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Iodine for Hair Growth: What's the Connection?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 11/03/2021

Updated 06/10/2024

Can iodine supplements and iodine-rich foods give you luscious, healthy hair? Or will they trigger hair loss you can’t reverse?

Iodine has a complicated, rather distant relationship to hair health. . 

Ingesting more or less than the recommended daily dose of iodine will have little to no short-term impact on your hair. But if you have insufficient or excess levels of iodine for an extended time, there can be concerning consequences — which might eventually include hair loss

Below, we dig into the general benefits of iodine, why some people say you can take iodine for hair growth, and whether it’s worth taking supplements.

Iodine is a trace element naturally found in your body, and it has important roles in your normal function. 

Iodine is needed for normal cellular function — your cells use iodine in the process of changing food into energy, and your thyroid needs a regular supply of iodine for normal function. 

You can consume iodine from medications, but iodine intake can also come from iodine-rich foods, where you can meet your daily allowance of iodine. 

You can get the necessary iodine per day from some dairy products, iodized salt and certain fish (think cod, sea bass, haddock and perch), as well as kelp and land-dwelling plants grown in iodine-rich soil. 

According to the Food and Nutrition Board, adults can have approximately 150 micrograms per day, and lactating or pregnant women can go as high as 290 micrograms safely.

There are many trace elements in your body that are required for your body to function normally — selenium is another one that you’ll frequently hear about. In small doses, it’s integral to healthy function. 

A deficiency in a trace element, however, comes with consequences. 

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What you definitely don’t want is an iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlarged thyroid cells and an enlarged thyroid gland (also known as a goiter) or hypothyroidism (medical conditions where the thyroid is unable to make enough thyroid hormone). 

These conditions are more common in women than in men. For children, insufficient iodine intake may result in a condition called cretinism, which is a now-rare genetic abnormality that affects physical and mental capacity.

Iodine poisoning is extremely rare, according to the National Library of Medicine, but an excess of iodine can cause hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism under certain circumstances.

The relationship between hair loss and iodine actually has little to do with iodine deficiency, but excess iodine in fact may have a tertiary association with causing hair loss. 

The connection between the two? Your thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid may become overactive, essentially producing too many thyroid hormones and causing all sorts of problems in the process. 

In the most extreme, untreated versions of thyroid dysfunction, the condition can eventually start to cause irreparable damage to the hair structure.

So, where does iodine come into this? Well, excessive iodine can be one of the main causes of hyperthyroidism. 

In fact, excess iodine from food sources or medications is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism after genetics, age and gender.

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The short answer to this is no — taking iodine supplements will have little to no effect on your hair growth. 

There’s no medical indication to support this as a benefit, and as we mentioned above, excess iodine could cause much bigger problems in the long run.

The relationship between your thyroid to your hair growth aside, iodine supplements aren’t going to fix anything. 

In fact, it could be argued that taking iodine to reduce hair loss is the equivalent of monitoring your salt intake while stranded aboard a lifeboat in the ocean: it’s irrelevant to your current problem. 

The only case in which you should consider iodine supplements for hair loss would be if you happen to be losing hair due to a thyroid issue, and your healthcare provider happens to think that iodine supplements may somehow mitigate symptoms of that ongoing thyroid issue. 

But at that point, you’re treating a thyroid problem — not a hair loss problem. 

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Iodine is not going to be your supplement aisle solution to hair loss any more than vitamin C is going to cure autoimmune diseases, and therefore they should be treated the same way. 

You don’t need iodine (if anything, you may need less). 

If you’re noticing more hairs on your pillow or at the bottom of the shower every morning, what you should do is contact your healthcare provider. 

The first step to keeping the hair you have left or even re-growing some of what you’ve lost starts with them. 

There are FDA-approved hair loss products and treatments you should consider.

Finasteride, for instance, is a medication shown in research to block the hair loss-causing hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Studies have repeatedly shown that daily finasteride use can drop your DHT levels by about 70 percent

The other primary hair care option we recommend is FDA-approved minoxidil, which can increase hair growth and does not require a prescription. 

Oh, and you won’t need a prescription either for hair health vitamins — our Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Head of Hair guide is a great resource for understanding what vitamins benefit your follicle health. 

We have other resources available, like our What to Look For in a Men’s Hair Loss Shampoo guide 

One final parting word: there’s a chance you’re reading about iodine because you’re looking for fringe, easy hair health solutions — and we get that. 

It can often feel easier to go to the internet than to reach out to a healthcare professional. Do us and yourself a favor? Do it anyway. 

Treatment may just be one consultation with a medical professional away — the sooner you take that step, the sooner your hair loss fears will be explained and addressed. And it probably won’t even require you to up your kelp consumption.

6 Sources

  1. Minoxidil topical: MEDLINEPLUS drug information. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a689003.html
  2. Marks, L. S., Hess, D. L., Dorey, F. J., Luz Macairan, M., Cruz Santos, P. B., & Tyler, V. E. (2001). Tissue effects of saw palmetto and finasteride: use of biopsy cores for in situ quantification of prostatic androgens. Urology, 57(5), 999–1005. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0090-4295(00)01052-9. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11337315/.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism.
  4. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. ISRN dermatology, 2011, 241953. https://doi.org/10.5402/2011/241953. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/.
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Iodine in Diet: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002421.htm.
  6. Vincent, M., & Yogiraj, K. (2013). A Descriptive Study of Alopecia Patterns and their Relation to Thyroid Dysfunction. International journal of trichology, 5(1), 57–60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746235/.
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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