Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Hair Loss?

WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Hair loss and thinning hair can be frustrating and emotionally distressing experiences. While there are numerous potential causes, including genetics, hormonal imbalances, and medical conditions, vitamin deficiencies have been identified as a significant contributing factor. Inadequate intake of certain essential vitamins can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can adversely impact hair growth and health.

Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?

The most common vitamin deficiencies that can lead to hair loss are:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7) deficiency
  • Iron deficiency (While not a vitamin, iron plays a crucial role in hair growth and is often discussed in the context of vitamin deficiencies and hair loss.)

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including hair growth and hair follicle cycling. A deficiency in vitamin D can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle, leading to excessive shedding and thinning hair.

Research has shown a link between low vitamin D levels and various types of hair loss, including androgenetic alopecia (male and female pattern baldness), telogen effluvium (excessive shedding), and alopecia areata (patchy hair loss).

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is essential for healthy hair growth. It plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the hair follicles, and in the synthesis of DNA, which is necessary for cell growth and division.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a condition called pernicious anemia, which can cause hair loss, thinning hair, and premature graying. Vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as this vitamin is primarily found in animal-based foods.

Biotin (Vitamin B7) Deficiency

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It is also essential for healthy hair growth and maintenance.

A biotin deficiency can lead to brittle, thinning hair, and in severe cases, complete hair loss. While true biotin deficiency is rare, it can occur in individuals with certain genetic disorders, individuals who consume raw egg whites (which contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin), or those with conditions that affect biotin absorption or metabolism.

Iron Deficiency

Although not a vitamin, iron deficiency is often discussed in the context of vitamin deficiencies and hair loss. Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body, including to the hair follicles.

When the body lacks sufficient iron, it can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anemia, which can cause hair loss, thinning hair, and brittle hair. Iron deficiency is particularly common in women due to menstrual blood loss and during pregnancy.

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Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiencies

In addition to hair loss and thinning hair, vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of other symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, pale skin, brittle nails, mouth sores, and digestive issues. It's important to be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if you experience any of them.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect that a vitamin deficiency may be contributing to your hair loss, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can order blood tests to determine your vitamin and mineral levels and recommend appropriate supplements or dietary changes.

In some cases, vitamin supplements or injections may be prescribed to correct the deficiency. However, it's important to note that excessive supplementation can also be harmful, so it's crucial to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations.

Dietary Sources and Supplementation

Incorporating vitamin-rich foods into your diet is the best way to prevent and address vitamin deficiencies. Here are some dietary sources of the vitamins and minerals important for hair health:

  • Vitamin D: Fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk and dairy products, mushrooms
  • Vitamin B12: Animal-based foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products
  • Biotin: Egg yolks, nuts, seeds, legumes, and some vegetables like sweet potatoes and spinach
  • Iron: Red meat, poultry, seafood, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals

If you are unable to obtain sufficient vitamins and minerals from your diet, your healthcare provider may recommend appropriate supplements to ensure adequate intake.

Lifestyle Factors and Hair Care

In addition to addressing vitamin deficiencies, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and proper hair care routine can also help promote healthy hair growth. This includes managing stress, getting enough sleep, avoiding harsh hair treatments, and using gentle, nourishing hair products.

By addressing vitamin deficiencies, maintaining a balanced diet, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can improve the overall health and vitality of your hair, potentially reversing or preventing further hair loss.

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Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.