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Zinc for Hair Loss: What the Science Says

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Updated 04/02/2024

Zinc supplements are cheap, easy to find and widely promoted for their effects on your immune system and skin. You may have also heard it’s good for your hair, but can zinc prevent hair loss? The short answer is that using zinc to treat hair loss could be a waste of your time and money and put you at risk if you don’t have a zinc deficiency or take too much.

But how do you know if you have a zinc deficiency or how much is too much? How do you avoid wasting both precious time and money? If you want to know more about zinc for hair loss — and some proven hair loss treatments — we’re here to help.

We’ll get into the details below, but if you’ve only got a few minutes to spare, here are the key things you need to know about zinc and hair growth.

  • Zinc is an essential mineral found in many food sources. Animal proteins, such as beef, pork, chicken and oysters, are good sources of zinc, as are beans, fortified cereals and nuts.

  • Although zinc doesn’t appear to play a significant role in androgenetic alopecia (another name for male pattern baldness), zinc deficiency can contribute to some types of hair loss.

  • Some research has found that men with male pattern baldness and some other forms of hair loss have low zinc levels.

  • Other research has found that zinc may inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, an enzyme that plays a role in producing the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone is a main cause of hair loss for many men.

Currently, there’s no definitive proof that zinc can aid in slowing down or reversing male pattern baldness.
There are risks and potential side effects associated with zinc supplementation, although most are only a concern for people taking very high doses of zinc.

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Zinc is an essential mineral involved in several processes within your body. It plays a crucial role in proper immune function, wound healing, cell division and growth, protein synthesis, DNA creation and even your senses of smell and taste.

Your body needs zinc but can’t store it — so because your body doesn't keep a stockpile of zinc, you need a steady supply to aid all these important functions.

Luckily, zinc is found naturally in many foods, added to some that have been "fortified" and is in many dietary supplements.

Most people get their zinc from animal sources, such as seafood, red meat and poultry. Others get zinc from beans, nuts, dairy products and fortified foods.

While zinc is present in cereals, legumes and other plant foods, so are phytates — antioxidants that can bind with zinc and prevent your body from properly absorbing it.

Because of the phytate content of these foods, the zinc they contain is slightly less bioavailable — which means your body can’t use them as easily — than the zinc found in animal products.

Despite this, it’s still important to include these foods in your diet as sources of zinc, as well as for general nutritional variation.

Zinc deficiency is a major issue worldwide — data from the World Health Organization suggests that approximately 31 percent of the global population is affected by some level of zinc deficiency.

Although zinc deficiency is far less common in the United States than in developing countries, it remains an issue of concern.

People in certain groups, including vegetarians, pregnant or lactating women, people with sickle cell disease, alcoholics and people with gastrointestinal disease or other medical conditions that reduce nutrient absorption, all have an elevated risk of zinc deficiency or inadequacy.

Hair loss can be a sign of zinc deficiency, although other symptoms of deficiency would usually need to be present for your healthcare provider to make that call.

What we know about the effects of zinc deficiency primarily comes from studying people with a genetic disorder called acrodermatitis enteropathica. People with this condition have severe zinc deficiencies and typically died until scientists discovered the cause of this condition.

It’s very unlikely that a lack of zinc from regular dietary sources could lead to a severe deficiency.

What’s far more likely is moderate or marginal zinc deficiency, with less dramatic (but still serious) effects.

Symptoms of a mild or moderate zinc deficiency include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Delayed growth

  • Poor immune health

Symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include:

  • Hair loss

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Delayed sexual maturation

  • Night blindness

  • Skin lesions

If you think that you may have a zinc deficiency, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. You can have your serum zinc levels checked with a simple blood test.

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The relationship between zinc and hair loss is complicated. While some research has found that zinc may play a role in slowing or reversing some forms of hair loss, the evidence for zinc as an effective supplement for hair loss is mixed.

Some experts think that zinc may act as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor — a substance that blocks the effects of the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

DHT is an androgen hormone that can bind to receptors in the scalp and cause the hair follicles to miniaturize. It’s the primary hormone responsible for male pattern baldness in men and female pattern hair loss in women.

Prescription hair loss medications, such as finasteride, work by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase and reducing DHT levels.

So, does zinc increase testosterone and reduce DHT?

A study of zinc sulfate published in the British Journal of Dermatology in the late 1980s described the essential mineral as a "potent inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase activity."

Unfortunately, there’s been very little additional research on zinc’s effects on DHT levels and its potential as a treatment for male pattern baldness since then.

Several other studies have looked at the effects of zinc on hair loss, though most have focused solely on alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease.

In one case study published in the International Journal of Trichology, researchers found that a woman with diffuse hair loss receiving treatment for hypothyroidism saw improvements in some symptoms, including hair growth, after taking a zinc supplement.

Research published in Annals of Dermatology also found that zinc levels tend to be lower in people with alopecia areata and telogen effluvium — two common forms of hair loss.

Interestingly, research has also found that low levels of zinc and copper may be associated with hair loss, including male pattern baldness.

Several studies have also found that zinc supplementation may promote healthy hair growth for people with alopecia areata.

One small study published in the Annals of Dermatology found zinc had positive effects in people with alopecia areata and suggested that zinc “could become an adjuvant therapy” for this type of hair loss in people with low zinc levels.

Another study, which involved 100 people with patchy hair loss from alopecia areata, stated that oral zinc sulfate is “one of the most effective treatment options” for alopecia areata, noting a low rate of hair loss coming back.

Despite these findings, no studies show improvements in hair growth amongst your average balding man who uses zinc.

In the scientific world, there’s a heavy burden of proof. While zinc as a treatment for hair loss may be promising, there isn’t yet enough scientific evidence to view it as a reliable treatment for male pattern baldness or as an alternative to medications like minoxidil or finasteride.

On the other hand, when it comes to hair loss caused by nutritional deficiencies, zinc may be a helpful treatment option, either on its own or with other nutrients and medications.

While research on zinc’s benefits as a hair loss treatment is limited, we know that zinc has real benefits for the body.

Healthy levels of zinc help:

  • Strengthen and maintain your immune system

  • Support and promote optimal wound healing

  • Assist in DHT synthesis and cell division

  • Provide an accurate sense of taste and smell

Although zinc supplements are often marketed as natural testosterone boosters, research into the effects on testosterone doesn’t show much of an impact.

In pregnant women, optimal zinc intake is also essential for supporting proper fetal growth and development.

For adult men, the recommended dietary allowance for zinc is 11mg per day, while for adult women it’s 8mg per day.

Most animal proteins are rich in zinc, meaning you shouldn’t have any difficulties reaching this level if you eat at least one normal-sized serving of poultry, fish or red meat daily.

If you’ve been diagnosed with low levels of zinc, your healthcare provider may recommend taking a zinc supplement.

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for zinc, meaning the most you should take, is 40mg per day for men and women aged 19 or older. You could see adverse effects if you exceed this amount over the long term.

As always, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before taking zinc or any other nutritional supplements.

Zinc Side Effects

Although zinc supplements are safe to use at a standard dosage, zinc can cause side effects if consumed in excess.

Potential adverse effects of zinc toxicity (excessive zinc intake) include vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headaches.

Very high zinc intakes have also been associated with reduced immune function, low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), altered iron metabolism and lower copper levels.

Like many other dietary supplements, zinc can interact with certain medications, including some antibiotics, diuretics and the rheumatoid arthritis medication penicillamine.

Tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you take before using zinc or other dietary supplements to avoid potentially dangerous interactions.

The whole “zinc for hair” conversation is really a question of your nutrition. If you’re not deficient in zinc, you may see some minor improvements if you supplement zinc for hair growth. If, however, zinc doesn’t play a role in your specific hair loss problem, it may do very little to help.

While research is mixed on the effects of zinc as a hair growth supplement, there are several science-based treatments that you may want to consider if you’re losing your hair.

Currently, the most effective treatments for male pattern baldness are the medications minoxidil and finasteride:

  • Minoxidil is a topical medication that stimulates hair growth. It works by moving hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. It also stimulates blood flow to the scalp.

We offer minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam online.

  • Finasteride is an oral medication for hair loss. It works by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase and blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT, protecting your hair follicles from damage caused by DHT exposure.

We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Although zinc supplements may help to treat hair shedding if you have a zinc deficiency, there isn’t any scientific evidence that zinc can slow down or reverse male pattern baldness.

Instead, you’ll get the best results by treating hair loss with science-based hair loss treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride.

If you’re considering taking zinc, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider first and make sure that you limit your dosage to the recommended daily allowance. After all, zinc is important, but it’s important to take it correctly:

  • Zinc is one of the essential micronutrients, along with keratin and biotin, in the healthy function of your hair follicles.

  • The amount of zinc in your diet has some impact on hair health and hair regrowth, but the benefits of zinc mainly benefit those who have zinc deficiency.

  • Most people are getting enough zinc, and taking too much zinc can potentially result in problems too.

If you currently take prescription medication, make sure to ask your healthcare provider about any potential drug interactions. And while you’re there, talk about other possible causes of hair loss.

15 Sources

  1. Zinc. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from
  2. Kondrakhina, I.N., et al. (2020, May). Plasma Zinc Levels in Males with Androgenetic Alopecia as Possible Predictors of the Subsequent Conservative Therapy’s Effectiveness. Diagnostics. 10 (5), 336. Retrieved from
  3. Stamatiadis, D., Bulteau-Portois, M.C. & Mowszowicz, I. (1988, November). Inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin by zinc and azelaic acid. British Journal of Dermatology. 119 (5), 627-32. Retrieved from
  4. Kumera, G., et al. (2015). Prevalence of zinc deficiency and its association with dietary, serum albumin and intestinal parasitic infection among pregnant women attending antenatal care at the University of Gondar Hospital, Gondar, Northwest Ethiopia. BMC Nutrition. 1, 31. Retrieved from
  5. Maxfield, L. & Crane, J.S. (2021, July 18). Zinc Deficiency. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  6. Kinter, K.J. & Anekar, A.A. (2021, March 13). Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  7. Brough, K.R. & Torgerson, R.R. (2017, March). Hormonal therapy in female pattern hair loss. International Journal of Womens Dermatology. 3 (1), 53–57. Retrieved from
  8. Betsy, A., Binitha, M.P. & Sarita, S. (2013, January-March). Zinc Deficiency Associated with Hypothyroidism: An Overlooked Cause of Severe Alopecia. International Journal of Trichology. 5 (1), 40–42. Retrieved from
  9. Kil, M.S., Kim, C.W. & Kim, S.S. (2013, November). Analysis of Serum Zinc and Copper Concentrations in Hair Loss. Annals of Dermatology. 25 (4), 405–409. Retrieved from
  10. Park, H., Kim, C.W., Kim, S.S. & Park, C.W. (2009, May). The Therapeutic Effect and the Changed Serum Zinc Level after Zinc Supplementation in Alopecia Areata Patients Who Had a Low Serum Zinc Level. Annals of Dermatology. 21 (2), 142–146. Retrieved from
  11. Sharquie, K.E., Noaimi, A.A. & Shwail, E.R. (2012). Oral Zinc Sulphate in Treatment of Alopecia Areata (Double Blind; CrossOver Study). Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research. 3, 2. Retrieved from
  12. Kondrakhina, I.N., et al. (2020, May). Plasma Zinc Levels in Males with Androgenetic Alopecia as Possible Predictors of the Subsequent Conservative Therapys Effectiveness. Diagnostics. 10 (5), 336. Retrieved from
  13. Koehler, K., Parr, M.K., Geyer, H., Mester, J. & Schânzer, W. (2009). Serum testosterone and urinary excretion of steroid hormone metabolites after administration of a high-dose zinc supplement. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 63, 65-70. Retrieved from
  14. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2021, April 13). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  15. Zito, P.M., Bistas, K.G. & Syed, K. (2021, March 27). Finasteride. StatPearls. Retrieved from
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, 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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