Vitamin D is one the most important hormone/nutrient we can put into our bodies. Whether we get it from sun exposure or through food and dietary supplements, vitamin d plays a vital role in keeping our bones, teeth, and muscles in tip top shape. But did you know that vitamin d deficiency can cause hair loss?
On this post, you’ll find everything you need to know, regarding vitamin d deficiency, hair loss, and what you can do to maintain your healthy hair growth.
What is Hair Loss?
It’s not uncommon for humans to lose hair. Did you know that we shed between 50 and 100 hairs every single day without even noticing (NHS 2022)? It’s a completely natural occurrence, regardless of vitamin deficiencies.
Whilst it’s not uncommon for us to lose hair, we may typically become concerned when we start to notice an excess amount of hair loss. Usually, we may see this extra hair loss on our hairbrushes, our pillows, and around our shower plugs.
There are many differing things that lead to hair loss. From heredity conditions (androgenetic alopecia) to autoimmune disorders (alopecia areata), hair loss can occur as a result of genetic and environmental factors. One of the most concerning environmental hair loss issues is caused through vitamin d deficiency.
Although rare, vitamin d deficiency may also be a cause for hair loss. In a review conducted by the Journal of Molecular Sciences (2017), a strong link was discovered between lower vitamin d levels and an increased prominence of: female pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, and alopecia areata.
What is Vitamin D and What Role Does it Play in Hair Growth?
Believe it or not, vitamin d isn’t actually a nutrient in the same way as vitamin a, b12, or c. Actually, it’s a hormone. In your body, vitamin d is metabolised in skin cells called keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are absolutely vital in skin repair, muscle growth, and the health of hair follicles (Booth & Potten 2000).
Your hair is made of a protein called Keratin which is made by Keratinocytes. Keratinocyte cells are also found right at the top of your dermic layer, right where your hair follicles are. So, with enough vitamin d in your Diet and lifestyle, your hair should always be happy and healthy.
Most governments and healthcare systems across the world will recommend a daily dose of at least 600 IU (international units) or 15 mcgs (micrograms). Furthermore, the older you get, the more vitamin d you should expose yourself to; at least 800 IU is recommended for people over 70. These particular stats are taken from the U.S. National Institute of Health.
If you’re based in the UK, the NHS recommends that everyone over the age of 4 should take a vitamin D during the autumn and winter months. This is because a British winter rarely provides us with enough sunlight, as well as it often being too cold for Brits to expose our limbs and catch enough sunlight.
As well as vitamin d supplements, you can also intake this helpful hormone through a number of different methods. As well as sunlight exposure in the warmer months, dairy and protein are foods naturally high in vitamin d.
If you want to promote healthy hair growth without a vitamin d supplement, the NHS recommends introducing the following foods into your diet:
- oily or fatty fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
So, what happens to your hair growth cycle when you don’t get enough vitamin d? Keep reading to find out more!
Hair Loss and Vitamin D Deficiency
When your body doesn’t have enough vitamin d, your keratinocytes seem to struggle regulating your natural hair cycle, reducing hair growth and increasing hair shedding.
With lower vitamin d levels, the anagen (growth) phase of your hair cycle seems to shorten and your telogen (resting) phase seems to lengthen. Not to mention, your dermic layer (the foundations that hold your hair in the skin) is weakened, making your hair more likely to fall out.
Vitamin D Deficiency has even been linked to autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata (Cerman et. al 2014), a condition that leave patients with small bald patches on areas of the scalp and (sometimes) beard.
Supported by a further clinical study (Rasheed et. al 2013) that found a correlational link between female alopecia sufferers and low vitamin d levels. However, just because there is a link, does not imply causation. Clinical research on vitamin d related hair loss is still in its infancy.
What Symptoms of Vitamin d Deficiency Should I Look Out For?
Differentiating symptoms of vitamin d related hair loss from other forms can be difficult. In cases of androgenetic alopecia, hair loss always follows a well established pattern like a receding hairline (for men, see the Hamilton-Norwood Scale. For women, see the Ludwig Scale). However, this is not the case for vitamin d related hair loss.
If you’re showing signs of a receding hair line (or a recession of the hair in the mid-parting for women), then your hair loss is unlikely to be strictly down to vitamin d deficiency.
However, if your hair loss is down to vitamin d deficiency, then look out for the following symptoms
- thinning hair
- patchy hair loss.
As well as symptoms of hair loss, it is also important to consider some other (more general) symptoms of vitamin d deficiency aside from hair loss. If you experience any other the following symptoms, then this could be a sign that your hair loss be occurring as a result of vitamin deficiency:
- joint pain
- muscle weakness
- depression or lowered mood
- impaired wound healing
Vitamin D Deficiency tends to affect people between the ages of 18-45 more than any other age group. Although it is not uncommon for vitamin d related hair loss to occur in other age groups, younger adults seem to be most vulnerable.
Definitely consider a vitamin d supplement if you live a sedentary lifestyle (working behind a desk), spend most of your time indoors, and live in a colder climate like the UK. This is a great preventative measure for those at the highest risk of vitamin d deficiency and hair loss.
Can Vitamin d Deficiency Related Hair Loss be Stopped?
Absolutely, vitamin d related hair loss is an entirely fixable condition with the right amount of sunlight and dietary supplements. You just have to be prepared to wait for your own hair follicle cycling once your vitamin d levels begin to increase.
Generally, when we think of hair loss, we immediately think of the hereditary condition called male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia). There is nothing we can do to stop this type of hair loss and hair thinning, we can only seem to manage, or slow down, our symptoms.
However, as vitamin d deficiency is an environmentally caused condition, there are things we can do to stop this patchy hair loss and promote the growth of new hair follicles. One of the first things you could do is go for a blood test. This will help to diagnose if you are vitamin d deficient.
How Can I Treat Vitamin d Deficiency Related Hair Loss?
If you’re considering a blood test , make sure it’s with a medical professional. Using a doctor or GP ensures you’re getting a proper diagnosis and some professional medical advice along the way!
If you have a vitamin d deficiency, there are many remedies for increasing the levels of vitamin d in our bodies. However, we don’t want too much vitamin d as this could cause hypercalcemia; a condition where there is too much calcium in the bloodstream.
Vitamin D Supplements
It really isn’t hard to find a great vitamin d supplement. Whilst you’ll easily get a high quality supplement from a pharmacy (Boots, Superdrug, or Holland & Barrett), most supermarkets offer supplements that are just as effective at an even lower price.
Any vitamin d supplements that offer an IU rating of 1000 (or above) are ideal. In the winter months, there’s no harm in increasing this dose. Some vitamin d supplements even have a rating of 5000 IU.
Keratin hair Treatments are great for vitamin d
Another great way to fix your hair loss caused by vitamin d deficiency is through using a keratin hair treatment. A Keratin treatment is usually performed by a barber or hairdresser and aims to make your hair healthier by bonding hair back together and reducing split ends.
With some extra strength and fortification, you can probably rest assured that your hair follicles are going to be more resistant to further hair loss and thinning. An extra positive of this treatment is that your hair is likely to be more manageable and styleable, especially if you have naturally frizzy hair.
Keratin treatments will usually set you back anywhere between £200 and £400. If you don’t have this kind of money available, there are may keratin-dense shampoos and conditioners on the market that are effective at reducing hair loss. Go on, have a shop around!
Spend some time in the sun to boost your vitamin d
During the summer months, we intake almost all of our vitamin d through sun exposure. This is why a vitamin d supplement is rarely needed during summer, but vital during winter.
If you’re lucky enough to have a little more expendable income, you could even book yourself a holiday during winter to somewhere with more sun exposure. A Caribbean or Mediterranean getaway would be an amazing way to combat those January blues!
With some extra sunlight, not only could this stimulate hair growth, but also help to reduce stress and symptoms of seasonal affective depression; two conditions also linked to hair loss.
Monitor Your own vitamin d levels
If you’re really dedicated to a healthy diet and lifestyle, then monitoring your vitamin d levels is absolutely vital. With today’s technology, you can get blood test kits delivered straight to your door, enabling you to know exactly how much vitamin d you have in your body at any time.
This mean that you’ll be able to track your vitamin d levels, bone health, and progress of your hair loss treatments just by knowing you’re getting enough vitamin d.
How Quickly Will My Hair Grow Back After I have Fixed My Vitamin D Deficiencies?
Results on hair regrowth are mixed to say the least. How quickly your hair grows back is, primarily dependent upon how long your hair is to begin with.
Vitamin D related hair loss tends to affect women more than men. On balance, women tend to have longer hair than men, meaning it will probably take longer for your hair to regrow back to its normal length.
Any anecdotal evidence on Internet forums will give you different answers. It could take two weeks, it could take months. After searching around these forums when this article was being written (September 2022), a full recovery seems to take between 6-8 months.
However, many of the people on these forums appear to be women with long hair, and show a small number signs of comorbidity with other conditions like depression (a condition also linked to hair loss).
The truth is, it’s hard to say! All we do know is that more peer-reviewed, clinical research needs to be conducted in this area, so the hair growth community has a firmer grasp on the relationship between vitamin d and hair loss.
Concluding Remarks on Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that performs a vital role in keeping our bodies in tip top shape. One of the reasons we may have healthy hair is by simply getting enough vitamin d into our diet and lifestyle.
It is quite easy to intake Vitamin D, coming in a range of different forms. From eating foods like fatty fish, cod-liver oil, and diary, to ingesting vitamin d supplements, to getting enough sun exposure, there’s plenty you can do to get enough vitamin d into your bodies.
When a person has a vitamin d deficiency, this can (in some cases) cause hair loss, even with a healthy scalp. With insufficient vitamin d, this can also have a number of more serious implications than hair loss.
Unlike male pattern baldness or alopecia areata, vitamin d related hair loss is entirely treatable through a range of methods. With vitamin d, new hair follicles are able to form, meaning you do not need a hair transplant.
You can begin to restore hair growth immediately, with a full recovery time usually taking between 6 and 8 months for those with long hair. For those with shorter hair, new hair growth can begin to look thicker and fuller within 2-4 weeks.