You may have heard online chatter lately about selenium benefits for hair loss. And some of these benefits may be real, but only if you respect the daily recommended dose.
While having a selenium deficiency can sometimes contribute to hair shedding (alongside other health issues), ingesting this micronutrient in excessive quantities has been found to cause hair loss, alongside many other health problems .
At the recommended daily dose of 55 micrograms , selenium helps to keep you healthy and may present hair benefits, such as stimulating hair growth, protecting your strands from UV radiation or helping to treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis (although more research is needed to verify this).
However, if you exceed 400 micrograms daily, you may develop selenium toxicity, which can manifest as severe digestive, neurological and cardiological symptoms and can also cause your hair to fall out.
Since selenium supplements aren’t always properly monitored and may contain higher doses than recommended , it is ideal to get your daily selenium intake from foods, such as fish, cereals, poultry, eggs and dairy.
It is also advisable to get blood tests that attest you have a selenium deficiency and to get the recommendation of a trichologist before taking selenium supplements for hair loss.
Keep reading this article to discover what scientific research says about:
Selenium is a micronutrient (a mineral that you need in very small quantities) which is incorporated in important enzymes called selenoproteins . They are necessary for proper functioning of the human body and have been scientifically proven to play a role in the prevention of certain forms of cancer, maintaining heart health, immunity and good cognitive and reproductive functions .
Scientists agree that there is no health or cosmetic benefit from supplementing your selenium intake if you don’t have a deficiency . The extra amount will – in the best-case scenario – be excreted and in the worst-case scenario, lead to toxicity.
While a selenium deficiency can have its own range of health consequences, constantly getting more selenium than needed can lead to potentially serious health issues alongside hair loss.
Scientists agree that it’s only beneficial to take selenium supplements for hair loss if you have a selenium deficiency. Here is what balanced levels of selenium are purported to do for your hair:
A few studies, most performed on animals, have shown that insufficient selenium has led to slower hair growth or hair shedding . However, there is little scientific evidence of the same effect occurring in humans, possibly because selenium deficiency is rather rare and has not been sufficiently studied with a focus on hair loss.
There is also some research that indicates selenium may play a part in regulating the human hair growth cycle and that selenium imbalances can cause a lengthening of the shedding phase, but further studies are needed to confirm this .
However, there is a robust body of scientific literature that has shown excessive selenium intake can cause moderate to severe hair shedding, due to selenium toxicity .
One study conducted on 31 patients with ovarian cancer revealed that receiving a selenium supplementation during chemotherapy led to a significant decrease in chemotherapy hair loss.
That is because selenium levels were normally depleted by the treatment and supplementation kept them at healthy levels and reduced the severity of some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy , including hair shedding .
However, more research is needed to determine whether this applies to other types of cancer treatments as well.
Selenium plays a role in the production of antioxidants, and thus in reducing oxidative stress  on your hair and summer hair loss. That means it may have some contribution to protecting your hair strands from damage caused by excessive exposure to sunlight, which can leave you with dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily.
However, given the very small amount of this element which can be present in our bodies, it is unlikely that it will have a great enough impact on your hair to provide sufficient UV protection on its own, even if supplemented. So always make sure to protect your hair from direct sunlight exposure in hot, sunny weather.
A meta-analysis performed on 27 studies, totalling 1315 patients, revealed that people who experienced psoriasis, acne and atopic dermatitis showed lower levels of selenium in their blood than in the control group .
This may suggest selenium could play a role in the development and treatment of common scalp problems, such as scalp psoriasis, scalp acne or atopic dermatitis .
However, one study conducted on 69 patients with psoriasis revealed no improvement in patients who received selenium supplementation.
Similarly, while some research indicates that selenium deficiency can exacerbate symptoms of atopic dermatitis , a clinical trial conducted on 60 adults with this condition showed no improvement after 12 weeks of selenium supplementation .
Selenium has also been found by one study  to have antimicrobial properties that were effective in vitro against certain bacteria, some of which are known to cause scalp folliculitis.
However, there are no studies to show that supplementing selenium would be effective in killing this bacteria in humans.When it comes to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, selenium sulphide shampoos are frequently recommended as treatment. This means that selenium can play a role in improving these conditions, but not alone and not through dietary supplementation.
That is because ingesting it does not affect the microbes on the surface of your scalp. However, applying a selenium sulphide shampoo topically on your scalp has been found to reduce irritation and itching .
To sum things up, further research is needed to determine the relationship between selenium levels and frequently occurring scalp problems.
Selenium deficiency is rather rare in healthy individuals, as it can be found in many readily available foods, such as :
Proportion of daily recommended selenium value per serving:
There is currently no scientific evidence that selenium contributes to the decrease of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). On the contrary, one study conducted on 36 males who received selenium supplementation revealed no differences in their levels of testosterone or DHT before and after supplementation .
This finding indicates that selenium levels are unlikely to play a significant role in the development or treatment of androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness), a common type of alopecia closely related to your DHT levels.
However, if you suspect you may be experiencing androgenetic alopecia, it is best to see a trichologist from the first signs of hair thinning and balding, as this condition is likely to progress if left untreated.
As is the case for most vitamins and nutrients, taking selenium supplements is only recommended if you are experiencing a deficiency. In this case, it is best to follow the recommendations of your healthcare provider regarding the type, amount and frequency of your selenium supplementation.
In order to maintain healthy levels of selenium, it is recommended to intake 55 (for women) – 70 (for men) micrograms of this element per day, most of which should come from your diet.
So if you are not getting enough selenium from your diet and supplementation has been recommended, it may be safe to take selenium every day, provided that your total intake of this element does not exceed the daily recommended value.
Taking an excessive amount of selenium over a longer period of time can result in selenium toxicity. One study showed that 72% of the 200 people who took a dietary supplement that accidentally contained 200 times the selenium content listed on the label experienced this condition .
The symptoms of selenium toxicity can range from moderate to life-threatening , so if you think you may be experiencing selenium poisoning, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible:
Selenium toxicity-induced hair shedding can range from some diffuse thinning to alopecia universalis , depending on the quantities of this element that were ingested:
If you are experiencing hair loss and would like to curb it and find ways to stimulate hair growth, there are many evidence-based treatments and therapies you can try:
However, these treatments are only effective against certain conditions which lead to hair loss. Furthermore, in certain people, they can produce unwanted side effects or interfere with pre-existing medication. That is why it is good to avoid self-medication and get a recommendation from a hair specialist.
There can be a number of reasons why you may be experiencing hair shedding or hair loss. The most common reasons your hair may be falling out include:
If you are concerned about hair loss, book a consultation now with one of our world-renowned trichologists. They will run all the necessary tests and provide you with an accurate diagnosis and a personalised treatment for your condition.
It is a good idea to get treatment for your hair loss sooner rather than later, as certain kinds of alopecia progress if left untreated and can get to the point where medication alone can no longer restore your hair. If that happens, you might need a hair transplant to recover your once-luxurious locks.
Fortunately, even if you should need hair restoration surgery, technology in this field has developed to the point where you can get such a natural-looking hair transplant that it will be hard to tell you even had one, regardless of whether you opt for a FUT or FUE procedure.
Basically, you can get a hair transplant without anyone knowing. The best hair transplant clinics in the UK have a 97-100% success rate and you can see the results for yourself in our before and after hair transplant gallery.
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