Why Does The Keto Diet Cause Hair Loss? How To Prevent It?

by Swathi Handoo

Are you experiencing excessive hair loss after going on a keto diet? That’s one potential side effect you may experience when on a ketogenic diet. Wondering how both are related?

Keto diet is an extremely low-carb and high-fat diet in which your body is forced to use fats (ketone bodies) as energy sources. It also restricts nutrient intake, triggering hair loss (1). When your body is transitioning into ketosis, the diet’s stress may also cause hair loss. The question is – is there any way to prevent hair loss due to ketosis? Is it irreversible? Find out more in this brief read.

How Does Keto Diet Cause Hair Loss?

There are two main reasons for keto hair loss – nutritional deficiency and rapid weight loss.

In a daily 2,000-calorie keto diet, you are supposed to eat 55%-60% of fat, 5%-10% of carbs, and 30%-35% of protein (2). This causes a significant imbalance in nutrition intake.

Note: The exact ratio varies person-to-person.

Vitamins A, D, and  E, niacin, folic acid, biotin, and minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium are vital for hair growth, follicle development, and texture maintenance. Deficiency of these nutrients causes hair loss (1), (3). Moreover, the stress of rapid weight loss and reduced protein intake also contributes to hair fall (1).

The restrictive nature of keto makes it a potentially unhealthy diet option. And unless a dietician supervises your keto diet, there are high chances of missing out on essential nutrients and experience hair fall. Here are the potential reasons that may trigger hair loss when on a keto diet.

What Causes Hair Loss When On A Keto Diet?

  • Vitamin Deficiency: Mice studies reveal that the keto diet creates a deficiency of vitamins A, D, E, and biotin, causing hair loss, and triggers dermatitis. These vitamins activate hair stem cells and promote follicle growth. They delay the onset of hair loss, condition the scalp, and encourage new hair development when taken as supplements (1), (3), (5).
  • Zinc And Selenium Deficiency: Zinc plays a vital role in the hair follicles’ development and maturation. Selenium protects hair fibers from free radical damage and promotes follicle development. Several animal studies reveal the crucial role these minerals play in hair growth and hair loss (1), (4). The deficiency of these minerals triggers hair fall during keto.
  • Protein Deficiency: Often, in high-fat and low-carb diets like the keto, the body gets deprived of amino acids and proteins, affecting hair growth and scalp health (1), (3).
  • Rapid Weight Loss: Hair loss happens when your body is under stress. Rapid weight loss caused by the keto diet is stressful for the body. This results in longer hair shedding cycles (1).

Also, calorie restriction causes the body to focus on conserving energy rather than spending energy on hair growth. How do you deal with this? Is there a way to prevent hair loss due to ketosis? Is this hair loss permanent? Scroll down for these answers and more.

How Can You Reduce Hair Loss When On A Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet may help you shed pounds quickly, but it may not be wholesome in terms of nutrition. The same goes for expensive keto supplements. The nutrient deficiency during ketosis triggers side effects like hair loss.

To reduce the risk of hair loss when on a keto diet, it is best to compensate for the nutrient deficiency. This can be done by either using dietary supplements or introducing foods rich in micronutrients to your diet.

Here are a few foods and their nutrients you should consider adding to the keto diet to reduce hair loss:

  • Biotin: To compensate for ketosis-caused biotin deficiency, you need to have an adequate intake of about 30 mcg of biotin. Foods high in biotin are (5):
    • Beef liver
    • Eggs
    • Salmon
    • Pork
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Almonds
    • Tuna
    • Spinach
    • Broccoli
  • Iron: Iron may indirectly affect hair follicle development and hair growth cycle. Try adding the following foods to maintain iron levels above 30 mcg/L (6):
    • Oysters
    • White beans (1 cup, canned)
    • Dark chocolate
    • Tofu
    • Sardines
    • Cashew nuts
    • Chicken 
  • Zinc: Zinc is crucial for several metabolic cycles that support growth and development. Since our body cannot store zinc, it is mandatory to supply it via food and supplements. Here are a few options (7):
    • King crab
    • Lobster
    • Pork
    • Chickpeas
    • Swiss cheese
    • Oatmeal
    • Low-fat milk
  • Vitamins A, D, And E: These fat-soluble vitamins are indirectly essential for hair follicle development and scalp health. They play important roles in the absorption of other micronutrients and protect hair from chemical and physical damages. You can provide these vitamins by consuming (8), (9), (10):
    • Almonds
    • Beef
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Hazelnuts
    • Peanuts
    • Herring, pickled
    • Tomatoes
    • Cod liver oil
    • Eggs

You can also use dietary supplements to control hair fall. However, consult your nutritionist/doctor for the right dosage. Apart from addressing nutrient deficiency, ketosis-induced hair fall can be reduced by:

  • Frequently nourishing the scalp with oils and vitamins.
  • Being gentle while washing the hair.
  • Avoiding heat and harsh chemical treatments.
  • Following medical advice.
  • Using softened water to wash hair.
  • Treating hormonal imbalance issues.
  • Avoiding stress and tension.

In Summary

The ketogenic diet depends on high-fat, high-protein, and low-carb foods to bring about weight loss. This may cause severe nutrient deficiency and lead to kidney failure, GI disorders, and hair loss. The good news is: you can prevent further damage to hair by consuming foods and supplements rich in biotin, zinc, niacin, vitamins A, D, and E.

It may, however, take a few months to recover from ketosis-induced hair loss. Talk to your nutritionist or healthcare provider about treatment options. Stop stressing about hair fall and focus on nurturing your body and mind – because that is all that matters.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

Is keto hair loss permanent?

No. With the right dietary supplements and food habits, you can recover from keto hair loss. However, it may take a few to several months, depending on multiple factors, including your body type.

How long does keto hair loss last?

Keto hair loss can last for 2-3 months. However, it has not been scientifically proven. Keto hair loss may last longer in some and end sooner in others. It depends on how your body reacts to ketosis and dietary changes.

10 References:

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.
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