Can low-carb diets result in hair loss?

Hair Loss on Low Carb

Is it possible to lose hair when starting a low-carb diet? Yes, and there are many misunderstandings and myths about it.

Here’s what you may need to know.

Temporary hair loss can occur for many different reasons, including any big dietary change. This is especially common when severely restricting calories (e.g. starvation diets, meal replacements) but it can also occasionally happen on low-carb diets.

If so, it usually starts 3-6 months after starting a new diet, at which point you’ll notice an increasing amount of hairs falling out when brushing your hair.

The good news is that even if you should be so unfortunate this is only a temporary phenomenon. And only a percentage of the hair will fall out (the thinning will rarely be very noticeable to others).

After a few months all the hair follicles will start to grow new hair, and when they have regrown your hair will be as thick as before again. Of course, if you have long hair this could take a year or even more.
 

Background

To understand exactly what is happening it’s necessary to know the basics of how hair grows.

Every single hair on your head usually grows for about 2-3 years at a time. After that it stops growing for up to 3 months. Then a new hair starts growing in the same hair follicle, pushing the old hair out.

Thus you’re losing hairs every day, but as the hairs are unsynchronized it’s not so noticeable. You lose one hair and another starts growing, i.e. you always have about the same number of hairs on your head.

Stress and synchronized hair loss

If your body experiences significant stress more hairs than usual can enter the resting phase at the same time. This can happen for many reasons, like these:

  • Starvation, including calorie-restricted diets and meal replacements
  • Diseases
  • Unusually demanding exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Breast feeding
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Psychological stress
  • Any big diet change

Then as the new hairs start growing a few months later all these formerly resting hairs will fall out at almost the same time. This is called “telogen effluvium” in fancy medical terms (read more about it), and it’s relatively common.

What to do

If there was an obvious triggering factor 3-6 months before you noticed the problem – such as giving birth or transitioning to a strict low-carb diet – you don’t really have to do anything. In all likelihood the problem will be temporary.

As long as you eat a varied and nutritious low-carb diet it’s very unlikely that stopping it will speed up the hair regain, it will likely happen as quickly anyway. And unfortunately you can’t stop the hair loss from happening once it’s started, as the resting hairs will fall out no matter what you do.

It’s possible to run blood tests for nutrient deficiencies, but unless you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet (with no supplements of iron, B12) it’s unlikely that they will show anything interesting.

How to minimize the risk of hair loss when starting low carb

First, temporary hair loss is relatively rare after starting a low-carb diet, most people never notice anything like it.

There are no studies on how to minimize this small risk, but it’s likely helpful not to restrict calories, i.e. don’t do a low-carb and low-fat diet (AKA “starvation”). Instead eat as much fat as you need to feel satisfied and not hungry, an LCHF diet.

It may also be helpful to reduce other sources of stress during your first few weeks on low carb. Sleep well, be kind to yourself in general, and preferably don’t start an intense exercise program at the same time.

More

Read everything about possible side effects on low carb:

Low-carb side effects & how to cure them

Top 6 common problems when starting

Less common issues on low carb

 

Low-carb myths

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54 comments

  1. nonywaji
    A potassium deficiency, also called hypokalemia, can actually cause your hair to fall out. High-salt diets cause excess sodium accumulation around the hair follicles, preventing the absorption of vital nutrients required for healthy hair. This, in turn, causes hair loss. Increasing potassium intake will remove excess sodium and eliminate potassium deficiency and resulting hair loss.
    Hope this helps :)
  2. nonywaji
    very informative post keep it up
  3. naturalrizado.com
    This is really useful. I am going to see a dermatologist to rule out age-related hair loss (although not in my family) and if it proves to be linked to diet I will report back. Seems a big coincidence that it happened now though. Thanks for the link to the Ron Rosedale video - if he is genuine then it seems very possible I (all of us) may recover from this. Don't know if he is though?
  4. Randall
    I know this is an old post but I hope you haven't given up Dee. It sounds to me like you are doing all the right things. Although, I was reading on a reputable hair regrowth website (Harklinikken) that your hair requires ample protein to grow to perhaps limiting the cheese and other sources of protein is a factor in your hair loss and possibly your weight stall. My husband and I have been keto for almost 2 years. He has lost 50 lbs so far and I have lost 35 lbs. We both eat dairy and cheese. Our intermittent fasting consists of only eating from 12pm to 10pm (we don't eat breakfast). We eat plenty of protein. I have hair loss but he does not. That is why I was checking out the website I previously mentioned. My hair loss has not been temporary. Tanya
  5. Randall
    Her comment said to take "internally". So, probably a capsule or liquigel. ;-)
  6. 3 comments removed
  7. Nancy
    This hair loss has totally got me stressed (I know don't stress). My hair loss is mostly in the front on top :( Went to doctor, blood work was fine. Thinks I just "shocked" my system as about 4 months earlier, I started keto, stopped taking estrogen (52-post menopause), had a systemic allergic reaction that lasted 5 months and have lost 60 lbs. You tell me what caused it. I take a multi-vitamin, collagen and biotin. Now my doctor tells me to get some rogaine. Just not sure if I want to put rogaine on my head or not. My hair looks fried...not coloring or cutting at all. Washing only twice a week now because I'm afraid to touch it. Come on baby grow! Do you think I should start the rogaine or just wait it out? Hair loss does not run in my family for men or women.
  8. 1 comment removed
  9. alopeciaherabal
    We fully appreciate your post. The information you have given is very interesting and helpful. Will definitely bookmark it!
  10. Sophie Nigam
    Hey, valuable info you provide in your articles about Hair Loss.
  11. 1 comment removed
  12. Susanne
    Im not loosing my hair, but it is knotting at the back of my neck and breaking off. Has any one else experienced breakage?
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