Can a Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?
Here at the DK Hair Klinik, we get a lot of sunshine. We’re in Antalya in Turkey, and well, we’re blessed with the weather. The majority of our patients however, travel to see us for a hair transplant from Western European countries such as the UK. Where, let’s be honest, the sun doesn’t always make an appearance.
But what does all this have to do with hair loss, you ask? The answer is, vitamin D. Vitamin D isn’t present in many foods (it’s in low levels in meat and oily fish, and some cereals and spreads are fortified with it, so we don’t get much from our diet). Instead, the body makes it from sunlight hitting the skin. This means that the majority of Brits are deficient in vitamin D, at least during the autumn and winter months, and the UK NHS advises taking a supplement .
The problem is, many don’t, and arrive to see us with an undiagnosed vitamin D deficiency. In fact, around 1 billion people across the globe are thought to have a deficiency in this vital vitamin!
The link Between Vitamin D and Hair Loss
There are a few nutrients that if lacking from the diet, can cause hair loss . These include the B vitamins, protein and omega 3 fatty acids. But vitamin D also plays a role.
Vitamin D, as well as helping to keep the teeth and bones healthy and strong is also responsible for stimulating the growth of the hair follicles. If we have low levels of vitamin D, the reasoning goes, that the growth of the hair follicles could be negatively affected.
The exact mechanism behind this isn’t yet fully understood, but it is an area or increasingly intense research.
Alopecia Areata and Vitamin D Levels – What Does the Science Say?
A scientific research paper published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2014 looked at the link between vitamin D levels in the blood of patients suffering from alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in inflammation of the hair follicles when they’re in the anagen, or growth, stage of the hair cycle. It causes the hair to fall out at an unnatural rate (it’s perfectly normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, any more than this is cause for concern) and is extremely distressing.
This study found that patients with alopecia areata had significantly lower vitamin D levels than those without the hair loss condition. It also found that those with the worst level of hair loss, had the lowest vitamin D values.
The study’s authors noted that those with alopecia areata should be screened for vitamin D levels and offered a supplement if found to be deficient.
Another study, this time in 2013 looked at vitamin D levels and hair loss specifically in women . The women chosen for the study either had age related female pattern hair loss, or telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a common condition that causes the hair to thin. It occurs when too many of the hair follicles enter the telogen, or resting, phase of the hair growth cycle. If too many follicles are resting, rather than growing, it results in hair loss.
This study also found a link between low vitamin D levels and excessive hair loss. It too concluded that screening for vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D supplements should be standard in the treatment of female hair loss.
Why Does Vitamin D Have an Effect on Hair Loss?
So what is the link between vitamin D and hair loss? The authors of one research paper think they have the answer. Published in 2016, the authors went a stage further than just taking blood to test for vitamin D levels. They also took small biopsies of the skin of the scalp in patients suffering from alopecia areata and also androgenic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness.
They looked for the presence of vitamin D receptors in the keratinocytes, abundant skin cells that are responsible for the growth and development of hair follicles . Vitamin D receptors are tiny markers on the surface of these cells that signal to vitamin D molecules that the cell needs vitamin D.
The study found that in those with these hair loss conditions, the concentrations of the vitamin D receptors was significantly lower . This proves a link between a lack of vitamin D reaching the hair follicles, and hair loss.
Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency
If you have low level of vitamin D in your blood , you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
• Aches and pains in your bones, which can make you predisposed to bone fractures and breaks
• Non-specific muscle aches and weakness
• Slow wound healing if you cut yourself
• Having an impaired immune system that means you pick up bugs and infections easily and are always feeling unwell
• Feeling frequently tired, lacking in energy and irritable
• Feeling depressed
• Itchy, flaky skin
• Hair loss
If in doubt, try taking a daily vitamin D supplement. Give it at least three months to see if it makes any difference to your symptoms.
We always take a blood sample from our patients as a matter of course, to test for their levels of vitamin D. Almost all of our patients have a vitamin D deficiency and we always recommend a supplement. Having a hair transplant is the best way to overcome thinning hair or a balding scalp. But if you’re deficient in vitamin D, then you may still experience hair loss, which defeats the object of all that time in the hair experts chair.
Fancy finding out how your hair loss could be improved? Book your free online consultation with us, to start your journey to a new head of hair.