Since starting a keto diet, you may feel great and be thrilled with your weight loss results. However, you may have also noticed some hair loss. In this post, I will discuss four things that can contribute to hair loss on a keto diet and what you can do about each one.
Hair Loss on Keto – At-A-Glance
- Hair loss is not a keto side effect for everyone, and there are non-diet-related causes (i.e., hypothyroidism, stress)
- If you experience rapid weight loss on a keto diet, the physical stress can result in temporary hair loss.
- Solution: start with a low carb diet before following a keto diet
- Because a keto diet suppresses hunger, you may consume too few calories, resulting in hair loss.
- Solution: listen to your body and look for clues that you are eating enough
- You can lose hair if you are not getting enough protein in your diet.
- Solution: if you’re in general good health, aim to get around 20-25% of your calories from protein
- Many micronutrients support hair growth. If your diet lacks nutrients, you may notice hair loss.
- Solution: Eat a nutrient-dense diet and supplement to ensure proper levels of biotin, vitamin C, collagen, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.
Hair Loss on Keto: 4 Reasons & What to Do [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Four reasons why you may be losing your hair on a keto diet.
- Solutions to combat those symptoms!
- Additional resources for weight loss success.
Non-Diet Causes for Hair Loss
Before we get into any associations between hair loss and keto dieting, it is good to note that there are reasons for changes in your hair that are not directly associated with your diet. One of the most common causes is hypothyroidism. If the reasons shared in this article do not seem to be factors for you, you may want to consider your thyroid function.
It can be a complex problem to assess. You can learn more through my thyroid function blog post that lists hypothyroid symptoms and shares how to ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel.
Dealing with a lot of emotional stress is another non-diet-related factor that must be considered if you are experiencing changes in your hair. However, stress can be emotional or physical, and both root causes can lead to problems. This brings us to our first cause for diet-related hair loss that I will call ‘too much, too soon.’
Reason #1: Too Much, Too Soon
Following a keto diet is an effective way to lose weight. For many, the diet change from their high-carb lifestyle to a new, very low carb, ketogenic diet is dramatic and can lead to rapid weight loss. This rapid change is a stress on the body, and that stress can lead to hair loss (1).
The good news is that when this rapid change causes hair loss, it tends to regrow on its own, often fuller and healthier than it was before.
What to Do:
You may be able to lessen or avoid hair loss caused by rapid change by stepping into a low carb diet first before starting keto. By doing this, you work with your body, allowing it time to adapt to your new way of eating.
The first step to successfully changing your diet is to add as you subtract, meaning add nutrient-dense, low-carb foods to your diet as you subtract the sugar and refined carbs. If you are unsure how to do that, you can download my 0,1,2,3 strategy for guidance.
After mastering that step, you can focus on reducing your overall carb intake. If you are coming from a high-carb lifestyle, you can aim to bring your total carb intake down below 125 grams per day to get into the low-carb range. You can then work your way down to the keto range that begins at no more than 50 total grams per day.
Reason #2: Too Low in Calorie
One of the pleasant side effects of a low carb or keto diet is that it quiets hunger and cravings. This makes it easier to naturally reduce your calorie intake throughout the day, aiding with weight loss. However, it can also cause you to eat too little, forcing your body to choose which systems to supply with energy.
Your body is focused on keeping you alive, so vital organs and life-supporting repair processes will be nourished first, leaving whatever energy remains for less vital functions, like hair growth.
What to Do:
Because you feel less hungry, it is easy to stretch out the time between meals or eat less at mealtimes. I wrote a book on intermittent fasting, and I am certainly a proponent of it.
But you want to listen to your body and look for clues that you are eating enough. If you have dramatically reduced your calorie intake and you are losing your hair, just increasing your daily calories may remedy the issue.
Reason #3: Too Low in Protein
Even if you are getting sufficient calories to support hair growth, you can still lose hair if you are not getting enough protein in your diet.
One of the reasons that a keto diet is so effective for fat loss is because it keeps insulin levels low. When insulin is elevated, it blocks the release of fat from fat cells. Carbohydrates raise insulin levels the most, whereas fats have the least impact.
Since a keto diet is very low in carbohydrates and high in fat, you can see how it takes the brakes off fat burning. But carbs and fats are only two of the three primary macronutrients that make up the foods you eat. The other is protein.
Protein provides your body with the amino acids it needs for building and repairing structures and supporting functions like hair growth. It is an essential nutrient to consume. However, when you eat it, it causes a modest increase in insulin.
That knowledge can lead some people to limit their intake of protein for fear that too much will stall their weight loss progress. The thing to understand is that insulin is not evil. In excess, it can block fat loss, but at moderate levels, it helps nutrients get into your cells, including the amino acids needed to support growth and repair.
What to Do:
If you are experiencing hair loss on keto, make sure you are eating enough protein. If you are someone in general good health, a sufficient intake of protein will fall around 20 to 25 percent of your daily caloric intake. Many animal-based foods are low in carbohydrates and high in protein, such as eggs, meat, chicken, and fish.
If you prefer an entirely plant-based diet, you may find it challenging to get enough protein to prevent hair loss. There is protein in nuts, seeds, soybean products, and vegetables, but these foods come from plants, so they also contain carbohydrates.
Reason #4: Too Low in Nutrients
In addition to protein, which is a macronutrient, many micronutrients support hair growth. It is possible to eat processed foods and be in ketosis. However, relying too heavily on low-quality foods or packaged “keto-friendly” bread, snacks, and desserts can rob your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs for healthy hair. Even a well-formulated keto diet may need supplementation to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
What to Do:
If hair loss is a concern, focus on eating whole foods and consider supplementing to add vitamins and minerals. When you eat a variety of whole, unrefined plant and animal foods, you supply your body with the nutrients that promote healthy hair growth, such as biotin, which is a B vitamin. Vitamin C is also beneficial because it helps to produce collagen, which is a protein needed for healthy hair.
Collagen can also be consumed as a standalone supplement or obtained through high-quality bone broth. A well-formulated keto diet will also provide you with hair-supporting minerals (i.e., iron and zinc), as well as vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy hair (1).
If you feel that your diet is lacking in nutrients, you can use a multivitamin to supplement your diet.
While hair loss is not a side effect experienced by everyone, it can happen if your keto diet results in rapid weight loss or your diet is insufficient in calories, protein, or micronutrients. If you are concerned about hair loss, you may want to start with a low-carb diet before moving into a keto diet.
If you are unsure how to put together a nutrient-dense diet, I provide two 21-day challenges on my website. One is low carb, and the other is keto. You can learn about them from the links in the navigation bar at the top of the website. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Guo, Emily L., and Rajani Katta. “Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use.” Dermatology practical & conceptual 7.1 (2017): 1.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.