In a recent study published in Dermatology and Therapy, researchers examined the role of minerals and vitamins for hair loss.
Hair loss is a common problem with many causes. It can affect the scalp and other areas of the body. Every person experiences hair loss to some degree and it becomes more common with age. Hair loss can result from medical conditions, medication, hormonal changes, stress, poor nutrition, and more.
More men than women experience hair loss, and it can appear in many different ways depending on the cause. Some people experience gradual thinning on the top of the head, which is the most common type of hair loss. Others might suffer from bald patches or complete baldness.
Managing hair loss is difficult and can affect quality of life. A number of treatment options have been explored, including hair replacement, medication, and dietary supplementation. Some of these treatments can slow hair loss or stimulate partial regrowth, but many of the current options have limited success.
In a recent collaborative study published in Dermatology and Therapy, American and Saudi Arabian researchers examined how effective vitamins and minerals have been for treating hair loss. For the study, researchers gathered clinical results from 125 articles on hair loss in human subjects. Their study looked at the effectiveness of a number of nutrients as a hair loss treatment, including vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and zinc.
Here, we summarize the findings of their study.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A has a number of important functions in the body, and has a role in vision, immune function, and development and growth of cells. The recommended amount for adults 19 years of age or older is 4,300 IU [international units] per day. According to the studies, researchers concluded that excess consumption of vitamin A can cause hair loss. Patients that regularly consumed excessive vitamin A showed hair loss, and those taking more than 10,000 IU each day suffered from vitamin A toxicity.
2. Vitamin B
Vitamin B is a complex vitamin group that contains a number of related compounds that support metabolism. Of the vitamin B complex, only riboflavin (vitamin B2), biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 have been linked to hair loss. In Western countries, deficiencies in riboflavin and biotin are rare. Most people gain sufficient amounts of these nutrients from a normal diet. However, many people take biotin supplements even though they are not deficient.
People that do have low biotin levels can experience hair loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails. Biotin deficiency can be acquired or genetic, and pregnant women or those with malabsorption disorders are at an increased risk. Despite these symptoms of low biotin levels, the nutrient is not supported by large-scale studies as a treatment for hair loss. Overall, the use of B vitamins for hair loss, in general, is not supported by clinical trials.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C acts as a strong antioxidant and is involved in proper growth and development. Among other roles, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron absorption in the digestive tract. Although vitamin C is important for many body processes, there is no evidence connecting vitamin C levels to hair loss. However, it can help iron-deficient patients with hair loss due to its role in iron absorption.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another important nutrient for growth and development, and promotes absorption of calcium in the gut and maintains calcium levels in the blood. It also supports bone growth, immune regulation, and provides anti-inflammatory effects.
According to clinical studies, vitamin D might have a role in hair loss. Specifically, researchers looked at the role of vitamin D in three conditions of hair loss: alopecia aerata (AA), androgenetic alopecia (AGA), and telogen effluvium (TE). Each of these conditions has a different cause and pattern of hair loss. Though results are conflicting, most studies showed that supplementing vitamin D can limit hair loss in patients with vitamin D deficiency. Several studies also revealed a direct link between low vitamin D levels and AA, which can be caused from immune system dysfunction.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and also aids in immune function. However, despite the role of vitamin E in immune regulation, there is no clear evidence that it contributes to hair loss.
Iron is an essential mineral for blood production in the body. It is mainly found in hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. It is also found in ferritin, which stores iron in other parts of the body.
Studies have shown that many women with hair loss also suffer from iron deficiency. Most authors suggested that low iron levels might be related to some form of hair loss, though some studies showed conflicting results. Overall, the majority of studies support iron supplementation for patients with iron deficiency and/or low ferritin levels.
Selenium plays an important role in the development of many proteins in the body that support reproduction, thyroid function, and other processes. The recommended daily intake of selenium for people aged 14 years and older is 55 micrograms. Data relating hair loss and selenium deficiency are limited. However, studies did show that a selenium intake of more than 400 micrograms per day results in hair loss and other symptoms such as nausea, irritability, and brittle nails.
Zinc supports a number of functions in the body including metabolism, cell growth and development, immune function, and more. Zinc deficiency has been associated with certain types of hair loss, however, data on its role in TE and AGA are limited. Most studies on AA confirmed that patients had low zinc levels, but clinical studies on zinc supplementation for hair loss are lacking.
Though vitamins and minerals are important for hair development and immune function, more large-scale clinical studies are needed to confirm the value of supplementing minerals and vitamins for hair loss. Supplementation of certain nutrients, including vitamin D and iron, may be beneficial for hair-loss patients with specific deficiencies.
Written by Braydon Black, BSc
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Hair loss [Internet]. Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic; (unknown date) [cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926.
- Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: a review [Internet]. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). Epub 2018 Dec 13 [cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30547302 doi: 10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
- Better Health Channel. Patterned hair loss [Internet]. Victoria, Australia: Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria; [updated 2018 April; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/patterned-hair-loss
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; [updated 2018 Sep 18; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; [updated 2018 Nov 9; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; [updated 2018 Dec 7; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from:https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; [updated 2018 Sep 26; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from:https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; [updated 2018 Sep 26; cited 2019 Jan 5]. Available from:https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/