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Can a Vegan Diet Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 05/27/2024

Updated 05/31/2024

A vegan diet is simply a diet that doesn’t include any animal products, so, technically, a diet that only consists of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and potato chips is in fact, vegan. This diet might be fun for a day or two, but it would ultimately lead to iron deficiency — and potentially vegan hair loss. On the other hand, a vegan diet rich in leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, and protein isn’t likely to cause hair loss. 

If you’re a vegan losing hair, it’s likely less about the fact that you avoid animal products and more about what potential nutrients you’re lacking (rest assured, you can obtain them all through plant-based foods).

Here, we’ll talk about the link between a vegan diet and hair loss, and discuss whether or not vegan hair regrowth is possible (spoiler alert, it is).

In a world where most diets are high in fat, sugar, and over-processed foods, a well-balanced plant-based diet can afford nutritional and weight-loss benefits. It can also protect against certain diseases associated with a diet lacking nutrients, including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Of course, the key here is the phrase “well-balanced diet.” As we said, plenty of foods are vegan without providing much nutritional value (looking at you, Oreos®). And if your plant-based diet is lacking in certain nutrients, it could wreak havoc on your hair — including contributing to hair loss.

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Vegans don’t lose hair because they’re vegan — they lose hair because their vegan diets aren’t properly balanced, resulting in nutritional deficiency and potentially a condition called telogen effluvium.

Let’s back up to the concept of a balanced diet.

People can struggle to find adequate sources of a number of essential vitamins and nutrients for hair health in vegan foods (this is a similar problem for those following a vegetarian diet).

One of the most common problems with plant-based sources of nutrition, as opposed to animal foods, is that they’re often part of a low-protein diet without specific modifications. Protein, which contains essential amino acids, is easy to find in meat, but it can be difficult to find without it. 

Protein is needed for keratin synthesis, and hair is primarily made of keratin. So, if you don’t eat enough protein, it’s possible that your hair will suffer.

Soy is a good source of protein, as are beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and certain grains, like quinoa or even cereals. But if vegans don’t pay close attention, it can be tough for them to meet their protein intake needs every day.

According to research, an insubstantial diet can cause a wide range of issues. Nutritional deficiencies can make bones brittle or cause skin to change color. They also can weaken the immune system or even make hair fragile or stop growing.

One of the major causes of hair changes in vegans is a deficiency in fatty acids. These acids are found in fish and other sources of meat but are limited to flax seeds, walnuts, and certain types of cooking oil.

Others include:

A severe deficiency can cause a condition known as telogen effluvium. Essentially, a very stressed-out body may excessively shed hair, and that hair may not grow back until the problem is dealt with.

People frequently experience telogen effluvium after major surgeries or serious injuries, but having a severe illness, giving birth, experiencing major weight loss, or enduring severe stress can also trigger the condition. And, as it turns out, so can an extreme deficiency of some essential nutrients.

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There’s little research exploring the issue of vegan hair loss, and there are no examples — to our knowledge — of permanent baldness as a result of veganism.

In fact, some studies have shown that vegans may receive some hair health benefits over traditional or paleo diet types. 

A 2019 survey looking at the effects of scalp massages on androgenic alopecia found that vegans were marginally more satisfied with their self-perceived hair image. Maybe vegans have higher self-esteem, or maybe their hair really looked better — it’s hard to know.

One thing we do know is that healthy plant-based diets generally offer heart health benefits and better diabetes and obesity management. 

The diet can also make your skin glow and your hair shine, especially if you eat a lot of plant-based healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and pumpkin seeds. You just need to be mindful of the nutrients you’re getting. 

Here’s the thing about excessive hair loss due to nutrient deficiencies and stress to the body: The problem tends to fix itself when you fix the central problem. 

Want to see vegan hair regrowth? Deal with the underlying issue. After that, conditions like telogen effluvium (hair loss from chronic stress, illness, or injury) will begin to self-correct over a period of a few months. 

Of course, even if your vegan hair loss reverses on its own, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider about speeding things up with topical minoxidil. This generic version of Rogaine® is a vasodilator that’s clinically proven to help increase your healthy hair count.

It can also potentially prevent some instances of hair thinning by bringing more blood and oxygen to your hair follicles and decreasing the telogen phase, the resting phase of the hair growth cycle

A decreased telogen phase means the hairs that were hibernating are back on duty. As a result, many people actually see an increase in hair count as the medication begins to work over time.

On the other hand, if your hair loss is due to something like androgenic alopecia (otherwise known as male pattern baldness), there’s hope to be found in finasteride. Finasteride is an FDA-approved medication that treats male pattern hair loss at the source by blocking the formation of testosterone-derived DHT.

DHT shrinks healthy hair follicles, causing them to stop producing hair. Finasteride reduces the amount of DHT your body makes. Problem, solution.

Keep in mind, however, that androgenetic alopecia definitely isn’t related to vegan hair loss.

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The hard truth of the matter is that while a well-balanced vegan diet doesn’t put you at risk for any major health issues, a poorly planned vegan diet can increase your chances of various health issues — including hair loss.

That’s not to say it will happen, but if you’re reading this, we’re guessing it may already have started. Here’s what to remember:

  • If you’re a vegan experiencing increased hair loss, a healthcare provider or dermatologist can help you get to the root of the problem. They’ll determine what is or isn’t vegan hair loss-related and help you get the treatment you need if you have androgenic alopecia

  • Depending on what they find, your health care provider may suggest adding meat or dairy to your diet. They can also do a blood test to look for any nutritional deficiencies that could be causing hair loss.

  • If you need help getting enough plant-based protein in your vegan diet, a dietitian can help you brainstorm vegan protein sources and make a meal plan.

As mentioned, you can also expedite the vegan hair regrowth process through various hair loss treatment options. For instance, minoxidil can help increase your healthy hair count and even prevent further hair thinning.

8 Sources

  1. Almohanna H, et al. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  2. Badri T, et al. (2021). Minoxidil. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  3. Clem J, et al. (2021). A Look at Plant-Based Diets. Missouri Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8210981/
  4. English R, et al. (2019). Self-Assessments of Standardized Scalp Massages for Androgenic Alopecia: Survey Results. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380978/
  5. Guo EL, et al. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
  6. Hughes EC et al. (2022) Telogen Effluvium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  7. Tuso P, et al. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
  8. Zito PM, et al. (2022). Finasteride. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
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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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