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Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss: Is There a Connection?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 10/29/2020

Updated 05/08/2024

If you’re experiencing increased hair fall, vitamin D deficiency hair loss could be to blame.  Lacking vital nutrients like vitamin D can impact your health, leading to a number of issues — including hair thinning.

When your body doesn’t get enough of an essential vitamin or mineral, it doesn’t have the building blocks necessary to produce healthy strands.  Nutrient deficiency can also be a physical stressor that impacts the hair growth cycle.

Below, we explain the vitamin D hair loss connection and the effect of insufficient vitamin D for hair growth, as well as possible hair loss treatments to explore.

So, does vitamin D deficiency cause hair loss? Although research is somewhat limited, there is evidence that lacking vitamin D can affect healthy hair growth, resulting in shedding, thinning and patchy hair loss across the scalp.

Experts aren’t entirely sure what role of vitamin D in the hair growth cycle is. However, some research suggests vitamin D receptors play an important role in the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle, which is when new hairs grow from the follicle to their full length. In other words, vitamin D stimulates the hair follicles, playing a key role in hair follicle cycling.

One study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information involving women between the ages of 18 and 45 found that low levels of vitamin D2 were associated with two common types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and female pattern hair loss.

Another 2014 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found a link between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss, specifically alopecia areata, a form of patchy hair loss resulting from an autoimmune condition.

Beyond just vitamin D there are other vitamin deficiencies that cause hair loss as well. For instance, vitamin B deficiency hair loss is also possible.

Vitamin D is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in numerous biological processes. Specifically, vitamin D is responsible for:

  • Promoting calcium absorption (keratinocyte differentiation)

  • Ensuring healthy bone growth and remodeling

  • Modulating cell growth

  • Reducing inflammation

  • Maintaining a healthy immune system

Vitamin D also plays a key role in preventing certain diseases. People with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of developing rickets (in infants and young children) and osteomalacia, two diseases that can affect bone health and integrity.

And, as mentioned, there’s a link between low vitamin D levels and certain forms of hair loss.

However, it can be challenging to meet your daily vitamin D requirements through food alone. Milk, soy and certain types of fish contain high amounts of vitamin D, but most of it is produced endogenously (by your body) through sun exposure.

Further, vitamin D is biologically inert. That means that to use vitamin D, your body needs to convert it using your liver and kidneys. This process, known as hydroxylation, allows your body to use vitamin D for various vital processes.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. Up to one billion people worldwide — approximately 13 percent of the world’s population — are deficient in vitamin D.

If you have a severe vitamin D deficiency, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Muscle aches and cramps

  • Bone pain or weakness

  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds

  • Changes in your mood (including depressed or anxious mood)

  • Hair loss

If you’re showing early signs of hair thinning and think you might be deficient in vitamin D, you should consider talking to a healthcare professional. 

Healthcare professionals can diagnose vitamin D deficiency with a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. This test checks for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a common form of vitamin D that circulates in the blood. 

The healthcare provider can also assess you for other possible causes of hair loss. For example, with male pattern baldness, a major contributor can be high levels of the androgen hormone DHT.

You may have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:

  • Spend too little time outdoors in direct sunlight. Low sunlight exposure reduces your body’s ability to produce vitamin D naturally and is among the common causes of vitamin D deficiency. 

  • Don’t get enough vitamin D from your diet. Certain foods, such as fish, cheese, milk and eggs are high in vitamin D. If you rarely eat these foods, you may have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.

  • Have dark skin. People with darker skin pigmentation produce less vitamin D naturally in response to sunlight. If you’re Black or Hispanic, you may have a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency than someone with a lighter complexion.

  • Are older. Older adults produce less vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. The kidneys also become less efficient at processing vitamin D as we age, meaning older adults are more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency.

  • Are obese. Body fat binds to vitamin D, preventing it from getting into the blood. In one study, researchers found that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is 35 percent higher in obese people compared to those in an ideal weight range.

  • Have Crohn's or celiac disease. These diseases can affect how well you absorb certain nutrients like vitamin D.

  • Use certain medications. Some medications may interfere with vitamin D metabolism and absorption, including certain anti-seizure and antifungal drugs, glucocorticoids, cholestyramine and certain HIV/AIDS medications.

  • Have had gastric bypass surgery. According to Annals of Surgery, people who have had gastric bypass surgery often only consume 50 percent of the recommended daily vitamin D intake, increasing their risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.

  • Have another health condition. Other health conditions that can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency include osteoporosis, skin cancer, chronic kidney or liver disease, lymphomas, hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis and histoplasmosis.

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So, you’ve been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. What happens next?

Your healthcare provider will probably prescribe a vitamin D supplement. They’ll also likely recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle habits, such as:

  • Taking a vitamin D supplement. According to The Harvard School of Public Health, the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 600 IU daily for adults 19 and older. For adults 70 and up, it’s 800 IU daily. If you don’t get much vitamin D naturally, taking a dietary supplement like vitamin D3 may be helpful. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and widely available.

  • Eating foods that contain vitamin D. Fatty fish (think tuna, salmon and mackerel), avocado, nuts, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms and beef liver are great natural sources of vitamin D. Fortified foods, like milk, yogurt, breakfast cereals and orange juices, may also contain added vitamin D. 

  • Spending more time in sunlight. Your body produces its own vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Spending too much time in direct sunlight isn’t good for your skin, but a small dose of sun exposure (about 10 to 15 minutes per day) is crucial to producing natural vitamin D. Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

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While getting too little vitamin D can cause a deficiency, getting too much can lead to what’s known as “vitamin D toxicity.” This is a potentially harmful condition that can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, weakness, weight loss, reduced appetite, heart rhythm problems and kidney damage. 

You can’t overdose on vitamin D from getting too much sunlight, but overdoing it on vitamin D supplements can lead to toxicity. To avoid vitamin D toxicity, only use vitamin D supplements as recommended by your healthcare provider or another healthcare professional.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’ve noticed your hair shedding or looking thin and think you could be experiencing vitamin D deficiency hair loss. They can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to vitamin D hair loss: 

  • Your healthcare provider may recommend a blood test to check your vitamin D levels. If you do have a deficiency, they’ll recommend natural ways to get more vitamin D as well as supplements you can use.

  • If a vitamin D deficiency is ruled out, remember there are plenty of things that can cause hair loss. And there are different types of hair loss, too, like male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia) and telogen effluvium. 

  • If you’re experiencing vitamin D-related hair loss, your healthcare provider may recommend one of several science-backed hair loss treatment options, like finasteride and minoxidil. These medications can help slow down or stop hair loss, and some might even promote hair regrowth in areas where your hair has started to thin.

  • Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes to ensure you’re getting adequate vitamin D. This could include getting some healthy sun exposure and making some dietary changes for hair growth.

If you’re experiencing hair loss and don’t have a deficiency, medication still may be the logical next step. As mentioned, finasteride and minoxidil are the two main treatments, though they come in a number of forms. We offer a minoxidil foam as well as a combination topical finasteride and minoxidil spray.

And of course, there are also supplements you can take to promote overall hair health, like our biotin gummies that are packed with B vitamins, folic acid and other key nutrients.

Talking to a healthcare provider such as a dermatologist is a great first step in determining what’s causing your hair loss and which hair loss treatments may be right for you.

10 Sources

  1. Aksu, et al. (n.d.). Vitamin D deficiency in alopecia areata. The British Journal of dermatology. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24655364/.
  2. Chodorowska, et al. (2017, December 7). The role of vitamin d in non-scarring alopecia. International journal of molecular sciences. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5751255/.
  3. Cranwell, W., & Sinclair, R. (2016, February 29). Male androgenetic alopecia. Endotext internet. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/.
  4. DeMaria, et al. (2006, May). The long-term effects of gastric bypass on vitamin d metabolism. Annals of surgery. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570540/.
  5. Givler, et al. (2021, July 21). Vitamin d deficiency. StatPearls internet. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/.
  6. Abdel, et al. (n.d.). Serum ferritin and vitamin D in female HAIR loss: Do they play a role? Skin pharmacology and physiology. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23428658/.
  7. Time for more vitamin d. Harvard Health. (2008, September 1). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/time-for-more-vitamin-d.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Office of dietary supplements - vitamin d. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.
  9. Vitamin d deficiency: Symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d--vitamin-d-deficiency.
  10. Vitamin d. The Nutrition Source. (2020, March 3). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/.
Editorial Standards

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

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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