With around 41.6% of Americans experiencing a vitamin D deficiency, we’ve been wondering whether it leads to hair loss. There is evidence to suggest that it can. As one of the most important nutrients we can get, it helps our bodies’ organs thrive. Not only do our bones rely on it for their strength, your kidneys depend on it to convert other minerals into a usable form that the body benefits from. However, there are some cases where trying to get too much Vitamin D will work against you. To understand whether Vitamin D is causing your hair loss, we’ll explain how a deficiency arises, what happens when your body doesn’t get enough, and how to address the problem.
What causes a vitamin D deficiency?
According to MedLine, your best source of Vitamin D is the sun. However, as we now have a better knowledge of how skin cancer arises, many of us are overly cautious when it comes to exposing ourselves to the sun. Fortunately, our livers are capable of holding four months’ worth of vitamin D for us to draw on. However, if you want to prevent a deficiency, you need to spend at least 15 minutes exposing your skin to the sun each day. Use a sunscreen that is strong enough to reduce the risk of burning, though.
Other ways vitamin D deficiencies arise include:
- Not getting enough from your diet
- Having a malabsorption problem that prevents you from absorbing vitamin D through the gut wall
- Having a condition that prevents your liver and kidneys from converting it into its usable form
- Certain medications may affect your ability to absorb vitamin D
How Vitamin D leads to hair loss
The link between vitamin D and hair loss is complicated. Firstly, we noticed that those who don’t get enough struggle to sleep. As one study succinctly explains, those of us who don’t get enough sleep trigger certain inflammatory reactions. Unfortunately, scientists aren’t sure why this happens. However, as these researchers explain, those who describe themselves as getting a ‘fair’ night’s sleep have higher antioxidant levels and fewer inflammatory markers. In contrast, those who get a ‘poor’ night’s sleep have lower antioxidant levels and higher inflammatory markers. As vitamin D is a potent antioxidant that plays a role in reducing inflammation, it may be the case that not having enough antioxidants and living in bodies that are constantly fighting against inflammatory processes are leaving us unable to sleep
Sleep is when our bodies enter a restorative period. In other words, we’re allowing ourselves to heal from the day’s stresses. When you’re not getting enough, your hair’s follicles may struggle to replenish, just like the rest of your body. As such, you’re weakening them and making it harder for them to grow strong hair.
Not getting enough vitamin D affects your immune system
Throughout our bodies, our cells contain vitamin D receptors. Each receptor welcomes the vitamin and allows it to perform its function. Usually, this means encouraging cell metabolism, which means the cell thrives. It will also:
- Encourage T-cells and B-cells to do their jobs, which include tackling diseases.
- Promotes monocyte action. Your monocytes are white blood cells that move throughout your body and tackle infections.
- Reduce inflammatory responses. While we need inflammation to protect ourselves if we have an accident and encounter a wound, too much inflammation affects your sleep and makes you feel stressed.
When you consider the above, it’s easy to see how vitamin D deficiency could lead to hair loss. For example, if you have an infection on your scalp such as tinea capitus – which is similar to ringworm – you may not have enough T-cells and B-cells to help fight it.
Similarly, without enough monocyte action, you could struggle to recover from other dermatological conditions that involve infection. For example, while psoriasis isn’t contagious, if you scratch it, it breaks the barrier in your skin that prevents infections from settling in and prolongs its active status.
Finally, if your scalp’s cells require vitamin D to metabolize nutrients, they will struggle to thrive. Your scalp’s follicles move through three types of growth. During anagen, your hair is growing. Throughout catagen, you enter a transitional phase where your hair follicles are regaining strength. Then, at telogen, they remain dormant. Theoretically, if your vitamin D supplies are low, you won’t move through each stage fluidly, which could lead to hair loss.
It plays a role in wound healing
As we’ve already discussed above, vitamin D helps the cells that perform vital roles within your immune system. One study performed on mice demonstrated how vitamin D promotes wound healing. During the study, the researchers inflicted minor wounds on mice using brushes, then administered a vitamin D supplement. Their concluding findings were that those mice who received vitamin D formed tighter epithelial barriers, which are cells that play a role in organized scar development.
If you do have a condition such as psoriasis, you will find that the scabs you form may turn into wounds. The same can be said for severe forms of seborrheic dermatitis; where the urge to scratch your head is often irresistible due to the severity of the itch. When you scratch, you too cause tiny wounds. If your scalp doesn’t have the opportunity to form a tight epithelial barrier, you may generate scar tissue instead. Unfortunately, scar tissue isn’t conducive to good hair growth.
Similarly, infections will inflict wounds on your scalp without your ‘permission.’ One such example of this is tinea capitis, which is ringworm that remains on the scalp. Without enough vitamin D, you may not recover from the condition with a tight epithelial barrier.
There’s a link between alopecia areata and vitamin D
Scientists have been investigating the link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases for years now. However, few have looked into alopecia areata. One study, though, found that those with the condition have lower serum vitamin D, which correlates with the severity of the disease level. While the study is small and doesn’t reveal the exact link, it does provide a promising insight into vitamin D and how it may promote hair growth in those with alopecia areata.
However, if you have androgenic alopecia, you should exercise caution
As we all know, male-pattern baldness/androgenic alopecia arises when you produce excessive amounts of testosterone. While we wouldn’t recommend depleting yourself of Vitamin D for the sake of strong hair growth, it is worth recognizing that one study has found a link between taking on extra Vitamin D and producing too much testosterone. As such, try to maintain the right balance for the rest of your body, but don’t overdo it.
How you can get more Vitamin D for hair growth
Now that you know how vitamin D can lead to hair loss, it’s worth investigating ways you can get more. We’ve already mentioned spending at least 15 minutes in the sun each day, but there are other ways you can add to your supplies:
Change your diet
There are plenty of dietary sources of vitamin D. From salmon through to cheese, a lot of them are tasty too. You might also want to consider eggs, fortified foods, swordfish, and mackerel. If your diet doesn’t contain enough of the foods that provide vitamin D, change it accordingly. For those of you who lead a busy lifestyle, you can buy fortified cereals and milk.
Try a supplement
As we’ve already mentioned above, you don’t want to inflate your vitamin D levels too much if you’re suffering from androgenetic alopecia. However, if you’re struggling to incorporate it into your diet because you’re leading a busy lifestyle or you don’t like the foods that contain it, try a supplement.
If you have an underlying medical condition, chat with your doctor
Some conditions, known as malabsorption syndromes, will affect your ability to absorb all types of nutrients. Unfortunately, tackling them requires expert medical advice. Examples can include short gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and coeliac disease. As for medications, never make a switch without chatting with the person who wrote the prescription.
Vitamin D is important for your overall health. Without it, you may struggle to sleep, recover from diseases, and encourage your cells to grow. While increasing it won’t prevent all types of hair loss, being in deficient of it does place you at greater risk of your hair falling out. If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough vitamin D, take a look at your lifestyle and diet, then make adaptations accordingly.