Vitamins and other micronutrients are essential 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.
Vitamin deficiencies are extremely rare in developed countries. Many people have vitamin inadequacies — where they don’t meet the recommended micronutrient level — but 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
- How to know if you have a vitamin deficiency
- What to do if you think you have a vitamin 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 anaemia.
When you’re anaemic, 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.
2. Vitamin D
- Female pattern baldness [2, 6-7]
Alopecia areata [8-10]
Telogen effluvium 
Hair follicles contain vitamin D receptors. When you have healthy vitamin D levels, these receptors help regulate your hair growth cycle and keep the hair follicle cells healthy. In fact, studies show that not having vitamin D receptors can lead to alopecia .
Most people do have these receptors. But 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 thinner hair.
Vitamin D also plays an important role in regulating your immune system . Lack of vitamin D can alert inflammatory cytokines — proteins that give signals to your immune system — provoking an autoimmune response. This leads to conditions like alopecia areata, and causes inflammation around your follicles.
- Get 10-30 minutes of sun exposure every day in spring and summer
- Take a daily vitamin D supplement in winter
- Male pattern baldness [13-14]
- Female pattern baldness 
- 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 it happen. Cell proliferation encourages hair growth and repair.
Zinc can also promote hair follicle recovery, and stop hair entering the final catagen phase of growth . As a result, it’s been linked with several types of hair loss.
- Male pattern baldness 
Biotin is needed to create keratin. It’s essential for carboxylation, in which certain carboxylic acids combine with specific amino acids to create keratin .
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.
5. Vitamin E
Alopecia areata 
Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals that damage follicle cells. Free radicals are highly unstable atoms that react with other molecules in your body, causing oxidative stress which can manifest as alopecia .
Vitamin E is the only micronutrient where supplementation is proven to have a positive effect on hair growth in patients, even if you don’t have a nutritional deficiency .
- Rapeseed, sunflower, and olive oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Spinach and other greens
- Alopecia areata 
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 . 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.
- Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
- White rice
- Fortified cereals
7. Vitamin A
- Alopecia areata 
Vitamin A deficiency has been linked with alopecia areata. Vitamin A regulates T-cell activity, helping the immune system function properly .
But 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 . So it’s not recommended to take a vitamin A supplement for hair loss unless your GP has verified its safety.
A lack of riboflavin, or vitamin B2, may lead to generalised hair loss . 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 .
Riboflavin deficiency may also lead to reduced collagen production, and reduce the metabolism of other B vitamins like folate [27-28].
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 .
Another found no difference between the levels of vitamin B12 in patients with and without alopecia areata . 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 .
10. Vitamin C
There’s not much evidence to link vitamin C deficiency with hair loss. But your body needs vitamin C to absorb iron — so if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you could develop an iron deficiency that impacts your hair .
Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, which helps hair stay strong and shiny .
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 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. If you’re worried about losing hair, book a free consultation with our trichology team to diagnose and understand your condition.
- Decreased serum ferritin is associated with alopecia in women
- Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role?
- Iron status in diffuse telogen hair loss among women
- The role of anemia and vitamin D levels in acute and chronic telogen effluvium
- Assessment of heavy metal and trace element levels in patients with telogen effluvium
- Serum Vitamin D3 Level in Patients with Female Pattern Hair Loss
- Possible association of female-pattern hair loss with alteration in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels
- Vitamin D deficiency in alopecia areata
- An investigation of vitamin D status in alopecia areata
- Correlation of vitamin D and vitamin D receptor expression in patients with alopecia areata: a clinical paradigm
- Role of the Vitamin D Receptor in Hair Follicle Biology
- Correlation of Vitamin D with Inflammatory Cytokines, Atherosclerotic Parameters, and Lifestyle Factors in the Setting of Heart Failure: A 12-Month Follow-Up Study
- Analysis of serum zinc and copper concentrations in hair loss
- Serum biotin and zinc in male androgenetic alopecia
- Evaluation of serum zinc level in patients with newly diagnosed and resistant alopecia areata
- The antioxidant role of paraoxonase 1 and vitamin E in three autoimmune diseases
- Evaluation of Serum Homocysteine, High-Sensitivity CRP, and RBC Folate in Patients with Alopecia Areata
- Antioxidants and lipid peroxidation status in the blood of patients with alopecia
- Estimation of Zinc and Iron Levels in the Serum and Hair of Women with Androgenetic Alopecia: Case–control Study
- A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss
- Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair
- Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers
- Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis
- Vitamin A and retinoic acid in T cell–related immunity
- The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review
- Riboflavin Deficiency
- Impaired collagen maturity in vitamins B2 and B6 deficiency–probable molecular basis of skin lesions
- Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and health
- The role of micronutrients in alopecia areata: A Review
- The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health
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