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Zinc and Hair Loss: Understanding the Essential Mineral’s Role
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on February 7, 2024

When it comes to having a full head of hair and a healthy scalp, it’s important to pay attention to the role that essential nutrients play in promoting hair health. Among the many minerals that contribute to our overall well-being, zinc is right up there with one of the most impactful.

Renowned for its many functions in the body, zinc is very much an important player in several physiological processes such as cellular growth, immune function and hormone regulation. However, its connection to hair health has recently gained attention as research suggests that zinc deficiency may be a contributing factor to hair loss.[1][6]

Table of Contents
Zinc tablets and periodic table

Why is zinc important to overall health?

Whilst you may remember zinc as being a metal element found on the periodic table at high school (Zn), this trace mineral is abundant in the cells of our bodies and is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions. It is an essential component of several vital proteins and also aids DNA synthesis, protein synthesis and cell division. It also supports the immune system, promotes growth and aids in wound healing.

What is the relationship between zinc and hair health?

Zinc serves to maintain the structure and integrity of hair follicles within the scalp. Given that it is involved in synthesising DNA and RNA, which is essential for the cell division and proliferation of hair follicle cells, zinc’s importance cannot be overlooked. Zinc is also known to aid in the product and regulation of keratin, a fibrous protein that forms the structural foundation of hair strands.

man looking in the mirror concerned

Why could zinc deficiency cause hair loss?

If a person is deficient in zinc, this could disrupt the delicate balance of nutrients that are required for optimal hair growth. This could lead to various issues including hair loss. Being deficient in zinc could cause hair follicles to be weaker, resulting in thinning hair and an increase in hair shedding.

Insufficient zinc could also lead to hormone imbalances as it is also involved in the metabolism of hormones like testosterone. This imbalance could also contribute to hair loss or a reduction in hair quality.

Zinc deficiency alone may not be the sole cause of hair loss. Still, it can certainly play a significant role, especially when you consider other factors like stress, nutritional imbalances and, of course, genetics which are responsible for hair loss conditions such as male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss.

Understanding zinc deficiency and its impact on hair health

Zinc deficiency can occur for various reasons, including the following:

  • A poor diet
  • Poor absorption
  • Chronic illness
  • Certain medications
  • Increased zinc requirements during growth or pregnancy

Vegetarian and vegan diets also may pose a higher risk of zinc deficiency. This is because plant-based sources of zinc are not as easily absorbed by the body as those from meat.

What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?

Zinc deficiency can manifest in several ways, not just in hair loss but also on the body’s overall health and well-being.

Zinc and hair loss

However, hair-related symptoms of zinc deficiency can include:

Zinc deficiency is also linked with certain hair loss conditions including male pattern loss [1], female pattern baldness [1], telogen effluvium [3] and alopecia areata [1] [4] [5].

Zinc and overall health

Zinc deficiency is also often accompanied by other symptoms, not just hair-related symptoms. These may include:

  • Skin conditions
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Impaired immune function
  • Weakened sense of smell or taste
  • Loss of appetite

To establish whether you have a zinc deficiency, it’s important to take a comprehensive assessment of your overall health to identify any deficiencies, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional. They can also advise you on the best approach to restoring optimal zinc levels if necessary.

Zinc and healthy hair growth

To promote healthy hair growth, we should ensure we have an adequate dietary intake of zinc. The recommended daily amount of zinc varies depending on age, sex and life stage. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc for adults is between 8 and 11 milligrams per day.

Zinc is often included in hair vitamins for men, though it’s better to get enough zinc from your diet where possible.

chickpea salad in white bowl

What are the top food sources of zinc?

The best way to ensure you have enough zinc for optimal hair health is by eating a diet that includes a range of zinc-rich foods. Excellent sources of zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Seafood such as crab and lobster
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Yoghurt
  • Fortified cereals

The role of zinc in hair follicle development and maintenance

As discussed, zinc’s role in hair follicle development and maintenance is pivotal. Zinc supports the production and function of various cells within the hair follicles, including those responsible for synthesising keratin, the protein that forms the structural building blocks of our hair strands.

It is also involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, aiding rapid cell division and proliferation needed for healthy hair growth. It also helps regulate hormone levels including those linked to hair growth (and hair loss!) such as testosterone and DHT.

bottle of zinc tablets

Supplements for zinc and their efficacy in preventing hair loss

When dealing with a zinc deficiency or simply when trying to enhance hair health, zinc supplements can be a valuable addition to your daily routine.

Zinc supplements provide a concentrated dose of zinc so that those taking them meet their recommended daily allowance. There are many types of zinc supplements available including:

  • Zinc gluconate – this form of zinc supplement is widely used as it is more easily absorbed and gentler on the stomach.
  • Zinc sulphate – this form is more easily dissolved in water.
  • Zinc picolinate – this form of zinc has increased bioavailability and efficient absorption.
  • Zinc citrate – this form is often found in lozenges or chewable tablets and is gentler on the stomach.

Some research studies have explored the efficacy of zinc supplements in preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth.[4][5] A 2016 study discovered that patients with alopecia areata (AA) had significantly lower serum zinc levels than the control group. It was also significantly lower in patients with resistant AA compared with those who were newly diagnosed.

micronutrient level changes observed in people with alopecia areata

What is more, there were statistically significant inverse correlations between serum zinc levels, the severity of AA and the disease duration in all patients, including those with resistant AA. 

This research shows that zinc supplements can have a positive impact on hair health and may be beneficial for people experiencing hair loss or hair thinning. Of course, results may well vary from person to person and it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to be sure of the appropriate dosage and duration of zinc supplementation based on specific needs and health conditions.

woman with long hair in white

The benefits of zinc for hair growth and maintenance

Given that zinc aids in the rapid division and proliferation of hair cells, it, therefore, promotes the growth of strong and resilient hair strands and contributes to overall hair health. It provides the building blocks needed for healthy follicle development and helps to fortify the foundation from which hair grows. It therefore reduces the risk of hair breakage and loss.

What is more, as mentioned, zinc supports and regulates keratin production and therefore it helps maintain the integrity and thickness of individual hair fibres. It also helps regulate sebum production (the natural oil produced by the scalp), ensuring that the hair receives adequate lubrication and moisture. This balance is crucial for having shiny and supple hair.

However, whilst zinc is a vitamin that provides the right environment for optimal hair health and prevents hair loss, it doesn’t really help much in terms of hair regrowth.

woman with stomach pains

The possible side effects of zinc supplementation

Zinc supplements may not be suitable for everyone. Whilst they can be beneficial for your health, you must not exceed the recommended dose to prevent zinc overdose and toxicity. There are also some common side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • A metallic taste in the mouth

These side effects are usually temporary and subside when the dose is adjusted or the person discontinues taking it.

tablets and an open bottle of tablets

Who should avoid taking zinc supplements?

Whilst most people should be ok to take zinc supplements, some people should avoid taking it. These groups of people include people with zinc-related conditions such as Wilson’s disease or haemochromatosis as well as people with chronic kidney disease or certain gastrointestinal conditions that impair zinc absorption.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also consult with their healthcare provider before starting zinc supplements. What’s more, the user must consider potential interactions with other medications or supplements that they take.

The relationship between zinc and other hair loss treatments

The benefits of combining zinc with other hair loss treatments have been a subject of interest for a while. While zinc alone can contribute to hair health, combining it with other hair loss treatments may yield synergistic effects, i.e. the combination of treatments could produce effects that are greater than the sum of their individual effects.

So, combining zinc with Minoxidil (a topical treatment commonly used for hair loss) could potentially have a more significant impact on hair health than either treatment alone, and each of the treatments could improve the efficacy of the other.

Of course, it’s important to note that the extent of these effects will vary depending on the underlying cause of the hair loss, an individual’s response to treatment and the specific treatments being combined.

In essence, zinc could provide a holistic approach to addressing hair loss concerns. By harnessing its power, along with appropriate medical advice, individuals can take proactive steps to nurture healthy hair and therefore maintain confidence in their self-image.

Zinc and Hair Loss: Understanding the Essential Mineral’s Role, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on February 7, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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