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The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review



People commonly inquire about vitamin and mineral supplementation and diet as a means to prevent or manage dermatological diseases and, in particular, hair loss. Answering these queries is frequently challenging, given the enormous and conflicting evidence that exists on this subject. There are several reasons to suspect a role for micronutrients in non-scarring alopecia. Micronutrients are major elements in the normal hair follicle cycle, playing a role in cellular turnover, a frequent occurrence in the matrix cells in the follicle bulb that are rapidly dividing. Management of alopecia is an essential aspect of clinical dermatology given the prevalence of hair loss and its significant impact on patients’ quality of life. The role of nutrition and diet in treating hair loss represents a dynamic and growing area of inquiry. In this review we summarize the role of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and zinc, in non-scarring alopecia. A broad literature search of PubMed and Google Scholar was performed in July 2018 to compile published articles that study the relationship between vitamins and minerals, and hair loss. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals play an important, but not entirely clear role in normal hair follicle development and immune cell function. Deficiency of such micronutrients may represent a modifiable risk factor associated with the development, prevention, and treatment of alopecia. Given the role of vitamins and minerals in the hair cycle and immune defense mechanism, large double-blind placebo-controlled trials are required to determine the effect of specific micronutrient supplementation on hair growth in those with both micronutrient deficiency and non-scarring alopecia to establish any association between hair loss and such micronutrient deficiency. Plain Language Summary: Plain language summary available for this article.
The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss:
A Review
Hind M. Almohanna .Azhar A. Ahmed .John P. Tsatalis .
Antonella Tosti
Received: October 16, 2018
ÓThe Author(s) 2018
People commonly inquire about vitamin and
mineral supplementation and diet as a means to
prevent or manage dermatological diseases and,
in particular, hair loss. Answering these queries
is frequently challenging, given the enormous
and conflicting evidence that exists on this
subject. There are several reasons to suspect a
role for micronutrients in non-scarring alope-
cia. Micronutrients are major elements in the
normal hair follicle cycle, playing a role in cel-
lular turnover, a frequent occurrence in the
matrix cells in the follicle bulb that are rapidly
dividing. Management of alopecia is an essen-
tial aspect of clinical dermatology given the
prevalence of hair loss and its significant impact
on patients’ quality of life. The role of nutrition
and diet in treating hair loss represents a
dynamic and growing area of inquiry. In this
review we summarize the role of vitamins and
minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin
C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and
zinc, in non-scarring alopecia. A broad literature
search of PubMed and Google Scholar was per-
formed in July 2018 to compile published arti-
cles that study the relationship between
vitamins and minerals, and hair loss. Micronu-
trients such as vitamins and minerals play an
important, but not entirely clear role in normal
hair follicle development and immune cell
function. Deficiency of such micronutrients
may represent a modifiable risk factor associated
with the development, prevention, and treat-
ment of alopecia. Given the role of vitamins
and minerals in the hair cycle and immune
defense mechanism, large double-blind pla-
cebo-controlled trials are required to determine
the effect of specific micronutrient supplemen-
tation on hair growth in those with both
micronutrient deficiency and non-scarring
alopecia to establish any association between
hair loss and such micronutrient deficiency.
Plain Language Summary: Plain language
summary available for this article.
Enhanced digital features To view enhanced digital
features for this article go to
H. M. Almohanna (&)
Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic
Surgery, Prince Sultan Military Medical City,
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
A. A. Ahmed
Department of Dermatology, King Fahad General
Hospital, Medina, Saudi Arabia
J. P. Tsatalis A. Tosti
Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous
Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of
Medicine, 1475 NW 12th Ave. Suite 2175, Miami,
FL 33136, USA
A. Tosti
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
Keywords: Alopecia; Biotin; Ferritin; Folic acid;
Hair loss; Vitamin A; Vitamin B; Vitamin C;
Vitamin D; Zinc
Hair loss is a common problem that may be
improved with vitamin and mineral supple-
mentation. Vitamins and minerals are impor-
tant for normal cell growth and function and
may contribute to hair loss when they are defi-
cient. While supplementation is relatively
affordable and easily accessible, it is important
to know which vitamins and minerals are
helpful in treating hair loss.
Androgenetic alopecia (AGA), telogen efflu-
vium (TE) are two common types of hair loss.
Studies show that supplementing the diet with
low levels of vitamin D can improve symptoms
of these diseases. If a patient with AGA or TE has
low iron levels (more commonly seen in
females), supplementation is also recom-
mended. These iron-deficient patients should
also ensure their vitamin C intake is appropri-
ate. At the present time there is insufficient data
to recommend zinc, riboflavin, folic acid, or
vitamin B12 supplementation in cases of defi-
ciency. Neither vitamin E or biotin supple-
mentation are supported by the literature for
treating AGA or TE; in addition, biotin supple-
mentation can also lead to dangerous false lab-
oratory results. Studies show that too much
vitamin A can contribute to hair loss, as can too
much selenium, although more studies are
needed to establish the latter relationship.
Alopecia areata (AA) occurs when the
immune system attacks the hair follicle. Studies
have shown a relationship between AA and low
vitamin D levels. Vitamin D should be supple-
mented if levels are low. However, more studies
are needed to determine the effect of iron and
zinc supplementation on AA patients. There is
currently not enough data to recommend sup-
plementation of folate or B12. Biotin supple-
mentation is not supported by available data for
the treatment of AA. It is unclear if selenium
plays a role in this disease; therefore, supple-
mentation with this mineral is not
Iron, vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, and
selenium are vitamins and minerals that may be
involved in hair graying/whitening during
childhood or early adulthood. Supplementing
these deficient micronutrients can improve
premature graying.
People commonly inquire about vitamin and
mineral supplementation and diet as a means to
prevent or manage dermatological diseases and,
in particular, hair loss. Answering these queries
is frequently challenging, given the enormous
and conflicting body of evidence that exists on
this subject. The latest findings promote new
evidence-based recommendations for the pre-
vention and treatment of atopic dermatitis,
psoriasis, acne, and skin cancer and have high-
lighted the requirement for ongoing research
studies [1,2].
The human scalp contains approximately
100,000 hair follicles. Of these, 90% are in the
anagen phase, where there is no alopecia,
requiring essential elements, such as proteins,
vitamins, and minerals, to efficiently produce
healthy hair [3,4]. Micronutrients, including
vitamins and trace minerals, are therefore cru-
cial components of our diet [5]. According to
Stewart and Gutherie [6], in 1497 Vasco de
Gamma recorded the deaths of 100 of his 160
sailors due to scurvy and 300 years later James
Lind linked scurvy with vitamin C deficiency,
noting skin hemorrhage and hair loss [6]. In
protein-energy malnutrition, skin and hair
changes are prominent, as seen, for example in
children with kwashiorkor, marasmus, and
marasmic-kwashiorkor conditions [7]. A severe
reduction in carbohydrate intake results in hair
loss [8].
Management of alopecia is an essential
aspect of clinical dermatology given the preva-
lence of hair loss and its significant impact on
patients’ quality of life. Androgenetic alopecia
(AGA), telogen effluvium (TE), and alopecia
areata (AA) represent the three most common
types of non-scarring alopecia [9]. There are
several reasons to suspect a role for micronu-
trients in non-scarring alopecia. The most
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
noteworthy of these is that micronutrients are
major elements in the normal hair follicle cycle,
playing a role in the cellular turnover of the
matrix cells in the follicle bulb that are rapidly
dividing [10].
The role of nutrition and diet in treating hair
loss represents a dynamic and growing area of
inquiry. In this review we summarize the role of
vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A,
vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E,
iron, selenium, and zinc, in non-scarring
We performed a broad literature search of
PubMed and Google Scholar in July 2018 to
compile published articles that study the rela-
tionship between vitamins and minerals, and
hair loss. The search terms included ‘hair loss,’
‘alopecia,’ ‘vitamin A,’ ‘‘vitamin B,’ ‘vitamin
C,’ ‘‘vitamin D,’ ‘vitamin E,’’ ‘iron,’ ‘‘ferritin,’
‘biotin,’’ ‘zinc,’ ‘‘selenium,’ ‘folic acid,’’ ‘telo-
gen effluvium,’ ‘‘alopecia areata,’ ‘androgenetic
alopecia,’ ‘‘female pattern hair loss,’ ‘male
pattern hair loss,’ and ‘premature hair graying.’
Only published articles on human subjects that
were written in English were selected. After
three authors had independently screened titles
and abstracts for relevance and had thoroughly
examined the clinical results, 125 articles were
selected to be included in this review. This
article is based on previously conducted studies
and does not contain any studies with human
participants or animals performed by any of the
Vitamin A represents a group of fat-soluble
retinoids that includes retinol, retinal, and
retinyl esters [11,12]. This vitamin serves many
roles in the body: it is critical for vision,
involved in immune function, and is necessary
for cellular growth and differentiation [13].
Vitamin A exists in the diet as preformed vita-
min A (from animal sources) and as provitamin
A carotenoids (sourced from plants). Both
sources of vitamin A must be metabolized
intracellularly to their active forms (retinal and
retinoic acid). The majority of vitamin A is
stored in the liver as retinyl esters. When mea-
suring retinol and carotenoid levels, plasma
levels are typically sufficient for determining
adequacy. A plasma retinol concentration of \
0.70 lmol/L signifies vitamin A inadequacy
In most cases, a balanced diet will supply a
healthy amount of vitamin A [14]. The recom-
mended dietary allowance of vitamin A for
adults aged C19 years is 1300 mcg/day (4300 IU
[international units]) for U.S. populations.
While there is no upper intake level for provi-
tamin A carotenoids, ingestion of very high
levels of preformed vitamin A can be toxic. For
adults aged C19 years, the tolerable upper
intake level of preformed vitamin A is 10,000 IU
[13]. It is therefore important to consider what
form of vitamin A is contained in supplements
(provitamin A carotenoids or preformed vita-
min A) and in what proportion.
As a general rule, consuming too much or
over-supplementing vitamin A can cause hair
loss [15,16]. Typically, fat-soluble vitamin A is
stored in the liver where its dispersal is tightly
regulated by anabolic and catabolic reactions
between the inactive and active metabolite.
When levels of vitamin A are too high, the
capacity of the transport system is exceeded and
vitamin A spills over into the circulation [17].
Maintaining homeostasis—and by extension
the proper concentration of active metabolite—
is important for healthy hair [18].
In one study with the aim to determine the
effects of isotretinoin on acne vulgaris in the
skin, special care was taken to evaluate changes
in the hair and hair growth. Thirty patients
were evaluated over a 4- to 7-month treatment
period, with examinations carried out using a
FotoFinder dermoscope (FotoFinder Systems,
Inc., Columbia, MD, USA) with TrichoScanÒ
Professional software. Consistent with other
findings, the authors reported a decrease in hair
count, density, and percentage of anagen hairs
In a case documented in 1979, a 28-year-old
woman undergoing renal dialysis noticed sud-
den hair loss. Further investigation revealed
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
that she had been taking a daily vitamin A
supplement (5000 IU) and that her vitamin A
serum levels were well above normal (140 lg/
dL). Gentle traction yielded four to five hairs, all
of which were in the telogen phase. One month
after termination of vitamin A supplementa-
tion, hair loss was no longer a problem. The
authors concluded that signs of hypervita-
minosis A were misinterpreted as symptoms of
chronic renal failure. The authors also high-
lighted the possible ‘insidious’ effects of
exogenous vitamin A on dialysis patients [20].
Consumption of vitamin A exceeding the
recommended daily limit of approximately
10,000 IU a day can lead to vitamin A toxicity.
In a case report, a 60-year-old male who had
been taking excess vitamin A supplements
experienced non-scarring fronto-central alope-
cia as well as decreased pubic and axillary hair.
The patient also reported dystrophic nail chan-
ges and an erythematous rash. Taken together,
these changes were concurrent with drug toxi-
city that aligned with the patient’s over-con-
sumption of vitamin A [21].
The vitamin B complex includes eight water-
soluble vitamin substances—thiamine (B1),
riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid
(B5), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folate, and vita-
min B12—that aid in cell metabolism. The rec-
ommended daily allowances of these vitamins
can be reached by eating a balanced diet, with
the exception of biotin, which is the only B
vitamin produced by the body. In healthy
individuals biotin does not need to be supple-
mented [14]. Only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and
vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated
with hair loss.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is a component of
two important coenzymes: flavin mononu-
cleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide
(FAD) [22]. FMN and FAD represent 90% of
dietary riboflavin, and both play roles in cellular
development and function, metabolism of fats,
and energy production [23]. The body stores
only small amounts of riboflavin, in the liver,
heart, and kidneys. Riboflavin deficiency—
while extremely rare in the USA—can cause hair
loss [24].
Vitamin B7 (biotin or vitamin H) is a cofactor
for five carboxylases that catalyze steps in fatty
acid, glucose, and amino acid metabolism.
Biotin also plays roles in histone modification,
cell signaling, and gene regulation [25]. Most
dietary biotin is found in protein. Dietary pro-
tein must be broken down into free biotin,
which is then stored in the small intestine and
liver. An adequate intake of biotin for adults is
30 mcg/day in U.S. populations. The average
dietary intake of biotin in Western countries is
adequate, and biotin deficiency is rare. Severe
biotin deficiency in healthy individuals eating a
normal diet has never been reported [26,27].
While there is no upper limit for biotin intake—
as there is no evidence for biotin toxicity—high
biotin intake can cause falsely high or falsely
low laboratory test results [28]. Many supple-
ments for hair, skin, and nails far exceed the
recommended daily intake of biotin [28].
The presence of biotin can in fact interfere
with tests that use biotin–streptavidin technol-
ogy. The interaction between biotin and strep-
tavidin is used as the basis for many biotin-
based immunoassays, and these immunoassays
are vulnerable to interference when they are
used to analyze a sample that contains biotin.
Exogenous biotin in the sample competes with
biotinylated reagents for the binding sites on
streptavidin reagents, creating false positive or
false negative results [29]. Biotin interference in
biotin–streptavidin immunoassays have been
described in patient samples for thyroid-stimu-
lating hormone, free tri-iodothyronine (FT3),
free thyroxine (FT4), parathyroid hormone,
estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, dehy-
droepiandrosterone sulfate, vitamin B12, pros-
tate-specific antigen, luteinizing hormone, and
follicle-stimulating hormone. Other non-hor-
monal tests include cardiac and tumor markers,
infectious disease serologies, biomarkers of
anemia and autoimmune diseases, and con-
centrations of immunosuppressive drugs
Furthermore, according to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, biotin interference (from
supplemental biotin) caused a falsely low result
in a troponin test that led to a missed diagnosis
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
of a heart attack and a patient’s death [28]. In
addition, a recent study showed that some
human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) devices
are subject to biotin interference in individuals
taking dietary biotin supplements. Therefore,
clinicians and laboratory technicians need to be
aware of this potential interference with quali-
tative urine hCG tests and should suggest
quantitative serum hCG measurement. The
latter is not subject to biotin interference [33].
Biotin deficiency can be genetic or acquired.
Genetic causes of biotin deficiency can be either
neonatal or infantile. The neonatal type is a life-
threatening condition manifested during the
first 6 weeks of life, and it is due to a holocar-
boxylase enzyme deficiency. It is usually mani-
fested with severe dermatitis and alopecia,
where there is loss of vellus and terminal hair on
the scalp; eyebrows, eyelashes, and lanugo hair
can also be absent. The infantile form of biotin
deficiency occurs after 3 months of delivery and
is due to a lack of the enzyme called biotinidase.
In this form, hair of the scalp, eyebrows, and
eyelashes is sparse or totally absent [34].
Acquired biotin deficiency can be due to
increased raw egg consumption, where avidin
particles attach to biotin and inhibit its absorp-
tion into the intestinal gut. In cooked eggs the
avidin particles are destroyed [35]. Other causes
of acquired biotin deficiency include states of
malabsorption, alcoholism, pregnancy, pro-
longed use of antibiotics that interrupt normal
flora, medications such as valproic acid, and
isotretinoin intake. The aforementioned medi-
cations interfere with biotinidase activity [34].
Evidence suggests that 50% of pregnant women
are deficient in biotin [36].
While signs of biotin deficiency include hair
loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails, the efficacy of
biotin in supplements for hair, skin, and nails as
a means to remedy these conditions is not
supported in large-scale studies [25,26]. In fact,
only case reports have been used to justify the
use of biotin supplements for hair growth.
These case reports were in children and found
that 3–5 mg biotin daily could improve hair
health after 3–4 months in children with
uncombable hair syndrome [37,38].
A recent review article evaluating biotin and
its effect on human hair found 18 reported cases
of biotin use on hair and nail. In ten of these 18
cases there was a genetic cause of biotin defi-
ciency; the remaining eight patients had
alopecia that was improved after they had taken
biotin supplementation. There were three cases
of uncombable hair syndrome, three cases of
brittle nail syndrome, one case of alopecia due
to valproic acid intake, and one case of an
infant on a biotin-free dietary supplement. All
of these 18 patients had underlying causes of
biotin deficiency and, once treated with biotin
supplement, showed clinical improvement in a
variable time period [35].
Researchers in another study investigated
the serum biotin level in 541 women partici-
pants complaining of hair shedding (age range
9–92 years). Low biotin levels (\100 ng/L) were
found in 38% of these subjects. Of this 38%
with biotin deficiency, 11% were found to have
an acquired cause of biotin deficiency, such as
gastrointestinal disease, valproic acid, iso-
tretinoin, and antibiotic use, and 35% were
found to have associated underlying seborrheic
dermatitis. These results suggest a multifactorial
cause of hair loss [39].
A case–control study was conducted on 52
Indian subjects aged \20 years with premature
canities (graying of the hair), with a matched
control for each patient. The authors assessed
and compared biotin, folic acid and vitamin
B12 levels in both groups. The results showed a
deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid in the
patients evaluated and lower levels of biotin
without any obvious biotin deficiency in the
cases [40].
Folate is another water-soluble B vitamin and
includes naturally occurring food folate and
folic acid (fully oxidized monoglutamate).
Folate is a coenzyme in the synthesis of nucleic
acids and in amino acid metabolism. It exists in
the plasma as 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate, while
about half of the total body content exists in the
liver [22,41]. The recommended dietary allow-
ance of food folate is 400 mcg daily for adults,
which is supported by required fortification of
some foods in the USA [22]. The tolerable upper
intake level of folate is 1000 mcg [42]. While
most people in the USA ingest adequate
amounts of folate, certain groups are at risk for
deficiency (usually in association with poor
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
diet, alcoholism, or a malabsorptive disorder).
Folate deficiency can cause hair, skin, and nail
changes [22].
Vitamin B12 is necessary for DNA synthesis,
neurological function, and red blood cell for-
mation [22]. The active forms of B12 are called
methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobal-
amin. Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for methionine
synthase and thereby affects the synthesis of
nearly 100 substrates including DNA, RNA, and
proteins [22]. The recommended dietary allow-
ance of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for adult U.S.
populations. There is no established upper limit
for vitamin B12 intake, as it has a low potential
for toxicity [22].
The role of folate and vitamin B12 in nucleic
acid production suggest that they might play a
role in the highly proliferative hair follicle [43].
However, few studies to date have addressed the
relationship between B vitamins and hair loss.
Turkish authors investigated folate level in 43
patients with AA and 36 healthy controls and
found no significant differences in serum folate
and vitamin B12 levels between the AA subjects
and the healthy controls [44]. Also, the authors
found that serum levels did not vary with
duration or activity of the disease [44]. In
another study conducted in Turkey 75 subjects
with AA and 54 controls were enrolled. Blood
samples were taken to investigate the serum
folic acid and vitamin B12 levels. The results
were similar to those reported by the authors of
the previous Turkish study [44], with the
authors finding no significant differences in
vitamin B12 and folate levels between affected
and healthy patients [45].
A study including 29 patients with AA that
involved [20% of the scalp showed that mean
red blood cell folate concentrations were sig-
nificantly lower in the patient group than in
controls and significantly lower in patients with
alopecia totalis/alopecia universalis than in
patients with patchy hair loss [46]. Of interest, a
genetic study including 136 Turkish patients
with AA and 130 healthy controls found that
the affected patients had a higher prevalence of
mutations in the methylene-tetrahydrofolate
reductase (MTHFR) gene [47]. This gene regu-
lates folate metabolism, influences nucleic acid
synthesis and DNA methylation, and is
associated with other autoimmune disorders.
These results suggest that mutations in MTHFR
might impact the risk of AA in the Turkish
population. However, there was no difference
between serum levels of folate or vitamin B12 in
affected patients and controls [47].
A retrospective cross-sectional study evalu-
ated folate and vitamin B12 levels in 115
patients with TE (acute and chronic). The
results showed that 2.6% of subjects had vita-
min B12 deficiency but none had folate defi-
ciency. the lack of a control group is a major
limitation of this study [48]. The authors of a
case–control study attempted to determine the
prevalence of trichodynia in 91 patients with
diffuse hair loss, including those with AGA and
TE. These researchers found no significant dif-
ference in folate and vitamin B12 levels
between patients with hair loss and control
patients [35]. Ramsay et al. reported a reduction
in vitamin B12 levels in females with AGA
treated with ethinyl estradiol and cyproterone
acetate (Diane/Dianette and Androcur). This
reduced vitamin B12 level resulted in vitamin
B12-related anxiety, causing some patient to
stop treatment. However, a daily 200 lg vitamin
B12 supplement corrected the reduced B12
concentrations. Interestingly, the reduction in
vitamin B12 levels had no adverse effects on
hair shedding or hair growth [49].
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble
vitamin derived from glucose metabolism. It is a
potent antioxidant preventing the oxidation of
low-density lipoproteins and free radicals dam-
age. It also acts as a reducing mediator necessary
for collagen fiber synthesis through hydroxyla-
tion of lysine and proline. Vitamin C plays an
essential role in the intestinal absorption of iron
due to its chelating and reducing effect, assist-
ing iron mobilization and intestinal absorption
[50]. Therefore, vitamin C intake is important in
patients with hair loss associated with iron
Humans are naturally deficient in an enzyme
called L-gulonolactone oxidase that is required
for vitamin C synthesis, and should therefore
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
take vitamin C through their diet. Citrus fruits,
potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, and cab-
bages have particularly high concentrations of
vitamin C [51]. Although vitamin C deficiency
is typically associated to body hair abnormali-
ties [52], there are no data correlating vitamin C
levels and hair loss.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin synthesized
in epidermal keratinocytes [53]. Vitamin D
obtained from the diet or synthesis in skin is
inactive and needs to be activated enzymati-
cally. Serum levels are primarily maintained
through the UVB-mediated conversion of 7-de-
hydrocholesterol in the skin to cholecalciferol,
which is hydroxylated in the liver and kidney to
the active form of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D
[1,25(OH)2D] [54,55]. There is strong evidence
that vitamin D exerts an anti-inflammatory and
immunoregulatory effect, in addition to its
important role in maintaining adequate serum
levels of calcium and phosphorus [54,56]. The
mechanisms underlying the role of vitamin D in
autoimmunity are not fully understood [54,55].
Low vitamin D levels have been reported in
several autoimmune diseases [54,55,5760].
Vitamin D modulates growth and differen-
tiation of keratinocytes through binding to the
nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR). Murine hair
follicle keratinocytes are immunoreactive for
VDR, showing their highest activity in the
anagen stage [61]. The role of vitamin D in the
hair follicle is evidenced by hair loss in patients
with vitamin D-dependent rickets type II. These
patients have mutations in the VDR gene,
resulting in vitamin D resistance and sparse
body hair, frequently involving the total scalp
and body alopecia [6264]. In addition, For-
ghani et al. identified novel nonsense muta-
tions in the VDR gene in two patients that
resulted in hereditary vitamin D-resistant rick-
ets and alopecia [65].
Vitamin D and AA
Published data on AA suggest that vitamin D,
due to its immunomodulatory effect, may be
involved in AA [66,67]. Lee et al. conducted a
systematic review and meta-analysis of observa-
tional studies on the prevalence of vitamin D
deficiency and/or serum vitamin D levels and AA
[68]. These authors analyzed a total of 14 studies
that involved 1255 patients with AA and 784
control patients without AA. The mean serum
25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] level in
patients with AA was significantly lower than
that in the non-AA control group, by 8.52 ng/dL
(95% confidence interval -11.53 to -5.50 ng/
dL). Vitamin D deficiency was also highly
prevalent in patients with AA, leading the
authors to suggest that the vitamin D level has to
be measured in patients with AA. These results
also suggest that vitamin D supplements or
topical vitamin D analogues should be consid-
ered for patients with AA and vitamin D defi-
ciency. However, the meta-analysis did not find
any clear correlations between extent of hair loss
and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level [68].
Thompson et al. evaluated the association
between AA and vitamin D in a prospective
study. Survey data encompassing lifestyle and
medical history from 55,929 women in the
Nurses’ Health Study were investigated. The
authors found that there was no significant
association between dietary, supplemental, or
total vitamin D intake and risk of developing
AA [69].
More recently, a cross-sectional study con-
ducted by Gade et al. sought to assess serum
vitamin D levels in patients with AA as com-
pared to healthy controls, and to further iden-
tify the association between vitamin D levels
and disease severity in patients with AA. The
study included 45 adult patients with AA and 45
control subjects. Serum vitamin D was esti-
mated using enzyme-linked immunosorbent
assay (ELISA) kits. The severity of AA was
determined using the Severity of Alopecia Tool
(SALT) score. The mean vitamin D level was
found to be significantly lower in patients with
AA (17.86 ±SD 5.83 ng/mL) than in the heal-
thy controls (30.65 ±SD 6.21 ng/mL)
(p= 0.0001). The level of vitamin D showed a
significant inverse correlation with disease
severity (p= 0.001) [70].
Dorach et al. conducted a prospective study
to correlate serum vitamin D levels with the
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
severity, pattern, and duration of AA and with
the density of vitamin D receptor (VDR)
expression over hair follicles in patients with
AA. These authors evaluated 30 subjects with
AA and 30 healthy controls with a mean age of
28.9 ±9.96 and 31.17 ±9.43 years, respec-
tively. Of the 30 patients, 96.7% were vitamin D
deficient (\20 ng/mL), compared to 73.3% of
the 30 healthy controls (p= 0.001). Serum
vitamin D levels negatively correlated with the
severity of the disease and duration of disease;
however, vitamin D did not correlate with the
pattern of AA and VDR expression in tissue
samples. VDR expression was reduced in all
patients and was normal in controls. There was
an inverse correlation of VDR with the presence
of inflammation, as assessed in histology studies
(p= 0.02) [71].
Female Pattern Hair Loss and TE
Data on vitamin D in female pattern hair loss
(FPHL) and TE contradict data derived from
studies indicating that women with FPHL or TE
have lower levels of vitamin D than controls,
and studies showing no correlation or even
opposite results [7276]. To elucidate the role of
vitamin D in FPHL and TE, additional large-
scale trials are necessary [77].
Immune cells are extremely sensitive to oxida-
tive damage. They also produce reactive oxygen
species as part of the immune defense mecha-
nism, which can induce a lipid peroxidation
reaction. Antioxidant supplementation funda-
mentally reverses several age-associated
immune deficiencies, leading to increased
numbers of total lymphocytes and T-cell sub-
sets, elevated levels of interleukin-2, increased
natural killer cell activity, enhanced antibody
response to antigen stimulation, improved
mitogen responsiveness, decreased pros-
taglandin synthesis, and decreased lipid perox-
idation [78].
Several clinical studies have implicated oxi-
dant/antioxidant discrepancy in patients with
AA, which is a disease dependent on
autoimmunity, genetic predisposition, and
emotional and environmental stress. These
studies have been reviewed, with most review-
ers reporting increased levels of oxidative stress
biomarkers and decreased levels of protective
antioxidant enzymes in patients with AA [79].
Vitamin E is involved in the oxidant/an-
tioxidant balance and helps to protect against
free-radical damage [80]. Ramadan and col-
leagues evaluated the serum and tissue vitamin
E levels in 15 subjects with AA and found sig-
nificantly lower levels of vitamin E in patients
with AA than in the healthy controls
(p\0.001) [81]. These results were not con-
firmed by Naziroglu and Kokcam who found no
statistical difference in plasma vitamin E levels
between patients with AA and healthy controls
The most common nutritional deficiency in the
world is iron deficiency, which contributes to
TE [82,83]. The serum ferritin (iron-binding
protein) level is considered to be a good indi-
cator of total body iron stores and is relied upon
as an indicator in hair loss studies [84]. How-
ever, serum ferritin levels may be raised in
patients with inflammatory, infectious, and
neoplastic conditions, and in those with liver
Iron deficiency is common in women with
hair loss [85]. Nevertheless, the association of
hair loss and low serum ferritin level has been
debated for many years. There is an ongoing
discussion of whether low serum ferritin levels
ought to be designated as a nutritional defi-
ciency triggering hair loss (mainly TE) [86].
Using serum ferritin levels as a marker for iron
storage deficiency, the definition of iron defi-
ciency (but not specifically iron deficiency
anemia) in several studies has ranged from a
serum ferritin concentration of B15 to \70 lg/
L[8792]. A cut-off of 30 lg/L has a sensitivity
and specificity in detecting iron deficiency of
92% and 98%, respectively; a cut-off of 41 lg/L
has a sensitivity and specificity of 98% [93]. In
order to reverse severe hair loss due to TE, some
authors recommend maintaining serum ferritin
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
at levels of [40 ng/dL [94] or 70 ng/dL [82].
There is insufficient evidence on the efficacy of
the replacement of iron on the outcome of TE,
although some benefits have been achieved in a
few controlled studies [95]. Menstruation is the
biggest cause of iron deficiency in otherwise
healthy premenopausal women. The lower
female serum ferritin reference ranges have
been questioned due to confounding by wide-
spread iron deficiency in premenopausal
females sampled when determining population
reference levels [96,97].
The role of essential amino acids in anemia is
well known, but just how amino acids affect
iron uptake is the subject of ongoing research.
Also, the possible impact of amino acids on hair
growth has yet to be elucidated. The bioavail-
ability of L-lysine is restricted primarily to fish,
meat, and eggs. Little is known about the
influence of L-lysine on iron uptake and uti-
lization. In one study, some of the participating
women achieved a modest increase in serum
ferritin level after iron supplementation, i.e.,
supplementation with elemental iron 50 mg
twice daily; adding L-lysine (1.5–2 g/day) to
their existing iron supplementation regimen
resulted in a significant (p\0.001) increase in
the mean serum ferritin concentration [85].
Trost et al. [82] and St. Pierre et al. [93]
reviewed several studies that examined the
relationship between hair loss and iron defi-
ciency. Almost all of these studies had focused
on non-scarring alopecia and addressed women
[82,93]. The authors of most studies suggested
that iron deficiency may be related to TE
[85,94,98100], AA [94,101], and AGA
[88,94]—but a few did not [86,102104]. Of
note, Sinclair’s paper [86] was criticized by
Rushton et al. [105] since the study evaluated
only five women with TE with a serum ferritin
level of \20 lg/L and presented no data on the
final serum ferritin level. According to Rushton
et al., the study was too short and did not
achieve the increase in ferritin levels which is
necessary to treat iron-induced chronic telogen
effluvium (CTE) in women with a normal hair
density [105].
Olsen and colleagues performed a controlled
study on 381 women to determine if iron defi-
ciency may play a role in FPHL or in CTE. Their
results showed that iron deficiency is common
in females, but not increased in patients with
FPHL or CTE as compared with their control
participants [106]. This paper was also a source
of discussion as Rushton et al. [105] criticized
the methodology of the study which may have
led to selection bias as a potential significant
confounder. According to Rushton and col-
leagues, the results of the Olsen et al. study
instead showed significant differences between
premenopausal women with FPHL (p= 0.004)
or CTE (p= 0.024) and control subjects [107].
Consequently, Olsen and colleagues published
a reply letter stating that the serum ferritin was
performed in two different laboratories with
same normal reference range. These authors
also stated ‘‘we were careful to evaluate differ-
ence in the iron status in both premenopausal
and postmenopausal women with CTE versus
FPHL and in each of these hair loss conditions
versus controls at three different level of serum
ferritin’’. Olsen and colleagues noted a high
percentage of iron deficiency in premenopausal
controls versus patients using a cut-off ferritin
level of B15 lg/L; the premenopausal controls
however had a lower mean age, which might
have affected the results [108].
Gowda et al. conducted a cross-sectional
study to evaluate the prevalence of nutritional
deficiencies in 100 Indian patients with hair
loss. Their results indicate that a relatively
higher proportion of participants with TE
(20.37%) had iron deficiency compared to those
with FPHL (16.67%) and male pattern hair loss
(MPHL) (2.94%) (p= 0.069). Furthermore,
transferrin saturation and ferritin levels were
lower in patients with FPHL (41.67%) and TE
(40.74%) than in patients with MPHL (11.76%)
[109]. Iron deficiencies were found to be related
to gender rather than to type of hair loss.
In contrast to the study of Gowda et al. [109],
a study conducted by Deo et al. in India aimed
to detect the prevalence of several forms of hair
loss in females and to correlate these data with
levels of hemoglobin and serum ferritin. This
observational study involved 135 subjects, the
majority (62.2%) of whom had TE, with the
next largest group having FPHL (23.7%). Nei-
ther low hemoglobin (\12 gm %; 73.4%) nor
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
low serum ferritin (\12 lg/L; 6.7%) levels were
found to be statistically significant [110].
In 2017, Thompson et al. reviewed five other
studies investigating the relationship between
AA and iron [55]. None of these studies sup-
ported an association between AA and iron
deficiency [27,44,111113].
A study was conducted in India on 35 stu-
dents aged \20 years who had premature
graying of hair, who were matched with 35
healthy controls. The subjects were investigated
for hemoglobin level, total iron binding capac-
ity, and levels of ferritin, calcium, and iron, and
vitamin B12 and D3 levels. The authors of the
study reported that serum calcium, serum fer-
ritin, and vitamin D3 levels may play a role in
premature graying of the hair [114].
In 2008, Du et al. [115] described the role of
hepcidin in iron regulation and hair loss in the
‘mask mouse,’ which was reversed with iron
supplementation [85]. Hepcidin is a liver-
derived protein that restricts enteric iron
absorption; this protein is considered the iron-
regulating hormone found in all mammals and
to be responsible for iron uptake. Several pro-
teins stimulate the expression of the gene
encoding hepcidin (HAMP) in response to high
levels of iron or infection. However, the mech-
anism of HAMP suppression during iron deple-
tion is not well understood. Du et al. reported
the loss of body hair and development of iron
deficiency anemia in the ‘mask mouse’ as a
result of a mutation in the TMPRSS6 gene. The
protein encoded by TMPRSS6 (matriptase-2) was
found to negatively regulate the HAMP gene. In
mice, a mutation in TMPRSS6 was associated
with failure to downregulate the expression of
HAMP and was associated with increased levels
of the hepcidin, reduced absorption of dietary
iron, and, consequently, iron deficiency. Inter-
estingly, iron supplementation in these mice
reversed the iron deficiency and induced hair
growth [115].
The role of iron during the hair cycle has not
been well studied. In 2006, an investigative
study described gene expression specific to the
bulge region of the hair follicle [116]. St. Pierre
et al. [93] reviewed the literature for the func-
tion of genes that may be affected by fluctuating
iron levels. The genes CDC2,NDRG1,ALAD,
and RRM2 are upregulated in the bulge region
and can be regulated by iron. The genes Decorin
and DCT are downregulated in the bulge region
and can also be regulated by iron. The authors
hypothesized that iron deficiency might change
the normal progression of the hair cycle. How-
ever, whether these six genes play a role in iron-
dependent processes in the hair follicle remains
to be elucidated. Although not yet proven, there
is a prevailing view that hepcidin upregulation
diverts iron from the hair follicle to support the
essential iron requirements. The 33% of women
experiencing CTE in the study of Rushton [85]
might well represent this group, which could
explain why some women with a serum ferritin
below the lower male reference range (B40 lg/
L) do not experience any change in hepcidin-
induced hair follicle regulation.
Selenium is an essential trace element required
for the synthesis of more than 35 proteins.
Glutathione peroxidase (antioxidant enzyme)
depends on selenium as a co-factor. Selenium
deficiency occurs in low-birth-weight infants
and in patients requiring total parenteral
nutrition (TPN). It can also occur among people
living in a location where the soil lacks sele-
nium [34].
Venton et al. described the loss of pigmen-
tation of the hair in four patients receiving TPN
without selenium supplementation. The serum
and hair selenium levels were 38 ±11 ng/mL
and 0.34 ±0.13 lg/g, respectively. Hair started
to re-pigment after 6–12 months of therapy
with intravenous selenium [117]. Similar find-
ings, including alopecia with pseudoalbinism,
were found in 6 infants receiving nutritional
support. In these six infants, after starting daily
selenium therapy (5 lg/kg/day), selenium
serum levels returned to the normal range of
5–15 lg/dL, and alopecia and pseudoalbinism
improved [118].
A clinical trial in patients with ovarian can-
cer undergoing chemotherapy showed a signif-
icant decrease in hair loss and other
gastrointestinal symptoms in patients receiving
selenium supplementation, as compared with
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
controls. The authors concluded that ingesting
selenium is a supportive element in
chemotherapy [119].
The recommended dietary allowance for
selenium is 55 lg daily for individuals aged C
14 years in U.S. populations. The availability of
selenium in a variety of foods, such as meat,
vegetables, and nuts, are sufficient to meet the
daily requirement [120]. Selenium ingestion in
an amount exceeding 400 lg daily may cause
toxicity. Symptoms of acute or chronic sele-
nium toxicity include nausea, vomiting, nail
brittleness and discolorations, hair loss, fatiga-
bility, irritability, and foul breath odor [120]. An
outbreak of selenium toxicity from a liquid
dietary supplement that contained 200-fold the
labeled concentration of selenium resulted in
severe hair loss in most patients [121].
Zinc is an essential trace element, which means
that the body cannot generate it on its own; it
must be supplied through the diet. The main
dietary sources of zinc are fish and meat. Zinc
deficiency can occur in patients consuming
large amounts of cereal grain (which contains a
phytate considered to be chelating agent of
zinc), in those with poor meat consumption or
TPN, and in infants on milk formula. Other
causes of zinc deficiency include anorexia ner-
vosa (secondary to inadequate intake, increased
zinc excretion, and malabsorption due to laxa-
tive abuse), inflammatory bowel disease, jejunal
bypass surgery, and cystic fibrosis. Alcoholism,
malignancy, burns, infection, and pregnancy
may all cause increased metabolism and excre-
tion of zinc.
Alopecia is a well-known sign of established
zinc deficiency with hair regrowth occurring
with zinc supplementation [122], [123]. Data
correlating zinc levels with TE and AGA are, on
the other hand, not homogeneous. A retro-
spective cross-sectional study of 115 subjects
diagnosed with TE (acute and chronic) found
that 9.6% of subjects had zinc deficiency [48].
Another study comparing 312 subjects with hair
loss (including AA, MPHL, FPHL, and TE) with
32 controls showed low levels of zinc in patients
with AA and TE. These authors recommended
zinc replacement if levels were\70 lg/dL [124].
However, this finding was not confirmed by a
recent study of 40 patients with CTE, with 30
healthy subjects as controls, with the authors
finding no difference in zinc levels between the
affected and control patients. [125].
A review article on zinc in patients with AA
showed that four of the six case–control studies
found low zinc levels in patients with AA as
compared to healthy control groups [55]. One
of these case–control studies was conducted by
Kil et al. and included patients with MPHL,
FPHL, and TE. The results of this study showed a
strong correlation between zinc deficiency (\
70 lg/dL) and hair loss [124]. Another study
found a strong association between zinc defi-
ciency and AA severity and chronicity [126].
However, in contrast to these studies, there are
two case–control studies carried out in Iran
[111] and Finland [113] that showed no signif-
icant correlation between zinc level and AA
compared to the controls.
The role of zinc supplementation is also
open to debate. In a double-blinded placebo-
controlled trial published in 1981, where the
investigators administered 220 mg zinc glu-
conate twice per day for 3 months to AA sub-
jects, there was no improvement of AA after
zinc supplementation [127]. On the other hand,
another study involving 15 patients with AA
who took 50 mg zinc gluconate for 12 weeks
showed good results in nine of the 15 subjects
Passi et al. noticed a significant deficiency of
serum vitamin E in patients with seborrheic
dermatitis (both human immunodeficiency
virus [HIV] seropositive or HIV seronegative)
(p\0.001) as compared with a control group
[129]. Of note, zinc therapy was found to sig-
nificantly increase both the size of the seba-
ceous glands and cell proliferation in the
sebaceous glands in an animal study [130].
A possible relationship between vitamin D
level and psoriasis, including scalp psoriasis, is
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
controversial. The authors of an observational
case–control study investigated 561 subjects, of
whom 170 had psoriasis (6 with scalp psoriasis),
51 had autoimmune bullous diseases, and 340
were healthy controls. The 25-hydroxyvitamin
D [25(OH)D] blood level in each group was
measured and found to be significantly different
in all three groups, with psoriatic patients hav-
ing significantly lower vitamin D levels
(21.8 ng/mL) than healthy controls (34.3 ng/
mL) (p= 0.0007). The authors of this study
concluded that vitamin D level may correlate
with psoriasis duration [131].
The matrix cells in the follicle bulb have a very
high turnover. A caloric deficiency or depriva-
tion of several elements, including vitamins,
minerals, essential fatty acids, and proteins,
caused by decreased uptake can lead to hair loss,
structural abnormalities, and pigment changes,
although the exact mechanism(s) are not well
known [132]. Goette et al. described nine
patients who developed TE after 2–5 months of
starting a vigorous weight reduction program
and losing 11.7–24 kg. It was thought that rig-
orous caloric restriction with subsequent inad-
equate energy supply of the hair matrix might
be the cause for the precipitation of TE of the
crash dieter [133]. In addition, a few case reports
have been published relating TE with crash diet
Hair loss is considered to be a common problem
in the dermatological community and has a
profound negative psychological and emotional
impact on patients. Micronutrients, such as
vitamins and minerals, play an important, but
not entirely clear role in normal hair follicle
development and immune cell function. Defi-
ciency of such micronutrients may represent a
modifiable risk factor associated with the
development, prevention, and treatment of
alopecia. These effects are summarized in
Table 1.
Telogen Effluvium/Androgenetic Alopecia
Although a relationship between vitamin D
levels and AGA or TE is still being debated, most
authors agree in supplementing vitamin D in
patients with hair loss and vitamin D defi-
ciency. Vitamin C intake is crucial in patients
with hair loss associated with iron deficiency.
There are no data to support the role of vitamin
E in AGA or TE.
Iron deficiency is common in females with
hair loss, and most authors agree in supple-
menting iron in patients with iron deficiency
and/or low ferritin levels. However, there is no
consensus on ‘normal ferritin’ levels, and most
authors prescribe supplements to the patient
when the ferritin level is \40 ng/dL. L-lysine
supplementation is recommended for vegan
individuals with iron deficiency.
Data correlating TE and AGA with zinc level
are not homogenous, and screening for zinc is
not recommended. Selenium toxicity and ribo-
flavin deficiency can cause hair loss. However,
comprehensive studies are lacking, which pre-
clude any recommendation for screening of
selenium or riboflavin.
Biotin deficiency causes hair loss, but there
are no evidence-based data that supplementing
biotin promotes hair growth. Moreover, exoge-
nous biotin interferes with some laboratory
tests, creating false negative or false positive
results. There are a few studies addressing the
relationship between hair loss and folic acid or
vitamin B12, but the lack of extensive studies
precludes any recommendation for vitamin B12
or folate screening or supplementation. Hyper-
vitaminosis A causes hair loss, and data on the
effects of isotretinoin in hair loss support this
Alopecia Areata
Several studies show an association between AA
and low vitamin D levels. Patients should be
checked and given supplementation if vitamin
D levels are low.
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
Table 1 The role of micronutrients in non-scarring alopecia and premature graying of hair
Micronutrients TE/AGA AA Premature hair
ACP outcome
study grading
Vitamin D Study results are conflicting, but
most authors agree on
supplementing vitamin D in
patients with hair loss and
vitamin D deficiency
Several studies showed an
association between AA
and low vitamin D levels
Correction of vitamin D
deficiency improves AA
outcome and enhances
response to treatment
Screening for
deficiency and
are recommended
Moderate in all
Vitamin C Crucial in patients with hair loss
associated with iron deficiency
Few studies, thereby
Data are not
Very low in AA
Vitamin E Data not available Conflicting data, thereby
Data are not
Moderate in AA
Iron/Ferritin Most authors agree on iron
supplementation in patients
with iron or ferritin deficiency
and hair loss
Iron deficiency reported in
female patients, likely
Screening for
deficiency and
are recommended
Moderate in all
Zinc Data are not homogenous and
findings are too inconsistent to
recommend screening
Most studies revealed low
serum levels in AA
information on efficacy
of zinc supplementation
in AA is lacking
Data are not
Moderate in
TE/AGA and
AA studies
Selenium Toxicity can cause hair loss. There
are no data to recommend
No data to provide
Screening for
deficiency and
are recommended
Low in TE/
AGA and
graying of hair
Riboflavin Deficiency can cause hair loss.
Data are too scarce to
recommend screening
Data are not available Data are not
Very low in TE/
AGA studies
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
Studies on the role of iron in AA have shown
a discrepancy in the results between females
and males. There is a need for placebo-con-
trolled clinical trials evaluating iron supple-
mentation in the treatment of AA. Most studies
on zinc have revealed lower serum levels in AA
patients than in controls. However, double-
blind trials investigating zinc supplementation
in AA are lacking, and studies on selenium
serum level in AA patients are very rare, which
precludes any conclusion on the role of sele-
nium in AA.
The authors of a few studies suggest that the
levels of folate or vitamin B12 might modify the
progression of AA, but data are still too limited
to recommend screening or supplementation of
B vitamins. Biotin supplementation has been
successful in the treatment of brittle nails [137].
There are no studies of biotin as monotherapy
for AA.
Premature Hair Graying
Deficiency in a few micronutrients has been
implicated in the pigment loss of hair, includ-
ing ferritin, vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, and
selenium deficiencies. We recommend screen-
ing for these vitamins and minerals in patients
presenting with premature graying of hair and
Table 1 continued
Micronutrients TE/AGA AA Premature hair
ACP outcome
study grading
Biotin Biotin levels can be low in patients
complaining of hair shedding
Efficacy of supplementation not
supported by evidence-based
Exogenous biotin interferes with
some laboratory tests, creating
false negative or false positive
No studies on biotin as
Data are not
Low and very
low in TE/
AGA studies
Folic acid/
Vitamin B12
Data are not sufficient to
recommend screening and
A few studies suggest that
the levels of folate or
vitamin B12 might
modify progression of
Data are scarce for
Screening for
deficiency and
are recommended
-Low in TE/
AGA studies
-Moderate in
AA and in
graying of hair
Vitamin A Hypervitaminosis A causes hair
Screening is recommended in
selected cases
Data are not available Data are not
Low and very
low in TE/
AGA studies
AA alopecia areata, AGA androgenetic alopecia, TE telogen effluvium, ACP american college of physicians
Dermatol Ther (Heidelb)
subsequent supplementation of the deficient
micronutrients [114].
Given the role of vitamins and minerals in
normal hair follicle development and in
immune cell function, large double-blind pla-
cebo-controlled trials are required to determine
the effect of micronutrient supplementation on
hair growth in those patients with both
micronutrient deficiency and non-scarring
alopecia to establish any association between
hair loss and micronutrient deficiency. Each
study conducted to data has its own specific
limitation, and the constraint of cost and lack
of motivated funders for this research are sig-
nificant limitations.
We would like to thank Maha Abdulmohsen
Alenzi, a dietician from the Armed Forces
Hospital in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia who pro-
vided insight and expertise that greatly assisted
the research.
Funding. No funding or sponsorship was
received for this study or publication of this
Authorship. All named authors meet the
International Committee of Medical Journal
Editors (ICMJE) criteria for authorship for this
article, take responsibility for the integrity of
the work as a whole, and have given their
approval for this version to be published.
Disclosures. Antonella Tosti is a consultant
for P&G, DS Laboratories, and Monat, and a
principal investigator for Incyte, Pfizer, Aclaris,
and Nutrifol. Hind M. Almohanna, Azhar A.
Ahmed, and John P. Tsatalis have nothing to
Compliance with Ethics Guidelines. This
article is based on previously conducted studies
and does not contain any studies with human
participants or animals performed by any of the
Data Availability. Data sharing is not
applicable to this article as no datasets were
generated or analyzed during the current study.
Open Access. This article is distributed
under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
License (
by-nc/4.0/), which permits any non-
commercial use, distribution, and reproduction
in any medium, provided you give appropriate
credit to the original author(s) and the source,
provide a link to the Creative Commons license,
and indicate if changes were made.
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... Hair Loss Associated With Nutritional Deficiency. [7] Hormones [ Table 3]. Effects of Hormone on Hair Follicle. ...
... Hair loss associated with nutritional deficiency.[7] IronChronic diffuse telogen hair loss along with anemia ZincIn research, lower serum zinc levels were linked to both the male and female patterns of hair loss, alopecia areata, and telogen effluvium Niacin (Vitamin B3) Pellagra causes diffuse hair loss due to a severe deficit.Occurs as a result of protein deficiency. ...
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Hair loss is a common problem that can affect people of different ages, genders, and professions. Medical students, in particular, may experience a higher rate of hair loss due to the rigorous academic curriculum, long hours of studying, high levels of stress, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition. This article discusses the various causes and types of hair loss, including genetic factors, stress, nutrition deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and the use of chemicals. It also mentions the impact of COVID-19 on hair loss and the potential role of medications in treating hair loss. Overall, it emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the underlying causes of hair loss in medical students to promote their well-being and reduce the risk of hair loss.
... Nutrition for hair should be covered in the field of a proper supply of protein--energy, vitamins and microelements. The key nutrients in hair growth and a proper life cycle are: vitamins (A, B-group, C, D, E) and microelements (iron, selenium, sulphur, zinc), amino acids (arginine, cysteine, glycine, histidine, l-lysine, methionine, phenylalanine) and proteins (ferritin that contains iron) [20]. The supply of nutrients is vital for the hair follicle to develop, starting from the phase of progenitor (mesenchymal) cell (induction phase), organogenesis and cytodifferentiation. ...
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W pracy przedstawiono mechanizm łysienia androgenowego u mężczyzn ( male androgenetic alopecia – MAGA) z uwzględnieniem roli enzymu 5-α-reduktazy, która odpowiada za konwersję testosteronu, najważniejszego hormonu męskiego, do jego aktywnej formy – dihydrotestosteronu (DHT). Opisane zostały konsekwencje pobudzenia przez DHT receptorów androgenowych ( androgen receptors – ARs), zlokalizowanych w chromosomie X komórek linii brodawkowej ( dermal papilla cells – DPCs). Powoduje to transkrypcję genów uruchamianą przez androgeny, zostaje zaburzone odżywianie mieszka włosowego, ale przede wszystkim przyspieszeniu ulega moment zakończenia anagenu i przejścia do fazy katagenu. Przedstawiono również, w jaki sposób enzym ten może być poddawany działaniu molekuł pełniących funkcję jego inhibitorów. Ponadto zaprezentowano uzasadnienie dla prowadzenia bardziej dogłębnych badań poświęconych mechanizmom działania, w których ekstrakty palmy sabałowej ( Serenoa repens ) wywołują efekt inhibicji 5-α-reduktazy. Dodatkowo w pracy został zawarty postulat na rzecz rozpoznawania i pomiaru substancji aktywnych znajdujących się w ekstraktach palmy sabałowej, w tym dwóch najbardziej obiecujących związków fitosterolowych – stigmasterolu i β-sitosterolu – ze względu na udowodnioną już aktywność inhibitorową w stosunku do 5-α-reduktazy w ekstraktach z surowców pochodzących z innych gatunków roślin. W ramach postulatu na rzecz pogłębienia badań zwrócono uwagę na konieczność oceny wpływu stosowania ekstraktów z palmy sabałowej na cykl życia włosów, cykl życia mieszka włosowego, różne czynniki wzrostu i angiogenezę, a także aktywność układu immunologicznego czy stres oksydacyjny. Inne obszary obserwacji działania ekstraktów z palmy sabałowej mogłyby obejmować ich zastosowanie w terapiach w połączeniu z innymi ekstraktami roślinnymi lub środkami terapii, np. z osoczem bogatopłytkowym czy osoczem bogatym w fibrynę.
... Deficiency of such micronutrients may represent amodifiable risk factor associated with the development, prevention, and treatment of hair loss or alopecia. (12) Zinc Zinc is one of the essential trace elements necessary for the normal cell growth, proliferation, and regeneration in humans. (13) It is one of the minerals that required in the body, this mineral element is essential for the function of more than 300 enzymes from many species, zinc-containing enzymes participate in carbohydrate, lipid, protein, and nucleic acid metabolism, (14) also it is important in the fundamental processes of cell differentiation and replication. ...
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Heavy metals are a class of non-biodegradable pollutants in the environment that can enter into human bodies through different routes, many of these metals are essential micronutrients (such as Fe, Cu and Zn), but they could be toxic at higher concentration, whereas some non-essential micronutrients (such as Cr, As, Cd and Pb) are toxic even at very low concentrations. The analysis of trace elements in human hair for use as biomarkers continues to generate considerable interest in environmental and bioanalytical studies, medical diagnostics, and forensic science. The objective of this research was to determine the concentrations of some essential and toxic elements as Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Lead (Pb) and Chromium (Cr) using microwave plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (MP−AES 4100) in human scalp hair obtained from selected 40 female samples living in Misurata, Libya. And compare the results with certified normal value. The sample has been digested by acidic method. The average values of metals in hair were as follow (in μg/g): Fe (37.35), Zn (161), Cu (42.95), Cr (0.27), Pb (0.01). Chromium and lead concentration had the lowest value in the samples, zinc shows the highest concentration, while iron and cupper had a value in between the previous metals.
... Hair loss is a common problem and has a profound negative mental and emotional effect on patients. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin synthesized in epidermal keratinocytes [27]. In our study, it was shown that taking vitamin D along with zinc had a positive effect on preventing hair loss. ...
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Hair loss has a great impact on the self-esteem, attractiveness, and appearance of people in society. Genetics and stress are important factors in hair loss. Vitamin D has many receptors on the stem cells of a hair follicle. Also, vitamin B7 helps in the growth of hair follicles and prevents hair loss. Several diseases play a role in hair loss, including thyroid disorders. According to the type of hair loss pattern of the patient, special treatment can be prescribed for it. We were conducting a questionnaire-based survey on 309 people regarding the assessment of the common reasons and treatments they had for their hair loss. Statistical analyses were carried out using SPSS V-23.0. Descriptive statistics were applied to determine the frequencies and percentages. And results were written by interpreting the descriptive statistics. Out of 309 people who were examined, 189 people had hair loss. Losing hair in the female population was a little more. 82% of the participants who had hair loss reported that their first-degree relatives experienced hair loss like them. It appeared that people with (RH+) had a higher incidence of hair loss. Hair loss among the participants was associated with thyroid dysfunctions. Participants with moderate stress levels had a higher incidence of hair loss. The majority of participants reported the positive impact of biotin, Vitamin D, and zinc on reducing hair loss. Hair loss has a profound negative impact on the mental health and social life of a person which can be a challenge for some people.
Objective. Increase the effectiveness of complex therapy for patients with telogen alopecia with simultaneous use of the drug «Volvit tablets» (biotin 5 mg) inside and «Volvit intensive care shampoo» with biotin externally. Materials and methods. Patients with telogen alopecia, aged 22 to 40 years, who had complaints and a history of the disease (time of onset of increased hair loss, connection of baldness with stress, medication, viral infection, etc.) were under observation. The main diagnostic measures included: pull test, dermatoscopy, trichoscopy, trichogram, laboratory tests (general blood test, general urine test, biochemical blood test; basic trace elements and vitamins, thyroid gland research), scalp biopsy indicated. Consultations with an endocrinologist, psychotherapist, hematologist and other specialists were scheduled. Results and discussion. On the basis of the analysis of literary sources and own clinical and laboratory studies, a complex therapy of diffuse telogen alopecia was developed with the simultaneous appointment of the drug «Volvit tablets» (biotin 5 mg) and «Volvit intensive care shampoo» with biotin, which has a dual effect (treatment from the inside and cosmetic care behind the hair and scalp from the outside). The diagnosis of diffuse telogen alopecia was established on the basis of the clinical picture of the disease and laboratory diagnostic data. Clinical symptoms in patients with telogen alopecia are manifested by uniform, intense hair loss over the entire head, which is noticed after washing the head and combing, when a lot of hair that has fallen out remains. After examining the patient, an individual treatment plan was drawn up, taking into account the identified factors of the disease and accompanying pathology. One of the most common causes of hair loss is an insufficient amount of biotin in the body, and the causes of a decrease in the amount of biotin in the body are stressful situations, an unbalanced diet with an insufficient amount of biotin in products, intestinal dysbacteriosis, diseases of internal organs, disorders of the endocrine system, transferred viral diseases, taking antibiotics and other. Taking into account the above, in the complex therapy of patients with diffuse telogen alopecia, the drug «Volvit tablets» (biotin 5 mg) inside 5 mg once a day and «Volvit intensive care shampoo with biotin» were prescribed at the same time, as a result, good therapeutic results were achieved. Conclusions. Complex therapy of diffuse telogen alopecia with the simultaneous appointment of the drug «Volvit tablets» (biotin 5 mg) internally and «Volvit intensive care shampoo» with biotin externally helps to stop hair loss, restores the hair follicles to their normal function, is expedient in view of effectiveness and safety and can to be recommended for wide implementation in the practical work of doctors
A first receding of the forehead-hairline border is eyed suspiciously by the majority of affected persons. Androgenetic alopecia is still interpreted as a sign of aging and those afflicted are often burdened by psychosocial stigmatization. Following anamnesis directed towards differentiated diagnosis, the treating physician must present therapeutic options with their respective pros and cons; these must be coordinated with the patient’s wishes and goals. New pathophysiological approaches and a better understanding of hair cycles, genetics, sex hormones, and signal cascades form the basis for possible therapeutic developments.
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Recent literature has focused on the association of psoriasis with lower than normal or highly deficient vitamin D blood levels. To investigate the controversial association between psoriasis and vitamin D levels. From 2012 to 2014, 561 subjects were assessed, of which 170 had psoriasis, 51 had an autoimmune bullous, and 340 were healthy patients. Anagraphical data, 25(OH)D blood levels, and seasons of vitamin D levels assessments were recorded for each group. Vitamin D levels were significantly different among the 3 groups (K = 151.284; P = .0001). Psoriatic patients had significantly lower serum levels of 25(OH)D (21.8 ng/mL) than healthy controls (34.3 ng/mL) (chi-square = 11.5; P = .0007). Patients with bullous diseases showed the lowest vitamin D mean values (18.2 ng/mL). The linear multiple regression model showed 25(OH)D levels to be influenced by age, season of blood vitamin D levels assessment, and psoriasis duration. These results confirm the reduced vitamin D levels in psoriatic patients when compared to healthy controls, and provide new evidence regarding the association of vitamin D levels and psoriasis duration. The limits of our study include its observational nature and the small number of patients undergoing biological immunosuppressive therapies.
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Alopecia areata (AA) is a type of non-scarring, recurrent patchy loss of hair in hair-bearing areas and is mostly of autoimmune origin. Previous studies have suggested that some autoimmune diseases were found to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. The current study was designed to assess the levels of serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D and C-reactive protein in AA, as compared with controls and to further identify the association between vitamin D levels and disease severity in patients with AA. This cross-sectional study included 45 patients with AA and 45 healthy volunteers. Clinical and anthropometric parameters were recorded, according to a pre-designed proforma. Serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein were estimated using ELISA kits. The severity of AA was determined using Severity of Alopecia Tool (SALT) score. We observed a significant rise in systemic inflammation as seen by elevated high-sensitive C-reactive protein levels and lowered 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels in patients with alopecia areata, compared to controls (p = 0.001). The levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D showed a significant negative correlation with disease severity, while hs-CRP levels showed a significant positive correlation with disease severity (ρ = − 0.714, p = 0.001 and ρ = 0.818, p = 0.001). Our results suggest significant systemic inflammation and vitamin D deficiency in alopecia areata, more so with increasing disease severity. This gains particular importance in the treatment of alopecia areata in future, as supplementing vitamin D to AA patients would result in reducing the disease severity and inducing remission.
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Vitamin D-dependent rickets type II is a rare hereditary disorder. It occurs due to mutations in the gene chr. 12q12-q14, which codes for Vitamin D receptor. End-organ resistance to 1,25-(OH)2Vitamin D3 and alopecia in severe cases are the characteristic features. We report a case of a 4-year-old boy with loss of hair over the scalp and body-first observed after 1 month of birth. The boy also developed difficulty in walking at the age of 2 year. On analysis, reduced serum calcium level (7.5 mg/dL) and elevated alkaline phosphatase level (625 IU/L) were reported. Initially, the treatment included intramuscularly administered single dose of 600,000 IU Vitamin D, followed by 400 IU of Vitamin D along with 1 g of supplemental calcium every day. Periodic follow-up was conducted for 2 months. Improvement was observed in the biochemical parameters and X-rays of the distal radial and ulnar metaphyses, although no improvement was observed in alopecia.
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Background: Vitamin D (Vit.D) deficiency has been reported in alopecia areata (AA). Downregulation of Vitamin D receptor (VDR) on hair follicles is associated with reduced hair growth. Objective: To correlate serum Vit.D levels with severity, pattern, and duration of AA, and density of VDR expression over hair follicles in AA patients. Methods: Prospective study including 30 AA patients and 30 healthy controls. Clinical details and serum Vit.D measurement and scalp biopsy for histopathology and VDR expression was performed in patients and controls at baseline and after 6 months of treatment of AA. Results: Mean age of patients and controls was 28.9 ± 9.96 and 31.17 ± 9.43 years, respectively. Mean SALT score in patients was 35.8 ± 27.5 with a median disease duration of 48 weeks. Mean serum Vit.D levels was 7.65 ± 4.50 ng/ml and 15.8 ± 11.47 ng/ml in patients and controls, respectively. Twenty-nine (96.7%) patients were Vit.D deficient (<20 ng/ml), compared to 22 (73.3%) controls (P = 0.001). Serum Vit.D levels inversely correlated with severity of the disease (r = -256), P = 0.17, and duration of disease but did not correlate with pattern of AA and VDR expression in tissue samples. VDR expression was reduced in all patients and was normal in controls. Inverse correlation of VDR was noted with presence of inflammation on histology (P = 0.02). VDR upregulation post treatment was seen only in 13% of patients and demonstrated no correlation with response to treatment. Conclusion: Vit.D deficiency in AA correlates inversely with disease severity and duration. VDR expression is reduced in AA and inversely correlate with inflammation histologically but does not correlates with serum Vit.D levels, severity, pattern, or duration of illness.
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Non-scarring hair loss is a common problem that affects both male and female patients. Since any disturbances in the hair follicle cycle may lead to hair shedding, or alopecia, it is not surprising that the possible role of vitamin D in alopecia was investigated in many studies. Vitamin D has been shown to have many important functions. A growing body of evidence shows that vitamin D and its receptor are responsible for maintaining not only calcium homeostasis but also skin homeostasis. Moreover, vitamin D could also regulate cutaneous innate and adaptive immunity. This paper presents a review of current literature considering the role of vitamin D in alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and female pattern hair loss. The majority of studies revealed decreased serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in patients with different types of non-scarring alopecia, which could suggest its potential role in the pathogenesis of hair loss. According to the authors, vitamin D supplementation could be a therapeutic option for patients with alopecia areata, female pattern hair loss, or telogen effluvium. However, further studies on a larger group of patients are required.
The objective of the study was to evaluate the diagnostic efficiency of laboratory tests, including serum transferrin receptor (TfR) measurements, in the diagnosis of iron depletion. The patient population consisted of 129 consecutive anemic patients at the University Hospital of Turku who were given a bone marrow examination. Of these patients, 48 had iron deficiency anemia (IDA), 64 anemia of chronic disease (ACD), and 17 patients had depleted iron stores and an infectious or an inflammatory condition (COMBI). Depletion of iron stores was defined as a complete absence of stainable iron in the bone marrow examination. Serum TfR concentrations were elevated in the vast majority of the IDA and COMBI patients, while in the ACD patients, the levels were within the reference limits reported earlier for healthy subjects. TfR measurement thus provided a reliable diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia (AUCROC 0.98). Serum ferritin measurement also distinguished between IDA patients and ACD patients. However, the optimal decision limit for evaluation of ferritin measurements was considerably above the conventional lower reference limits, complicating the interpretation of this parameter. Calculation of the ratio TfR/log ferritin (TfR-F Index) is a way of combining TfR and ferritin results. This ratio provided an outstanding parameter for the identification of patients with depleted iron stores (AUCROC 1.00). In anemic patients, TfR measurement is a valuable noninvasive tool for the diagnosis of iron depletion, and offers an attractive alternative to more conventional laboratory tests in the detection of depleted iron stores.
Background: Despite a multitude of studies, etiology of primary chronic telogen effluvium (TE) remains incompletely understood. Essential heavy metals are associated with beneficial effects in humans as well as in other living organisms. However, they may lead to toxic effects when the exposure exceeds the higher tolerable limits. We wanted to assess the heavy metal and trace element levels in patients with chronic TE. Materials and methods: A total of 40 subjects with chronic TE were included in the study, and 30 healthy women served as control. General and dermatological examinations were taken up in all individuals. Those patients with positive hair pull test were evaluated with the help of a trichogram. The presence of >20% telogen hair as documented by trichogram was a requirement for the study inclusion. UNICAM-929 spectrophotometry device was used for determining serum trace element and heavy metal concentrations. Results: In spite of an absence of significant differences in terms of average Zn concentration, weight, or height between patients and controls, significant differences were noted for Cd, Fe, Mg, Mn, Pb, Co, and Cu (P <0.05). Conclusion: Our results suggest that heavy metals may play a causative role in the development of chronic TE. However, contrary to previous reports, zinc did not appear to play an important etiological role, while these patients had elevated serum iron levels.