Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/18/2021
Losing weight is a major accomplishment and can significantly improve your overall health.
Whether you’re just starting your weight loss journey or you’re closing in on your goal weight, you’re bound to have questions about what comes next. While losing weight can greatly reduce your risk factors for serious health problems, it can come with negative side effects of its own.
For example, some people who lose a significant amount of weight experience hair loss.
Below we’ve delved into the underlying causes of hair loss and have explored the connection between weight loss and hair loss. We’ve also provided three treatment options to help you regrow the hair you’ve lost as a result of your weight loss.
When it comes to the link between weight loss and hair loss, there’s a key distinction to be made - the difference between hair shedding and hair loss.
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests it is normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs each day. If you’re losing more than that, or if you notice diffuse thinning or patches of hair loss, it might be something else. Hair loss is known as alopecia and there are several different types.
There are many potential causes for hair loss. Here are some of the most common:
Immune system changes
Hereditary hair loss is also known as androgenic alopecia or male-pattern baldness. Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in men, affecting up to 70 percent of all men at some point in their lives. It is caused by a combination of genetics and the presence of androgenic (male) hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Hair loss can also be related to changing hormone levels, especially androgenic hormones. Fluctuations in androgen levels can cause overall hair thinning in men and women. Chronic stress can impact hormone levels as well and may contribute to a specific form of hair loss known as telogen effluvium.
Nutrient deficiencies, including deficiencies induced by significant weight loss, can contribute to hair loss as well.
Low iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies linked to hair loss. People who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may also be at-risk for hair loss. Other nutrients that may play a role in hair loss include zinc, niacin, essential fatty acids, selenium, folic acid, and vitamins D, A, and E. Low protein intake may also cause hair thinning or hair loss.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can only improve your health. After all, being overweight increases your risk for a variety of health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, and certain types of cancer.
That being said, losing too much weight or losing it too quickly could be dangerous.
Rapid weight loss puts a great deal of strain on the body and, especially if you lose it through starvation techniques, it could result in nutrient deficiencies. Even some of the most popular diet plans like the high-protein low-carb diet could leave micronutrient gaps in your nutrition.
Here’s how specific nutrient deficiencies can affect your hair:
Protein - Your hair is primarily made up of protein, so adequate protein intake is essential for hair growth. Low protein intake may lead to hair changes including hair thinning and hair loss.
Iron - Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and a well-known cause of hair loss. Though it is unclear what degree of iron deficiency leads to hair loss, several risk factors have been identified. Malabsorption disorders like celiac disease, the use of H2 blockers, and vegan/vegetarian diets may increase your risk for iron deficiency and related hair loss.
Zinc - An essential nutrient involved in hundreds of biological processes, zinc may play a role in hair loss. In one study, patients with male pattern hair loss showed statistically lower zinc concentrations than healthy participants. Fortunately, research suggests hair loss due to zinc deficiency can be reversed in many cases.
Essential Fatty Acids - Deficiency of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids like linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid may play a role in hair loss, especially in cases of malabsorption disorders. These deficiencies may contribute to loss of scalp hair as well as lightening of hair.
The list goes on. In some cases, hair loss may not be attributable to a specific nutrient deficiency but to the stress of extreme or rapid hair loss. Telogen effluvium is a well-known side effect of sudden weight loss or extreme dietary changes.
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Whether you’re dealing with diffuse thinning or wide scale hair loss, you’ll be glad to know treatment options are available. Though there may not be a cure for hair loss, there are products and supplements you can use to start regrowing your hair.
Here are the top three treatment options for hair loss:
If you’re experiencing hair loss as a side effect of sudden or extreme weight loss, nutritional deficiencies may be to blame. Talk to your healthcare provider about having your blood tested to find out which nutrients you’re deficient in so you can customize your treatment plan accordingly.
Another option is to simply start supplementing your diet with hair-supporting nutrients. Some of the top vitamins for healthy hair growth include Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and biotin. You may even be able to get most of them in a single multi-vitamin.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that promotes hair growth. It is an FDA-approved treatment for hair loss and works by stimulating your hair follicles to enter the growth phase. It may also increase blood flow to the scalp, boosting transport of essential nutrients to the hair follicles.
This hair loss treatment is backed by solid evidence and is shown to support a significant increase in hair growth after several months of use. You can get minoxidil online without a prescription as part of our non-prescription hair kit.
If minoxidil isn’t quite strong enough to give you the results you want, try finasteride. Finasteride is a prescription medication approved by the FDA to treat hormonal forms of hair loss like male pattern baldness. This drug works by inhibiting the production of 5ɑ-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
Finasteride has been shown to lower DHT levels by over 71 percent. In addition to preventing hair loss, it may even promote hair regrowth with daily use. Get it in our Hair Power Pack along with biotin gummies, 5% minoxidil cream, and Thick Fix shampoo and conditioner.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to do so safely. Experts recommend aiming to lose 5 to 10 percent of your initial body weight within the first six months. Healthy and successful weight loss involves slow and steady changes, not rapid weight loss.
Talk to your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes to your diet or caloric intake. Your healthcare provider can help you determine how much weight is safe for you to lose and how quickly you can do it.
For more information about healthy weight loss, check out our in-depth guide to getting lean in time for summer. You’ll find tips and tricks for safely changing your body composition through the following three methods:
Adjusting your diet
Burning calories through exercise
Increasing muscle mass
Losing weight can be difficult and if you don’t do it safely you may end up with a new list of problems including unexpected hair loss. Take what you’ve learned here to start your weight loss journey or to start regrowing the hair you’ve lost as a side effect of weight loss.