Can a lack of Vitamin D cause hair loss?

When I was younger, the idea of someone (usually in a cartoon) pulling their hair out in chunks due to frustration was laughable. There’s just no way you’d do that to yourself, no matter how frustrated you might be. Besides, it’s not very easy to pull out large chunks of hair in one go. Not that I’ve tried, mind you. 

But, when I developed an alarmingly fast onset of hair loss, I found that a combination of stress and general anxiety caused my hair to come out in chunks when I ran my hands through it, brushed it, washed it, or tried to put it in a ponytail. 

There are many reasons why someone might suddenly start to lose their hair, be it an indicator of stress, poor diet, or as a symptom of illness. Hair loss over time is also linked to age and genetics, but in this instance, we are discussing whether our nutrient intake can have an effect on our hair’s growth, structure, and strength. 

At the time of my hair loss, I thought that it was the stress of general life causing it, and that I needed more time for unwinding and putting my health and wellbeing first. However, after a series of blood tests to determine the source of my hair loss, fatigue and generally feeling ‘unwell’, I was told I had a serious Vitamin D deficiency, and that I needed to look after myself more. Which I took to with serious aplomb, I’ll have you know, and my desire to understand how the body works in relation to what we take in grew and grew as I began my supplement journey.

I’ve written before about the importance of Vitamin D, good sources of Vitamin D for those of us who don’t eat animal products, and how to get more in the winter - and now we’re going to look at if a lack of Vitamin D can cause or exacerbate hair loss. 

Studies have shown that it is the Vitamin D receptors, rather than the hormone itself, that can help to produce new follicles, and stimulate new growth, and it’s the intake of Vitamin D which allows those receptors to do so. Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone - I am still surprised by that, even though I’ve mentioned it a few times!) is metabolised in the skin by cells called keratinocytes. These cells process keratin, a protein found in our skin, hair and nails. When the body doesn’t receive enough Vitamin D, the keratinocytes in our hair follicles can no longer regulate our hair growth, and how much it sheds. 

Some studies suggest that nutritional deficiencies can lead to the onset of an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata (also known as spot baldness). Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing alopecia areata,  although there are other known risks, such as stress and genetic or hormonal factors. This condition attacks the hair follicles, the tiny pores from which new hairs grow, causing small round bald patches on the scalp. It is known that Vitamin D is of huge benefit to bolstering our immune function and its health, and that having adequate levels of Vitamin D can help to combat the onset of autoimmune conditions.

There are other hair loss conditions which might also be linked to a Vitamin D deficiency, including Telogen Effluvium (which causes excess hair shedding) and female pattern baldness, which is less common than its male equivalent. Women are typically more affected by hair loss as a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency, particularly between the ages of 18 and 45, and with the majority of people not getting enough Vitamin D (particularly in the winter months), hair loss can be a sign that you need to start supplementing your intake. Supplements can help to restore your hair to its former glory, if low levels have contributed to the problems. It can also help to thicken and strengthen your existing hair, which can only be a good thing!

If you are concerned about hair loss from a nutrient deficient, then there are definitely extra things you can do help protect your hair follicles and scalp whilst building up your nutrient profile: 

  • Brush gently! - I start with the ends of my hair first and hold it above where I’m brushing to avoid tugging on my scalp. I also mist my hairbrush with a little water before I use it. 
  • Use gentle products which don’t contain harsh chemicals and plastics - Make sure you’re using products which contain all natural ingredients to nourish your scalp and keep it healthy. 
  • Avoid putting your hair up too tight, or for too long - Anything that puts your hair under stress can weaken it, and lead to even more falling out! Using scrunchies instead of tight bands also helps to ensure you don’t lose hair when you take it down. 
  • Put long hair in a loose plait before sleeping - This one is a lifesaver if you have long hair. It’s become a night time ritual for me, and I give myself 5 minutes to focus on my hair before bed each night. I do this to prevent my hair from tangling whilst I’m asleep. It’s also great if you’re a light sleeper and getting your hair stuck under your arm wakes you up! 

Vitamin D can reverse hair loss by stimulating follicle growth and the processing of keratin. Taking a Vitamin D3 supplement can help to reverse a deficiency and the associated symptoms, and they come in many different forms. A liquid supplement, such as Vivo Life’s Vegan D3 & K2, can be taken directly or dropped into a morning smoothie. Alternatively, you can find D3 in Multinutrient form or in THRIVE, our delicious greens powder, which contains all the D3 you need on a daily basis. 

If I’m having a serving of THRIVE in a morning smoothie, I don’t take the liquid supplement (consistently taking too much Vitamin D can also cause health problems) but on days where I fancy a slice of toast (with PB & J), the liquid supplement is a quick and convenient method of making sure I’m getting enough for my follicles! As always, please do consult your doctor if you are concerned about your nutrient levels, or if you are experiencing hair loss without apparent cause.