Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a variety of health functions, though it is best known for its effects on mood and its role in maintaining bone health by promoting calcium absorption. However, it turns out that vitamin D does much more than just keeping your bones healthy. It also plays a significant role in immune health and skin health.
Read next: 12 Best Natural DHT Blockers Reviewed
Low levels of vitamin D is associated with autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been associated with alopecia areata which results in bald spots in the scalp as well as telogen effluvium which results in diffuse hair loss. Furthermore, low vitamin D levels has also been found in patients with androgenetic alopecia which results in male and female pattern hair loss. Keep reading to learn the role of low vitamin D levels in hair loss.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Alopecia Areata
Studies suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be implicated in cases of alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation around anagen-stage hair follicles. To evaluate this relationship, researchers performed a cross-sectional study comprising 86 patients with alopecia areata, 44 patients with vitiligo, and 58 healthy control patients. Each patient was evaluated based on serum vitamin D levels.
The results of the study found that serum vitamin D (in the form of calcifediol) levels were significantly lower in patients with alopecia areata compared to control patients and patients with vitiligo.
Vitamin D deficiency was found in 91% of patients with alopecia areata, compared to 33% of healthy control patients. The study also found an inverse relation between serum vitamin D levels and the severity of alopecia areata. This suggests that vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in the severity of alopecia areata.1
These findings were corroborated in a different but similar cross-sectional study wherein researchers selected 50 patients with clinically diagnosed alopecia areata and 35 healthy control patients. The researchers took blood samples and evaluated their vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as less than 30 ng/ml of calcifediol.
Alopecia areata patients had significantly lower vitamin D levels than the healthy control patients. In addition to noting the same inverse relation between vitamin D levels and the severity of alopecia, researchers found a negative relationship between vitamin D levels and the number of bald patches.2
Vitamin D Deficiency and Other Forms of Hair Loss
While low vitamin D levels may be associated with alopecia areata and other autoimmune diseases, it may also play a role in other forms of hair loss, including telogen effluvium and androgenic alopecia. Telogen effluvium is a temporary form of hair loss wherein stress, shock, or a traumatic event forces hair follicles into a resting phase.3 Androgenic alopecia, better known as male or female pattern baldness, is caused by hormonal imbalances, most prominently an excess of DHT.4
In one study, researchers wanted to evaluate the relationship of serum ferritin and vitamin D levels, and instances of androgenic alopecia and telogen effluvium in women. The researchers selected 80 women diagnosed with either telogen effluvium or female pattern baldness and 40 women with no hair loss. Researchers measured serum ferritin and vitamin D levels.
Results of the study showed that serum ferritin and vitamin D levels were significantly lower in women with telogen effluvium and female pattern baldness compared to healthy control patients. The results also found that a decrease in these levels was associated with an increase in disease severity. This suggests that low vitamin D and ferritin may be associated with hair loss in women with telogen effluvium and female pattern baldness.5
How to Increase Vitamin D Levels
Along with its potential to fight hair loss, vitamin D is essential to good health in general. But how do you increase your vitamin D levels?
Get some sunlight
Your main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Direct exposure to sunlight causes the synthesis of vitamin D. A type of cholesterol in human skin acts as a precursor to vitamin D. When this cholesterol is exposed to the UV rays of sunlight, it converts to vitamin D. Vitamin D that is derived from sun exposure may actually last twice as long as vitamin D from your diet. Just 15 minutes of sun exposure offers enough vitamin D.
Although sun-derived vitamin D is the easiest and most efficient means of getting this essential nutrient, various factors can contribute to how much vitamin D your body actually makes. This includes age, seasons, air pollution, and general lifestyle factors. UV lamps offer an effective alternative, but they can be costly and come with some concerns when used for an extended period.6
Eat foods rich in vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found in fish, seafood, egg yolks, and mushrooms, though the actual amount of the nutrient can vary. As few foods naturally contain adequate levels of vitamin D, many manufacturers fortify their foods with the vitamin. Some common food staples fortified with vitamin D include:
- Orange juice
Take a supplement
If you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamin D from sunlight or your diet, consider taking a supplement. About 1,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D is considered a safe daily dose for the average person but talk to your healthcare provider to determine an optimal dosage.6
Further studies are necessary to determine if vitamin D supplementation would actually reverse forms of hair loss. However, based on the research presented, supplementation can help to normalize vitamin D levels, which may have a beneficial effect on alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and androgenetic alopecia.