There’s no doubt that a ketogenic or keto diet can be an effective weight-loss strategy.
It does come with some potential side effects, though. Among them are the possibility of hair loss and a change in the condition of your hair.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to counter the keto diet’s impact on your hair. In most cases, tweaking the foods you eat and upping your intake of specific vitamins may help return your hair to its pre-keto volume and condition.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the nutrients you need to lower your hair loss risk while on the keto diet.
How Hair Grows
Aside from molding it into a coveted style, most give little thought to their hair structure. That is until our lovely locks are littered about the bathroom floor.
Hair is a bit more complicated than we likely realize, and it’s composed of two parts, the follicle and the shaft.
- The follicle: The part of your hair that resides in the skin.
- The shaft: The hair above the scalp that’s visible. There are two separate shafts—inner and outer—that encase the follicle. And the follicle and shaft are essential to hair health and growth, and hair loss can occur when either element is damaged.
Hair growth and shedding happen in a natural cycle, working in phases as follows:
- Anagen phase — This is the phase of active hair growth and continues between two to six years. During this stage, one can expect hair to grow up to one centimeter every 28 days.
- Catagen phase — Growth stops during this short transitional period, which lasts for two to three weeks.
- Telogen phase — This stage is known as the resting phase, and as its name suggests, there is no growth during this time, which lasts for up to 100 days.
Besides the natural phases of growth and support, lifestyle shifts (like starting a low-carb diet) can pose stress to the body.
The root of hair loss can have various causes. But the following are some common reasons you may experience hair loss on a keto diet:
How can ketosis affect your hair?
Typically, your body consumes carbohydrates from the food you eat for energy. But if you follow a low carb, high fat keto diet, you can go into ketosis. When this happens, your body starts using fat, instead of carbohydrates, for fuel.
Several characteristics of ketosis can trigger hair loss and a change in the health of your hair. Two of the most common reasons include:
By restricting your carb intake, you may be reducing the variety of nutrients your body usually needs for healthy hair. This could cause you to lose more hair than average or slow down your hair growth.
Physiological Response to Cutting Calories
When you reduce your calorie intake, your body responds by ensuring the available energy goes to the most important functions first.
This includes things like cell growth and the functioning of your heart, lungs, and other organs. This indicates there may be less energy for hair growth.
What nutrients are essential for your hair?
As with any function in your body, you need vital vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for everything to work well. Your hair is no different. Specific nutrients are essential for healthy hair growth and to prevent hair loss.
With the emphasis on high fat, low carb foods, some essential nutrients may be less abundant if you’re following a keto diet and trying to stay in a state of ketosis.
To protect your hair’s health, you may want to look at ways to add more of the following vitamins and nutrients to your diet.
If it’s hard for you to get these nutrients through food, consider adding them as supplements to make up for any deficiencies in your eating plan.
A 2013 animal study found that biotin deficiency was strongly associated with a keto diet.
A B vitamin long connected with hair growth, biotin is accessible in a wide range of foods. However, many foods rich in biotins, such as fruit and legumes, are usually avoided or consumed only in small portions on a keto diet.
Foods that are good sources of biotin and that fit well into a keto eating plan include:
- egg yolks
- organ meats, like liver and kidneys
- nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and peanuts
Biotin is also available as a supplement. Experts recommend people get 30 micrograms (mcg) of biotin a day, which is typically the amount in one biotin capsule.
If you’re looking to get even more collagen into your system, you can skip past the bone broth and take a pure collagen supplement.
Oral collagen could prevent:
- Premature hair loss
- Hair thinning
- Graying of hair
Collagen is part of our hair follicle stem cells (HFSC), which produce new hair strands.
A collagen deficiency can cause early aging in those stem cells, resulting in premature hair loss. Unfortunately, collagen levels naturally decline with age. But you can supplement it with keto shakes made of whey protein and MCT oil.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for hair growth and healthy skin, vision, and a robust immune system.
But, unlike some other nutrients, many of the foods that are good sources of vitamin A — like meat, eggs, dairy, and fish — are all popular foods for a keto diet.
What’s most important to note with vitamin A is that it shouldn’t be consumed in high amounts, for it will soon cause vitamin A toxicity. Some of its symptoms include:
- hair loss
- visual disturbances
- bone and joint pain
- nausea and vomiting
- poor appetite
The RDA for vitamin A is 900 mcg per day for men and 700 mcg per day for women. You can easily reach this by eating foods that are common on a keto diet.
Avoid taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin A if you’re on a keto diet, as you’re likely getting all you need from the foods you eat.
It’s a well-known fact that vitamin C is vital for a robust immune system and overall good health. A lesser-known benefit of vitamin C is that it helps produce collagen. This protein is needed for healthy hair and skin.
Although citrus fruits and berries are popular sources of vitamin C, you can also get immunity boosters from the following:
- yellow peppers
- mustard spinach
- Brussels sprouts
You can also find vitamin C in standalone supplements and multivitamins. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 milligrams (mg).
We consume vitamin D from the food we eat. Our bodies also make it from the sunlight that reaches our skin. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and various other functions, including healthy hair.
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with hair loss and a condition called alopecia. That’s an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss all over the body.
Keto-friendly food sources of vitamin D include:
- fatty fish like salmon, herring, and sardines
- egg yolk
The RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) per day from food. If your skin seems to have very little sunlight, your intake should be closer to 1,000 IU per day.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant, like vitamin C, that supports cells and hair’s healthy growth.
To ensure you’re getting healthy amounts of vitamin E each day, try to include the following foods in your keto diet:
- sunflower seeds
The RDA of vitamin E for adults is 15 mg per day.
If you feel your diet is lacking in vitamin E, you can take a supplement. Just be sure not to exceed 1,000 IUs per day if you take synthetic supplements.
Low levels of iron are associated with dry, damaged hair as well as many health problems, including:
- shortness of breath
Women have a greater risk than men for iron deficiency.
Try to include the following sources of dietary iron in your keto diet:
- red meat
- dark turkey meat
- pumpkin seeds
The RDA suggested that iron intake is 18 mg per day.
Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is a compound present in sea algae, vegetables, and animal products.
MSM helps to create links in the structural tissue in the body. This includes the skin, nails, and hair that promotes keratin, a fibrous structural protein required for hair and nail health.
A keto diet typically includes plenty of protein sources, such as red meat, poultry, and fish.
But if you’re on the keto diet and vegan or vegetarian, you may not be getting as much protein as you need. That can lead to hair loss and more severe complications, like loss of muscle mass and an impaired immune system.
If you don’t want to consume animal-based protein, try to include the right amount of plant-based protein sources in your eating plan. Some excellent keto-friendly sources include:
- soybean products like tofu, edamame, and tempeh
- nuts and nut butter
- chia seeds
- vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts
- green peas
Several studies have shown that zinc losses can lead to extreme hair loss and hypothyroidism. A diet rich in zinc will help achieve and maintain healthy body weight and vibrant hair.
Here are some keto-friendly foods with ample amounts of zinc:
- Grass-fed beef
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cacao powder
How to Stop Keto Hair Loss
While counting calories and consuming adequate electrolytes and protein is an excellent baseline to stop hair loss, there are more ways to fortify hair follicles.
The foods and quality supplements we choose to use daily have a significant impact on our hair health.
Here are the seven best foods and supplements to consider using to ensure a lustrous and full head of hair while keeping it keto!
Aside from ensuring that your diet includes the nutrients you need to prevent hair loss, there are also other steps you can take to help boost the health of your hair when you’re in a state of ketosis.
Eat a Whole Food Keto Diet
MCT oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed beef are all great food options on a ketogenic diet, supporting healthy hair growth and renewal.
Focus on eating a whole food, an organic diet rich in vitamins and minerals to keep your mane thick and shiny.
Here’s a shortlist of go-to foods to eat with great keto macros:
- Nuts and seeds
- Liver and other meats
- Organic dairy
- Egg yolk
Take a Biotin Supplement
As we mentioned, biotin is essential to keeping your strands atop your head rather than in your comb.
Since a ketogenic diet causes loss in body fluid, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, eating nutrient-dense food and adding supplements into your keto protocol is strongly suggested.
When you change your diet, it can affect the balance of good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are a type of healthy bacteria that can help restore that balance.
Having the right balance of gut bacteria can help improve digestion. In turn, better digestion makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients you need for good overall health, including healthy hair.
Wash and Dry Gently
Use a gentle shampoo and a nourishing, moisturizing conditioner. Avoid products with harsher formulas that may dry your hair and cause more damage and hair loss.
Limit the amount of time you spend blow-drying your hair. Also, avoid rubbing your hair with a towel to remove extra moisture after washing. The friction could damage your hair.
Instead, try wrapping your hair in a microfiber towel to speed up the drying process, and let your hair air-dry.
Avoid Harsh Treatments
At the very least, don’t treat your hair while your body is adjusting to your new diet. This includes the use of hair dye, straightening, and curling irons, or relaxing treatments.
Also, try to avoid pulling your hair back into tight braids or ponytails. This could drag on your hair, loosening it at the root, and cause more hair loss.
Try an OTC Medication
Minoxidil, more commonly known as Rogaine, is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can help reverse hair loss in both men and women. It comes in a liquid and foams up when you rub it on your head. For best results, try to use it every day.
Use Coconut Oil
A 2018 review of studies found that coconut oil may help prevent hair damage due to protein loss. Due to its low molecular weight, it can also be more easily absorbed into the hair than other oils.
Although not a supplement like biotin and not directly responsible for hair growth, coconut oil can help to seal in the hair’s moisture to keep strands healthy and agile.
To help nourish and protect your hair, try the following:
- Massage coconut oil into your scalp to increase blood flow and hair growth.
- Use a coconut oil hair mask to protect your hair from breakage and dryness.
Plus, coconut oil is rich in essential nutrients like iron, and vitamins E and K, all of which help support healthy hair growth.
Although losing hair while in the ketogenic diet is temporary and self-corrects relatively quickly, there are a few ways to prevent the severity of hair thinning on keto.
Here’s a quick recap on how to block hair loss on keto:
- Eat enough calories
- Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods filled with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes
- Eat biotin-rich foods (liver, egg yolks, avocado, etc.)
- Take up a yoga practice or meditation to reduce stress.
Avoiding hair loss on a ketogenic diet can be painless by performing the tips noted above. Add the advice mentioned in your overall nutrition plan on keto to keep your hair full and lustrous.
Maintaining a state of ketosis may require you to make some fairly drastic changes to your diet. The perception of thinning hair affects everyone, women and men alike, especially in the prime of life.
We get it. Looks matter, and it can affect self-esteem and how we’re perceived and treated by others.
Ketosis is an incredibly powerful eating style to achieve accelerated fat loss, regulate glucose, and increase mental sharpness.
Switching to the low carb, high-fat diet may reduce your intake of some of the critical nutrients you need to maintain a healthy head of hair. It may also cut your calories, which could limit the amount of energy available for hair growth.
To reduce the risk of hair loss, you can take steps to ensure your daily food intake includes healthy sources of biotin, protein, iron, and vitamins A, C, D, and E.
If you still have hair loss after taking the steps mentioned in this post, follow up with your doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying health condition.
Just be sure to take the precautions noted above, and you’ll have it all, a taut waistline and beautiful locks.