Make sure you're getting enough vitamin D from exposure to sunlight

Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss: Is There A Link?

Vitamin D is understood to be one of the most important nutrients required for the body to function optimally and for an individual to be healthy.

A deficiency in this essential vitamin can have many negative consequences, and it has even been linked to hair loss directly and indirectly.

The negative impact of a vitamin D deficiency on the body can lead to conditions that cause hair loss as a secondary symptom, and there is evidence to suggest that vitamin D is directly involved in supporting the process of hair growth and hair follicle health.

In this post, you’ll learn the exact role that vitamin D plays in the body and, more specifically, in hair growth. You’ll also learn how you can tell if you suffer from this deficiency, which populations are most at risk, and how you can increase vitamin levels.

An Introduction to Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that plays a role in many biological processes.

Perhaps its greatest role is that which increases intestinal absorption of other nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphate (1). But this vitamin also has other roles, including modulation of cell growth, regulation of neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation (2).

Interestingly, vitamin D is the only nutrient that your body (more specifically, your skin) can synthesize as a result of sunlight exposure (3).

The Impact of Vitamin D Deficiency on the Body

The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin D varies by gender, age, and condition (4).

When levels of vitamin D drop these values, the body may begin to experience a deficiency and symptoms may begin to develop.

Depending on the extent of the deficiency, there can be a variety of mild to severe symptoms. These include (5):

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • General aches and pains
  • Overall weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Depressed feelings
  • Excessive perspiration

Prolonged deficiency can even lead to osteopenia and osteroporosis (6).

But that’s not all.

There are an array of other illnesses and conditions which have been linked (either directly, or indirectly) with vitamin D deficiency:

  • Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia: The results of a study published in Neurology confirm a substantially increased risk for individuals with a deficiency to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life (7).
  • Prostate cancer: The American Association for Cancer Research conclude that men with a deficiency had increased odds of a diagnosis of prostate cancer (8).
  • Erectile dysfunction: A study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that a large proportion of men with ED had a deficiency in vitamin D (9).
  • Schizophrenia: An article from the National Institutes of Health found a strong association between schizophrenia and low levels of vitamin D (10).
  • Cardiac conditions: There may be a link with severe vitamin D deficiency and heart disease according to recent research (11).

Who’s At the Greatest Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?

This deficiency is one of the most common in the world with more than one billion people affected (12). However, there are populations which are at a greater risk of developing this deficiency than others.

Older adults and breastfed infants are the two populations with the highest risk factors (13).

Other at-risk populations include people with dark skin, people with limited sun exposure, those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and people who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery (14, 15).

Check out our video below if you prefer watching rather than reading:

Vitamin D and Hair Loss: The Link

The implications of a vitamin D deficiency can be severe. But did you know that such a deficiency may also play a role in hair loss?

Vitamin D plays an important role in the differentiation and proliferation of keratinocytes (16). Researchers from the University of Texas and MD Anderson Cancer Center sought to further understand the role of vitamin D in the process of anagen initiation as it relates to hair growth (17).

While the authors determine that the vitamin does play a significant role in the process of hair cycling, they suggest that more research is required on the potential regulation of vitamin D to successfully treat hair disorders.

But how exactly does it contribute to hair growth?

As mentioned, vitamin D is known to contribute to the proliferation of keratinocytes. One way in which it is known to do so is by its induction of keratinocyte growth factor.

Earlier studies available from the US National Library of Medicine determined that the use of keratinocyte growth factor promoted the survival of the hair follicle, which further supports the role of vitamin D in hair growth (18).

Another role vitamin D may play in hair loss is discussed in research from the Turkish Journal of Medical Science that measures the effects of hereditary vitamin D receptor deficiency on an individual’s hair growth (19).

This research determines that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels in the blood reduces the likelihood of experiencing the effects of telogen effluvium. The study found that individuals that qualified for a diagnosis of telogen effluvium also showed a statistically significant difference in low levels of vitamin D in the blood.

Telogen effluvium is identified as a very common cause of diffuse hair loss by the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research (20).

This condition is considered to be a period of hair loss following a triggering event, however there is the potential for chronic telogen effluvium to occur.

The resulting condition includes thinning hair, brittle and unhealthy hair, as well as hair that is easily dislodged from the scalp.

Hair growth phase is important to understand the reasons behind hair loss

Vitamin D plays a significant role in supporting the physical processes related to hair growth, and it’s more directly involved through the development of keratinocytes.

If a body is dealing with a vitamin D deficiency, any one of these important processes might be interrupted and lead to issues of thinning hair and hair loss.

How You Can Increase Vitamin D Levels

The National Institutes of Health recommends ensuring healthy levels of vitamin D though the combination of diet, exposure to sunlight, and (if necessary) supplementation (21).

The human body is able to absorb vitamin D through skin that is exposed to sunlight or artificial sources of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. There are a variety of factors that impact the amount of vitamin D that can be obtained through UVB exposure including:

  • The time of year
  • The time of day
  • The length of the day
  • The angle of the sun
  • Cloud cover
  • Smog/pollution
  • Skin melanin content
  • The use of sunscreen

While the absorption of vitamin D does occur with UVB exposure, the dangers of UVB exposure should be taken into consideration (22). This is why it’s also a good idea to consider adding more foods high in vitamin D to your diet.

Foods High in Vitamin D

Here are some foods that are particularly high in vitamin D: cod liver oil, portabella mushrooms, fatty fish, fish roe, tofu, eggs (yolk), and almond milk (23).

Various different vitamins spread across a table

You can easily add these foods to your diet, and this will reduce your need for direct sun exposure (which comes with its own risks) and supplementation.

Vitamin D Supplements

It’s best to focus on increasing your dietary intake of vitamin D, though it can sometimes be difficult to hit your daily recommended value. In this case, you may want to consider a supplement.

This may also be particularly helpful during the winter months, or for those populations listed above who are at an increased risk of deficiency.

However, prior to adding a vitamin D supplement to your routine you should speak with your physician.

Conclusion

There is enough available evidence to suggest that a vitamin D deficiency can have significant negative impact on the body, including hair thinning and loss. And while it’s not likely that a deficiency in this nutrient is the only reason for your hair loss, it may be a significant contributing factor.

Maintaining a healthy diet rich in vitamin D and getting a safe amount of sunlight will help ensure optimal levels, but some people may require the use of available vitamin D supplements.

If you are experiencing hair loss, it may be best to consult with a medical professional about testing for – and potentially managing – a nutrient deficiency.

Do you have questions about Vitamin D deficiency and hair loss? Leave a comment below.

50 thoughts on “Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss: Is There A Link?”

  1. Thanks for this info! I am Vitamin D deficient due to my epilepsy. I have noticed my hair thinning around the edges but I didn’t think this could have something to possibly be due to Vitamin D levels. I am glad I read this because I will make sure I keep up with my vitamin D and invest in good quality vitamins. Great post!

  2. Hi Penelope

    I never realised that vitamin D3 deficiency could lead to hair loss. I take it for my bones and usually 4000iu in liquid form. Is it better to take the capsules than liquid?

    It’s interesting to know that the vitamin D research stimulates hair growth in cancer patients. Thanks for sharing this post.

  3. Is the liquid an oil? If it’s an oil, then it should be fine – the capsules are just the vitamin suspended in oil. thanks for the great question and thanks for reading!

  4. thanks for chiming in! I do hope the Vitamin D helps you – just check with your doctor about what’s best to take with your epilepsy. It would be WONDERFUL if this were the key to resolving hair loss for so many people – it’s so affordable!

  5. Hi, I found this post really informative as I never knew about the link between hair loss and vitamin D.
    I don’t have any problems with hair loss myself but as a construction worker living in the UK, I get plenty of sun exposure during the summer months, (although I do wear sun block),but no so much in the winter.

    I was wondering whether I should be taking vitamin D supplements during the winter months to compensate?

  6. Excellent question – you should definitely supplement in the winter when you don’t have as much exposure to “natural” D3. That way your body experiences consistency in the levels. You may not have issues with hair loss now, but much of the message on this site (and the products available) are all about protecting hair BEFORE you start losing it!

  7. I had never heard that a vitamin D deficiency can cause hair loss! I actually am needing vitamin D and calcium. Does Viva make the calcium too? I found a list of supplements that might help with my hearing loss, and vitamin D and Calcium are two supplements that I need. From what I read, vitamin D also stimulates the blood, which is suppose to be helpful for me 🙂 Let me know if Viva sells other supplements like the calcium 🙂

  8. I am not familiar with “vitamin D3” term. I only know vitamin D. Thank you for this precious info.

  9. Wow! What a informative and well put together article. I really wasn’t to sure about how vitamin D3 promotes hair growth.

  10. I find that most people have become very skeptical and afraid of going outside. Vitamin D deficiency and too little exposure to the sun can lead to many health problems including increased hair loss, like you mentioned.

    So this products looks and sounds great in combating and slowing down these effects.

    Great review.

  11. I agree – the sun has become something of the enemy particularly for those at high risk for skin cancer. Such a shame, because nothing feels quite as good as the sun on our skin. Even with spending some time outside, though, we need this supplement because we’re still living in bodies that evolved to spend ALL the time outside. thanks for the comment!

  12. Hi Penelope,

    Thanks very much for this informative article about Vitamin D. I was not aware that the lack of Vitamin D can cause hair loss. I always knew that it was important to have a fair amount of sunshine on our bodies as this helps with strong bones. But, as you mention, now days too much sun can be the cause of skin cancer.

    I have been prescribed one Vitamin D capsule to be taken once a month. This is for osteoporosis. I don’t know if it is Vitamin D3 and I didn’t ask because I was not aware that are different Vitamins D.

  13. Hmm…I don’t know about prescription Vitamin D, so this would be something to bring up with your physician. I’ve also never heard of a monthly (v. daily) supplement, but I’m not a medical doctor! It might not be a terrible idea for you to have additional supplementation, so I would encourage you to have that conversation with the doc. And hey, we all learn something new every day!

  14. Hey.
    I enjoyed reading this blog , as i am a Health fanatic myself!
    Thank you for sharing it with us, it is really worth reading.

    P.S Keep it up!

  15. Even though it is too late for me to keep my hair looking like it used to 20 years ago, I have just shown this article to my sons as unfortunately for them they have inherited their dads hairline, lol. They are a bit too young to be worrying about losing their hair but would this product do any harm to them if they were to use it so young?

  16. No, it’s actually a great idea to get your kids on Vitamin D3 supplements. The same observations about sedentary lifestyle apply to them, too! And parents are always slathering their kids with sunscreen, which keeps them from getting all the Vitamin D3 they need from the sun.

  17. Hi, and thanks for a very informative article. How interesting to find out vitamin D3 can cause hair loss. I guess it can come down to the culmination of so many things, but keeping the body in balance by taking vital nutrients such as this can help. I was just looking at some D3 supplements today at work funnily enough (the ones in olive oil) so reading your article has now prompted me to purchase some, especially as we have a long, cold winter ahead here in Britain. Thanks

  18. Yeah, the scourge of winter should have us all stocking up on things we need. Glad I could prompt you to get some Vitamin D for the long dark months ahead. thanks for reading 🙂

  19. My grandmother has been taking vitamin D3 Supplments for years on top of getting the proper sunlight. She has both beautiful skin and long flowing black hair.

    She’s 90 and looks excellent.

  20. Very interesting. I know Vitamin D is essential but I never knew it could affect hair loss! I also never knew about Vitamin D3 compared to D2 and the differences, benefits, and how to acquire each. Glad I found this article. I use a lot of sunblock. I thought that wouldn’t make a difference with getting enough sunlight but it makes sense it would be more difficult to absorb the Vitamin D. I guess I should get the supplement! Thanks for this!

  21. Thanks for the feedback, Rob! Sunblock definitely slows down our absorption of Vitamin D and so it’s a good idea to piggy back that with a supplement. You’ll probably notice a difference really soon.

  22. I take Vitamin D3, and didn’t know the difference until now, and didn’t know a deficiency could cause hair loss. Great article…thanks for the clarification!

  23. Another very informative post Penelope. I’d never thought till now the co-relation of Vitamin D to Hair loss. I am actually taking multivitamins which says has Vitamin D. But I guess that’s not enough. I’ll consider your advice. Thanks again =)

    • How long does it take for hair thinning/shedding to stop once Vitamin D is taken to treat deficiency.
      Thank you so much I appreciate it as I have a vitamin d deficiency but I never kept up with my supplements and now I am experiencing hair loss.

  24. Penelope, where have you been these past few months? I have been writing about my hair loss due to Lupus and I didn’t know you had all of these answers just sitting here waiting for me. I love your site. Does Photoworx really work? I mean do you take the supplement and use the shampoo? I am excited to even begin to hope this might be the answer I have been searching for. Lupus is a bad enough disease on its on but even worse when you start loosing your hair. I ordered the supplement from Amazon and I hope it works. I will keep you posted. Great article and fascinating research.
    Thank you so much.

  25. Thank you so much for sharing such a great and useful Information about how hair loss can also be linked with vit D3 deficiency, a problem that not every person knows. I will definitely share this useful info with others…?

  26. Hi Penelope, I didn’t realize lack of vitamin D could cause hair loss. I take it twice a day to avoid SAD, the winter blues (even living in San Diego, I need it)…just had some blood work done and doc says my vit D is great! After reading your post, I’ll be sure to take it year round. Thanks for this great information!

  27. Thanks for leaving your thoughts – and yes, it’s funny how we’re deficient even in sunny places. I live in the desert! Taking it year round is an easy shift, luckily.

  28. Hi, this is such a useful and amazing article. We usually think that vitamin D is good for bones but a very few people know that it has amazing effects on hair growth and thickness. Penelope I thank you for your wonderful read and it will spread awareness in other people as well.

  29. Ho Penelope!

    Thanks for reinforcing my firm beliefs as it pertains to using Vitamin D3. I supplement with D3 and K2 nd I have seen noticable differences in my overall mood and body functions. I think speaking for the men here that you should DEFINITELY be taking D3 as part of your daily regime.

    Great article Penelope!

  30. I recently (5 months ago) moved job to one that requires me to be outside more than the desk job I had before. So now I’m out and about around sunny Dallas much more I swear I’ve noticed the overall appearance of my hair is much healthier (not to mention my overall health.) It could completely be a placebo but I’m sure there’s something to the Vit D thing.

    • Thanks for the insight Alex. The vitamin D increase from all that sun is probably one of a number of factors that could be contributing to your increased hair health.

  31. Viva doesn’t make calcium at this time (though they do offer Krill oil and other good stuff). THIS is an excellent calcium supplement and I recommend it. Our diets are just so dreadful, even when we eat healthy, because our food just doesn’t have the nutrient density it used to, due to poor big agriculture practices. I’m all about supplementation to fill in those gaps.

  32. Hi Deborah, thanks so much for the great comment. Yes, Lupus is another autoaimmune bugabear that makes us lose our hair…and do come let us know how the Phytoworx products work out for you. I’m a big supporter of the two-pronged approach to solving hair loss – you’ve gotta supplement AND use topical treatments or shampoos designed to solve hair loss issues. I haven’t yet tried the Phytoworx products, but after my research, I will probably give them a go. My go-to supplement is Nutrafol, which is full of cartilage and other goodies.

  33. I went to the doctor two weeks ago and I have vitamin D and good cholesterol deficiency.

    I take 5 vitamin D drops (cholecalciferol) a day.

    I have been losing hair since I got 18 and at 22, it hasn’t got worse but I’m sure it isn’t a male pattern baldness as my beard is also very thin. I remember that I had some acne when I was 17 that left hair growing and I was expecting to get a full beard as I am both of caucasian and african types.

  34. Hello,
    I am fourteen years old and I have been diagnosed with vitamin d deficiency. I am fifteen percent lower than the actual percentage I should be around. I used to have beautiful thick hair, and now it seems like my hair is flat. My hair is thinning at ridiculous rates. Around my hairline you can see my scalp. I have been taking vitamins D supplements for two months now. I even gave up my vegan lifestyle because my doctor suggested that could be the problem. Every time I touch my hair two to three strands fall out, and when I wash it handfuls come out. Now even people have started to notice my hair fall. I get comments like “what happens to your hair” or “ it’s not as thick as it used I just want to know what I should do to get my hair back.

  35. I am 20 years having just 18.28 ng/ml vitamin d and having hairloss at crown, will I get back my hair after increasing the vitamin d value thanks:((

  36. I have hair loss(general thinning) and hair thinning issue for the past 2 years. I have lost half of my hair density. Lat years i took blood test and my vit D was 10.72 ng/ml. I did take vit D supplements but still facing the problem . could you provide any suggestion?

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