Keto Hair Loss: Why It Happens and How You Can Prevent It

Ketogenic diet or keto diet has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. Various studies have indicated that this low-carb diet is extremely helpful for balancing blood sugar levels, aiding weight loss, improving heart health, preventing chronic diseases, reducing the risks of cancer, improving the functioning of brain and a lot more. (1) The studies have also concluded that it is very safe to be on keto diet for a long time and there are no significant side effects reported so far. (2) However, a lot of low carb dieters have reported that they had experienced significant hair fall 2 to 3 months after starting their keto diet. Thankfully, keto hair loss is a temporary setback and you will most likely grow back all your hair follicles within just a few months. In this blog, we will explain to you more about keto diet hair loss reasons and how you can prevent it.

Keto and hair loss: why it happens

Weight-loss triggers hair loss

As mentioned above, a low calorie diet such as ketogenic diet is extremely helpful for burning the stored fat and losing the extra weight. While this sounds very motivational, you should be aware that excessive weight loss can cause excessive hair fall too. (3) To achieve the best results from your ketogenic diet, you will have to significantly reduce your calorie intake, which means you will be depriving your body of carbohydrates for a prolonged period. When you reduce your calorie intake, your body tries to spend less energy on non-important things such as hair growth and spends most of its energy on important functioning of your body such as maintaining the cell growth. To prevent low carb diet hair loss, you need to ensure that you replace the carbohydrate with healthy fats, proteins, and all other nutrients that your body requires to stay healthy. We, therefore, suggest you consult a dietitian and get a thorough meal plan instead of starting your keto diet on your own.

Vitamin deficiency triggers hair loss

As mentioned above, if you do not follow a proper keto diet plan prepared by an experienced dietitian, there are high chances that you will end up depriving your body of the essential vitamins and minerals that it requires to stay healthy. This deficiency of nutrients and micronutrients is another reason for low carb hair loss. When you start cutting down your carbohydrate intake, your body starts producing less insulin. When the insulin in the bloodstream drops, your body starts using the stored glycogen and your kidney starts excreting vital electrolytes such as sodium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iodine in large quantity. Unless you replenish these electrolytes and nutrients, there are high chances that you will suffer from keto hair loss.

Protein deficiency can affect your hair health

top 10 sources of veggie protein

Low carb dieters often fail to consume sufficient amount of protein too. The essence of ketogenic diet is that you need to take food that has low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high quantity of fat. Keeping this balance becomes very difficult, specifically if you are not provided with a specific diet plan by your dietitian. Further, even if you are provided with a proper protein-rich diet plan by your dietitian, your stomach may not be able to digest the protein properly because of low stomach acid. If you are experiencing indigestion, bloating, heartburn, and gas during your keto diet, it is obvious that your body is not able to digest the protein properly, thereby causing protein deficiency, which is another important reason for ketosis and hair loss.

Lack of biotin during keto diet causes hair loss

Biotin, a type of Vitamin B, helps stimulate hair growth and reverse hair loss. Also known as Vitamin H, biotin deficiency can cause alopecia. Thankfully, it is quite easy to get biotin through diet. It is available in ample quantity in egg yolk, nuts, legumes, rice, spinach, cauliflower, milk products, apples, bananas, tomatoes, salmon, lettuce, potatoes, and other common food items found in our kitchen. However, when you will be on your keto diet you will not be eating a lot of these biotin rich food items. Further, a study conducted on mice has concluded that a low carb, high fat diet can cause biotin deficiency. (4)

Within a few weeks of starting your keto diet, you will start experiencing the initial signs of biotin deficiency such as hair loss, memory problems, confusion, nausea, muscle pain, abdominal cramping, and skin rashes, especially around nose and mouth. Low carb diet and hair loss are closely related. You can’t avoid biotin deficiency when you are on ketogenic diet but you can certainly deal with the deficiency by putting yourself on biotin supplements. They are easily available on Amazon. But, while buying, make sure you choose 100% veggie biotin, manufactured and sold by a reliable brand. There are many fake products available on Amazon that do nothing. For your convenience, we have listed below some of the top-selling biotin hair supplements that you can choose to meet your biotin deficiency:

Stress due to keto diet and hair loss

It is now well-known that stress causes hair loss and you will be surprised to know that your body undergoes a lot of stress when you make significant dietary transitions, such as starting a low carb diet. The stress could be caused due to a lot of reasons such as giving up the food that you love the most or simply due to cooking a lot of strange dishes that are not very appealing. Other than psychological stress, when you reduce your calorie intake your body undergoes through shock because it has to function in a different way than it usually does. This shock could trigger hair fall. (5) Your hair could start falling in large clumps, which is known as alopecia areata or you could suffer from telogen effluvium, a condition in which more hair are ready to fall out than usual. Thankfully, both these forms of hair loss are temporary in nature. Once your body has successfully transitioned to the low carb diet, the keto hair loss will stop on its own.

How to prevent keto hair loss

As mentioned above, keto hair loss is only a temporary setback. So, the extra strands in your sink shouldn’t demotivate you or force you to give up your new diet. Almost any nutritional or dietary change will put your body in stress, triggering a temporary hair loss. However, once your body adjusts itself with the new dietary plan, your hair will be back to normal. Meanwhile, here are a few things that you can and you must do to deal with keto diet hair loss:

Consume enough calories

A low carb diet doesn’t mean a low calorie diet. The essence of keto diet is that you need to derive your calories from healthy fat and not carbohydrates. However, a lot of people assume that they have to restrict their calorie intake when they are on keto diet. Remember that this is the biggest mistake that you will be doing and you could end up doing more harm to your body. Prolonged calorie restriction can put your biological system under tremendous stress, which could trigger your hair follicles to go into an inactive stage, thereby causing excessive hair fall. To prevent the low carb diet hair loss, make sure you consume enough calories by including a lot of healthy fat in your diet.

Maximize your nutrition intake

Keto hair loss will be more obvious when you deprive your body of the basic nutrient it needs to keep its cells healthy and growing. This could be slightly challenging, as you would not be able to eat a lot of nutrient-rich food but, thankfully, there are a lot more options that you can explore to meet your nutrient needs. If you are serious about going on ketosis, do not jump into it unprepared. Take your time to consult an experienced dietician and get a proper meal plan that will help you get your daily dose of all nutrients and micronutrients. Prepare your pantry and prepare yourself too. Start your diet only when you are well-prepared. Also, do not hesitate to add supplements to your diet. Very often, it is impossible to get all necessary nutrients through diet.

Cheating is OK

Cheat diet is not just relaxing but also very important for your health. When you follow a specific diet plan for a prolonged period, your body gets used to it. But, this is not what you want. You want your body to be able to adjust itself with all possible dietary situations and this is where cheat diets come in. Keto diet experts strongly recommend that you must not remain on low carbohydrate diet for a prolonged period. Instead, you must have cheat diets at least twice a week.

When you start eating low carbohydrate food for a prolonged period, the thyroid hormones in your bloodstream may drop, thereby making you less sensitive to insulin. Lower production of thyroid hormone is another main reason for keto diet hair loss. The best way to deal with this problem is to have cheat meals. You can eat low carbs for 3 days and high carbs for one day or you can eat low carbs for 6 days and high carbs for one day. The choice should be yours, depending on how your body feels. Carb cycling helps optimize your body’s metabolic needs.

Take probiotics

Any form of dietary change is going to affect your digestion and keto diet is no exception. Your stomach will take some time to adjust itself for digesting high fat, medium protein, and low carb food. So, for first few weeks, you may experience some form of indigestion, nausea, and stomach discomfort. Since your stomach will not be able to digest everything that you will eat during this period, there are high chances that you could suffer from nutritional deficiencies, even after eating a well-balanced, properly planned diet. This is where probiotics can help. They will not only help ease your stomach issues but also improve the absorption of nutrients, thereby preventing or minimizing the chances of nutritional deficiencies. You could either rely on natural probiotic food such as yoghurt and buttermilk or take probiotic supplements. We recommend Nutrition Essentials #1 Rated Acidophilus Probiotic Digestive Health Supplement. You can buy it easily from Amazon.

Take care of your hair and scalp

As mentioned above, keto and hair loss are connected. You can’t avoid hair fall but you can certainly minimize it by focusing on your diet as well as by nourishing your scalp. Here are some of the basic things that you must do while you are on keto diet (or otherwise) to prevent excessive hair fall:

  •  Keep your scalp moisturized by massaging hot oils into it regularly. You can use any oil of your choice but we recommend a mixture of coconut oil/olive oil and castor oil. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer and castor oil is known for strengthening the hair follicles. Hot oil massages are helpful for improving the blood circulation to the scalp.
  • Avoid using hair styling tools, especially the heating tools as much as possible. These tools can cause permanent damage to your hair and they are not recommended for frequent use. Since you are on Keto, your hair is already under tremendous stress. It is better to stay away from these tools during the transition phase.
  • Do not choose hairstyles that pull the hair from the hairline such as tight ponytails, cornrows, braids, etc. These styles are very stressful for hair. During keto, your hair follicles will become very delicate and even a slight pressure can pull them out of the scalp.
  • To avoid keto hair loss, do not take any chemical hair treatments such as hair bleaching. These treatments can worsen hair loss.
  • Wash your hair frequently, at least once every week. A healthy and clean scalp will help you prevent scalp infection.

Although keto diet hair loss is temporary, we strongly recommend that you must consult a dermatologist if the hair fall persists even after 3-4 months. Also, if you are experiencing unexplained weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, etc. along with hair fall, please consult your healthcare physician immediately, as these symptoms could be associated with severe nutritional deficiencies.

References and Citations

  1. Gotter A. Keto diet: Benefits and nutrients. Medical News Today.
  2. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. National Institutes of Health .
  3. Is Sudden Weight Loss Causing Hairfall? News18. Published April 24, 2018.
  4. Yuasa M, Matsui T, Ando S, et al. Consumption of a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet (the ketogenic diet) exaggerates biotin deficiency in mice. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. Published October 2013.
  5. Palmoplantar Pustulosis – American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD).

Last updated on September 30th, 2020

Chris Riley

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