role in Patterned Hair Loss: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678013/

  5. Deepa P. Patel, Shane M. Swink, and Leslie Castelo-Soccio (2017). A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

  6. Helen B Everts (2011). Endogenous retinoids in the hair follicle and sebaceous gland: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21914489/

  7. Gabriele Pizzino,  Natasha Irrera, Mariapaola Cucinotta, Giovanni Pallio,  Federica Mannino,  Vincenzo Arcoraci, Francesco Squadrito, Domenica Altavilla, and Alessandra Bitto (2017). Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/

  8. Aparna P. Shreenath; Muhammad Atif Ameer; Jennifer Dooley (2020). Selenium Deficiency: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482260/

  9. webmd.com – Selenium: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/supplement-guide-selenium#2-5

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.

Further reading

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