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Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Updated on February 11, 2024

Vitamins and other micronutrients are not only essential for a healthy body and mind but also important for healthy hair growth. When our vitamin levels get dangerously low, it can impact hair growth and even lead to hair shedding. That’s why lots of people worry about which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss.

It should be noted that vitamin deficiencies are extremely rare in developed countries. Many people have vitamin inadequacies where they don’t meet the recommended micronutrient level however, very few people have clinical deficiencies.

Dr. Michael May explains what’s meant by a nutritional deficiency:

“A nutritional deficiency happens when your vitamin or mineral levels are so low that they cause observable clinical symptoms. This could be anything from bone fractures to vision problems, depending on the vitamin in question.”

Hair loss is an observable clinical symptom in some cases. So which vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss? In this article, you’ll learn:

  • 10 vitamin deficiencies that are linked with hair loss
  • What the science tells us about these vitamins and minerals
  • How to know if you have a vitamin deficiency
  • What to do if you think you have a vitamin deficiency.
Table of Contents

What micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies are linked to hair loss?

Here are 10 micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies that may lead to hair loss:

1. Iron deficiency and how it affect hair health

Hair loss conditions linked with iron deficiency

Iron is a core component of haemoglobin, a red blood cell protein that carries oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency can reduce the amount of haemoglobin in the blood. This is known as iron deficiency anemia.

When you’re anemic, your body prioritises oxygen delivery to your essential organs. That means your hair follicles don’t always get the oxygen and nutrients they need to produce healthy hair.


Iron is also needed to produce collagen. Collagen is made up of amino acids that are essential for keratin production. Keratin is the protein that makes up the majority of the hair shaft, so it’s essential for keeping your hair healthy.

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Red kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts
  • Fortified cereals
  • Shellfish
  • Spinach

2. Vitamin D deficiency and hair thinning

Hair loss conditions linked with vitamin D deficiency
  • Female pattern hair loss [2, 6-7]
  • Alopecia areata [8-10]

  • Telogen effluvium [2]

Hair follicles contain vitamin D receptors. When you have healthy vitamin D levels, these receptors help regulate your hair growth cycle and create healthy hair follicles. In fact, studies show that not having vitamin D receptors can lead to alopecia [11].

Most people do have these receptors. However, if you don’t have enough vitamin D, they may not work as they should. This can make your hair enter the shedding (or telogen) phase prematurely, creating the appearance of thinning hair.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in regulating your immune system [12]. Low vitamin D levels can alert inflammatory cytokines (proteins that give signals to your immune system) and provoke an autoimmune response. This leads to conditions like alopecia areata (a condition where patchy hair loss occurs) and causes inflammation around your follicles.

  • Get 10-30 minutes of sun exposure every day in spring and summer
  • Take daily vitamin D supplements in winter
  • Eat foods that are naturally rich in Vitamin D3 such as fatty fish and other foods fortified with Vitamin D

3. How zinc is important for hair growth

Hair loss conditions linked with zinc deficiency
  • Male pattern hair loss [13-14]
  • Female pattern baldness [13]
  • Telogen effluvium [5, 13]
  • Alopecia areata [13, 15]

Healthy hair follicle cells grow and divide over time. This process is called cell proliferation, and your body needs a healthy zinc supply to make this type of cell growth happen. Cell proliferation encourages hair growth and repair. Zinc is also required for other cell processes, such as creating new proteins that promote hair growth and aid hair follicle recovery.

Zinc can also stop hair from entering the final catagen phase of growth [19]. As a result, it’s been linked with several types of hair loss.

  • Beef
  • Oysters
  • Eggs
  • Cereals and oats
  • Pumpkin seeds

4. Biotin

Hair loss conditions linked with biotin deficiency
  • Male pattern baldness [14]

Without biotin, you may not be able to produce enough keratin. As keratin is the core hair protein, this can cause your hair to feel dry and brittle, and may even lead to hair loss.

  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Pork chops
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potato
  • Almonds

5. Vitamin E

Hair loss conditions linked with vitamin E deficiency
  • Alopecia areata [16]

Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals that damage follicle cells. Free radicals are highly unstable chemical entities that react with other molecules in your body, leading to oxidative stress which can facilitate the development of alopecia [21].

Vitamin E is the only micronutrient where dietary supplements are proven to have a positive effect on hair growth in patients, even if you don’t have a nutritional deficiency [22].

  • Wheatgerm
  • Rapeseed, sunflower, and olive oil
  • Hazelnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach and other greens

6. Folate (Folic acid)

Hair loss conditions linked with folate deficiency
  • Alopecia areata [17]

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is needed to make and repair DNA molecules. Ageing, defective, and damaged DNA is known to cause hair problems, including alopecia [23]. So a folate deficiency could damage your hair and even prevent healthy hair growth.

Lack of folate can also cause folate deficiency anaemia. People with this condition produce abnormally large red blood cells that can’t carry oxygen and nutrients around the body in the same way that healthy red blood cells can. So your follicles miss out on nutrients they need for hair growth.

There’s not much evidence that taking folic acid will help hair growth unless you have an active deficiency. 

  • Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chickpeas
  • White rice
  • Fortified cereals

7. Vitamin A

Hair loss conditions linked with vitamin A deficiency
  • Alopecia areata [18]

Vitamin A deficiency has been linked with alopecia areata. Vitamin A regulates T-cell activity, helping the immune system function properly [24].

However, excessive vitamin A can have a toxic effect on the body. There’s a lot of evidence that too much vitamin A actually causes hair loss [25]. Therefore, it’s not recommended to take a vitamin A supplement as a hair loss treatment unless your GP has verified its safety. This is also true for hair selenium supplements.

  • Sweet potato
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Oily fish
  • Liver
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Mango

8. Riboflavin

A lack of riboflavin, or vitamin B2, may lead to generalised hair loss [25]. People with a riboflavin deficiency find it more difficult to properly digest proteins (as well as carbohydrates and fats), which can lead to unhealthy hair [26].

Riboflavin deficiency may also lead to reduced protein production, thanks to lower levels of haemoglobin in the blood. It can also reduce the metabolism of other B vitamins like folate [27-28].

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushrooms
  • Yoghurt

9. Vitamin B12

There’s some conflicting evidence for whether a vitamin B12 deficiency causes hair loss. One research paper claims changes in vitamin B12 levels can modify the progression of alopecia areata [25].

Another found no difference between the levels of vitamin B12 in patients with and without alopecia areata [29]. Any link between vitamin B12 levels and alopecia areata may be due to the autoimmune nature of pernicious anaemia, which is the main cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been linked with hair greying and whitening as early as childhood [25].

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs

10. Vitamin C

There’s not much evidence to link vitamin C deficiency with hair loss. However, your body needs vitamin C to absorb iron. Therefore, if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you could develop an iron deficiency that impacts your hair health [25].

Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, which helps hair stay strong and shiny [30].

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

How to know if you have a vitamin deficiency

While some vitamin deficiencies have noticeable symptoms, you’ll need a blood test to confirm whether you have a true vitamin deficiency.

Symptoms of a nutritional deficiency include:

  • Extreme tiredness and lack of energy
  • Heart palpitations (iron deficiency)
  • Night blindness (vitamin A deficiency)
  • Vision problems (vitamin A deficiency)
  • Mouth ulcers and a sore tongue (vitamin B12 or folate deficiency)
  • Swollen or bleeding gums (vitamin C deficiency).

Remember that most people in the UK don’t have nutritional deficiencies. So even if you see some of these symptoms, they may not be related to a lack of vitamins.

What can I do to prevent a vitamin deficiency?

The best way to prevent vitamins and minerals deficiencies is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet. This includes:

  • Eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods including quality proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, foods rich in essential fatty acids, and whole grains
  • Limit your smoking and consumption of alcohol
  • Limit your intake of processed foods
  • Safely get 10-30 minutes a day of mid-day sunlight
  • Speak with your doctor about your diet and lifestyle before taking any supplements – hair vitamins for men and women aren’t always helpful

What to do if you think you have a vitamin deficiency causing hair loss

If you think you might have a vitamin deficiency, you should speak to your GP. They can arrange free blood tests to determine whether or not you have a vitamin deficiency.

When your deficiency has been diagnosed, your doctor can help you find the right treatment. This will probably involve vitamin supplements or, in more severe cases, a vitamin IV drip.

Unless you have a vitamin deficiency, supplements aren’t usually recommended to treat hair loss. That’s because there’s not much evidence that vitamin supplements promote hair growth.

In the UK, vitamin deficiency is an unlikely cause of hair loss. Even if low vitamin levels are contributing to your condition, they’re probably not the only cause. That’s why it’s important to get hair loss checked out by a trichologist as well as your GP.

Trichologists are hair loss specialists who can help diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan for hair regrowth. If you’re worried about losing hair, book a consultation with our trichology team to diagnose and understand your condition.

  1. Decreased serum ferritin is associated with alopecia in women
  2. Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role?
  3. Iron status in diffuse telogen hair loss among women
  4. The role of anemia and vitamin D levels in acute and chronic telogen effluvium
  5. Assessment of heavy metal and trace element levels in patients with telogen effluvium
  6. Serum Vitamin D3 Level in Patients with Female Pattern Hair Loss
  7. Possible association of female-pattern hair loss with alteration in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels
  8. Vitamin D deficiency in alopecia areata
  9. An investigation of vitamin D status in alopecia areata
  10. Correlation of vitamin D and vitamin D receptor expression in patients with alopecia areata: a clinical paradigm
  11. Role of the Vitamin D Receptor in Hair Follicle Biology
  12. Correlation of Vitamin D with Inflammatory Cytokines, Atherosclerotic Parameters, and Lifestyle Factors in the Setting of Heart Failure: A 12-Month Follow-Up Study
  13. Analysis of serum zinc and copper concentrations in hair loss
  14. Serum biotin and zinc in male androgenetic alopecia
  15. Evaluation of serum zinc level in patients with newly diagnosed and resistant alopecia areata
  16. The antioxidant role of paraoxonase 1 and vitamin E in three autoimmune diseases
  17. Evaluation of Serum Homocysteine, High-Sensitivity CRP, and RBC Folate in Patients with Alopecia Areata
  18. Antioxidants and lipid peroxidation status in the blood of patients with alopecia
  19. Estimation of Zinc and Iron Levels in the Serum and Hair of Women with Androgenetic Alopecia: Case–control Study
  20. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss
  21. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair
  22. Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers
  23. Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis
  24. Vitamin A and retinoic acid in T cell–related immunity
  25. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
  26. Riboflavin Deficiency
  27. Impaired collagen maturity in vitamins B2 and B6 deficiency–probable molecular basis of skin lesions
  28. Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and health
  29. The role of micronutrients in alopecia areata: A Review
  30. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health
  31. Vitamin D | The Nutrition Source
Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr Ahmad Moussa (FRCS)Updated on February 11, 2024
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