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“Does going vegan cause hair loss?” is something that many people are curious about – especially those who are considering making the switch. There is no definitive answer as it varies depending on the person, their plant-based diet, and other lifestyle factors. To guide you to a healthy vegan lifestyle for your hair, we have done the research and compiled the top 5 vegan hair loss reasons… and their solutions.

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About Vegan Hair Loss

Going vegan may be one of the healthiest decisions that you can make for your body, but it’s a lifestyle transition that must be completed carefully. In fact, diets of all kinds must be balanced in order for you to be as healthy as possible. Making the switch from a traditional diet to a vegan one often leaves people lacking in certain vitamins and nutrients that they previously were getting from animal sources. When alternative sources for those vitamins and nutrients aren’t found, a vegan diet may particularly affect the health of your hair.

1. Protein Deficiency

Hair is made of proteins. It’s important to make sure you’re consuming enough proteins in order to keep it healthy. The highest concentration of proteins is found in animal products, but luckily, there are many vegan foods that are incredibly high in protein, too.

Clinical studies found that protein deficiency can result in a lack of several amino acids which are essential for growing and maintaining healthy hair, too. The implication of amino acid deficiency – take L-lysine for example – is the inability of the body to absorb certain essential nutrients. L-lysine plays a critical role in zinc and iron intake so in order for your body to absorb the zinc and iron that you’re putting into it, you need to have healthy levels of L-lysine.

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2. Iron Deficiency

Iron is necessary for our bodies to function properly because it is an essential component of red blood cell protein that helps to transfer oxygen from the lungs into body tissue. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, iron also supports muscle metabolism, physical growth, neurological development, cellular functioning, and hormone synthesis.

Iron deficiency can look very different among different groups of people. Because it’s usually accompanied by a lack of other nutrients too, iron deficiency’s specific symptoms are hard to pinpoint. However, a 40-yearlong study published in 2006 found that there is a connection between low levels of iron and hair loss.

Fortunately, iron is naturally found in both plant sources and can also be taken as a supplement.

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3. Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an essential micronutrient that is responsible for healthy metabolism, protein folding, and tissue growth and repair. It helps to keep your scalp and hair healthy by ensuring the proper function of your oil glands that surround your hair follicles. When someone’s diet is deficient in zinc, many hair health issues such as alopecia can develop.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegan diets tend to contain lower levels of zinc. Get more zinc in your vegan diet by eating more beans, bran, seeds, nuts, or adding a zinc supplement to your diet. The proper levels of zinc that a person should have depends on weight and gender.

Discuss zinc intake with your doctor to make sure you’re getting a proper amount. Too much zinc can have similar effects as too little zinc.

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4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when a person’s thyroid and iodine levels are low. When this happens, the body’s processes start slowing down and you may notice that you frequently feel cold, tired, depressed, and forgetful. Symptoms also include dull and dry skin, and hair loss. Typically, thyroid issues are caused by autoimmune disease, genetic predisposition, iodine imbalance, or damage to the pituitary gland.

You might be wondering where veganism comes into play with hypothyroidism… Vegan diets rely pretty heavily on soy-based products. Soy is is a a staple on the menu of vegan aficionados because it’s high in protein and can easily be transformed into meat-replacement substances. However, soy can be a problem: it can make it harder for the body to absorb hypothyroid medication. For this reason, those with hypothyroidism should take care when it comes to their soy intake and ensure that their iodine levels are increased with any soy intake.

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5. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

B-12 is needed to make healthy red blood cells, nerves, and DNA but it is only found in animal products and products that are fortified with B-12. People who follow a strict vegan diet are at high risk for developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency because they don’t eat meat, eggs, dairy, or poultry.

When a person develops a vitamin B-12 deficiency, the symptoms can vary and be easily confused with other illness. The most common symptoms are a scaly scalp, hair loss, weakness, fatigue, and poor cognitive functioning.

Fortunately, vegans can easily find foods containing B-12 and avoid this kind of vegan hair loss. Just make sure to check the ingredients list to ensure that the B-12 doesn’t come from an animal source – some brands are tricky! You can also stock up on tempeh, nutritional yeast, and a vegan supplement that contains vitamin B-12.

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In order to make the best decisions for our health, we have to be informed about the dangers that we face. The above reasons for vegans experiencing hair loss isn’t meant to deter you from veganism or deter you from cutting animal products out of your diet! On the contrary, it’s meant to educate you so that you can go vegan in a way that keep your hair as healthy as the rest of your body.

Even if well-documented and carefully written, this content should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Consult a qualified health care provider before making any health care decisions about any specific medical condition.

Amie A.

Creative hairdresser, vegan consumer and writer