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Improving hair texture damaged by iron deficiency 
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on August 28, 2022

There are many factors that can affect the texture and quality of hair. Your iron levels in particular can play a big part in how long, strong and healthy your hair grows.

Iron deficiency anaemia affects around 2–5% of adult men and postmenopausal women [1]. This condition can have many effects on your physical health. Many people suffering from anaemia experience fatigue, heart palpitations, and paler skin than usual — but iron deficiency can also impact the texture and thickness of your hair [2].

While you may feel disheartened to see your hair looking thin or brittle as a result of iron deficiency, this underlying cause is treatable. Keep reading to find out more about iron-deficiency anaemia and the role it plays in your hair’s growth.

What causes iron-deficiency anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia happens when you don’t have enough iron in your body. Iron is an essential nutrient that we all need for a well-functioning body. The body can’t produce iron, so it must be obtained by eating a balanced diet of iron-rich foods.

When your iron levels are low, your body finds it hard to produce haemoglobin [2], which is found in your blood and carries oxygen around the body.

Oxygen is used for the growth and repair of many cells, including around your scalp which can stimulate hair growth. Without this hemoglobin, your hair won’t grow or repair itself at the same rate.

Certain groups of people are more likely to experience iron-deficiency anaemia, like women of childbearing age who are experiencing heavy periods and loss of blood during pregnancy [3]. It can also affect people who have disorders that make them unable to absorb iron, but it can also just come down to genetics.

Can low iron cause hair texture change?

Low levels of iron can often change the texture of your hair. It can go from feeling smooth and silky to dry and brittle.

The main answer to this is that when you’re low in iron, your body takes ferritin, a blood protein that contains iron, from your hair follicles for use in other parts of the body. This lack of ferritin means that your hair isn’t getting the support it needs to grow healthy.

With lower levels of ferritin in your follicles, you may notice changes in your hair texture. You hair may look frizzy, feel brittle and become coarse. 

Can low iron cause thinning hair?

Studies have shown that individuals who suffer from iron deficiency can experience symptoms similar to male- and female-pattern baldness [4], and that those who have low levels of iron are among the most likely to experience hair thinning and hair loss.

Although studies on the relationship between iron and hair loss remain largely underdeveloped, there are some preliminary works that highlighted links [5], [6]. It’s mainly agreed upon that the reduced levels of ferritin in the hair follicles of iron-deficient individuals significantly weakens the hair follicles enough to lead to hair loss.

Can hair grow back after iron deficiency?

If you’re concerned about hair loss, or your hair changing texture due to iron deficiency, all hope is not lost.

Studies have found that when hair is lost due to iron deficiency, it doesn’t scar the hair follicles [8] which suggests that in some cases hair will be able to grow again as the hair follicles haven’t been damaged beyond repair.

If nothing seems to work to bring your hair back to how it was before iron deficiency anaemia, you might want to check if it’s not too late to have a hair transplant

How long does it take for iron deficiency to improve?

If your hair loss has been caused by low iron and ferritin levels, once you treat the condition, you should notice your hair starting to grow back stronger and healthier within a few months.

In the case that your hair doesn’t start to grow back, it might be time to consult your GP, or call in the professionals at a clinic like the Wimpole Clinic.

Can you prevent iron deficiency and hair loss?

If you’re worried about your iron levels and hair loss, here’s what you can do.

Eat a balanced diet

You can up your iron levels through a range of sources like lean protein, spinach and peas. Some cereals are also ‘iron-fortified’ which indicates they have higher amounts of iron.

Start eating more foods with Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron better so eat more foods like tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and oranges. Learn more about the relationship between vitamin C and hair health.

Protect your hair

If you have long hair, wear it down as much as possible to avoid breakage. You can also wear hats and scarves to protect your hair from any external aggressors.

How to treat hair loss from iron deficiency

As with any type of hair loss, it’s important to treat the underlying cause. Speak to your GP or a qualified trichologist to establish if anaemia is the cause of your hair loss. If so, they’ll be able to help you find the right treatment to replenish your body’s iron levels.

If treating your iron deficiency doesn’t restore your hair, you may be eligible for surgical hair restoration. One of the most popular treatments for hair loss is Follicular Unit Excision (FUE) which is highly effective and produces impressive results after around 6–12 months after surgery.

The other treatment option that many people suffering from hair loss will choose is Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). We offer both of these treatments at Wimpole Clinic, creating impressive results for our clients.

Choosing between FUE and FUT is a personal decision, so it’s best to do your own research beforehand to figure out which one is right for you – or get in touch with our team who can help you decide.

References:

  1. Anaemia – iron deficiency: How common is it?
  2. Iron deficiency anaemia
  3. Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss
  4. Iron-deficiency anemia
  5. Iron Plays a Certain Role in Patterned Hair Loss
  6. Non-Anemic Iron Deficiency As An Etiologic Factor In Diffuse Loss Of Hair Of The Scalp In Women
  7. Correlation of serum ferritin levels, in female patients with chronic diffuse hair loss: A cross sectional study
  8. Iron deficiency and diffuse nonscarring scalp alopecia in women: more pieces to the puzzle
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on August 28, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on August 28, 2022

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