The attribution of cause to hair loss is always a major challenge. That’s simply due to the complexity of interacting biological systems that can affect your hair.
However, there is clear evidence of a link between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss.
A word about causes
Before talking more about vitamin D and hair loss, some caution is necessary.
For example, there is a clear statistical link between driving in a car and car accidents. If you drive or ride in a car, then you’re far more likely to have a motoring accident than if you don’t.
That’s a long way though from saying that the cause of car accidents is driving or riding in a car. There may be many more relevant contributory factors in an individual case, including the weather, road conditions, average distances driven over time, your skills as a driver, your eyesight and health – and so on.
The same realism needs to be applied when discussing vitamin D deficiency and hair loss. The percentage contribution of a vitamin D deficiency to hair loss in an individual case might be difficult or impossible to quantify.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for good health. It helps the body to absorb nutrients, reduce inflammation, grow cells and regulate the immune system.
It is also interesting in that it is the only vitamin that our bodies make directly from sunlight. Some, though overall only a few, foodstuffs are also rich in vitamin D including things such as oily fish, tofu, egg yolks and cod liver oil.
Having low levels of this vitamin in your body can lead to a variety of health conditions, some of which may be very serious.
How to get vitamin D from the sun
Most experts agree that the best way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D is by some exposure to direct sunlight. This is particularly important for people with darker skin, who may have to spend more time in the sun than lighter-skinned people if they’re to get sufficient vitamin D.
This creates a dilemma because most medical advice also suggests we should limit how much direct exposure to the sun we get due to the risk of skin cancer. What is clear though is that being in the shade or using a sunblock cream will massively reduce the amount of vitamin D our bodies produce.
There is no clear consensus on this and you should consult your doctor for advice but some medical experts recommend 10-15 minutes per day in the sun, without protection, to top-up vitamin D levels.
As well as increasing your consumption of vitamin D-rich foods, you also have the option of supplements.
Most experts agree though that you should not start taking such supplements without discussing the matter with your doctor first.
Why all this matters for your hair
Hair loss may be related to vitamin D deficiencies.
The most recognised channel is that arising from the fact that vitamin D promotes the production and distribution of keratinocytes. This is known to help in hair strengthening through the follicles.
It is also reported that telogen effluvium (essentially a disruption of the normal hair follicle cycle leading to various hair loss symptoms) may also be reduced if vitamin D levels in the blood can be increased.
Finally, low levels of vitamin D can lead to a significant number of other health conditions, several of which may have hair drop or hair loss as secondary symptoms.
What can you do?
A hair care specialist may suspect that vitamin D levels are a contributory factor in some cases.
If so or if you have cause to suspect it might be an issue, a doctor can arrange a simple test to look at your vitamin D levels.
Should they find that your levels are low, they may recommend a change of diet, spending more time outside (while respecting good sun exposure practices), vitamin D supplements or possibly a combination of all 3.