Exercise and Hair Loss – Is your Fitness Routine Affecting Your Hair?

Can vigorous exercise actually CAUSE hair loss?

The idea of something so beneficial having a negative impact on our hair seems particularly unfair. But there ARE ways in which exercise can cause problems, particularly for those of us who are already affected by weak or damaged hair.

The purpose of this article is not to suggest that you stop exercising – in fact, the improved blood circulation following a good workout is beneficial to hair growth. And for women with PCOS-related hair loss, a solid fitness plan is key to solving the problem.

Instead, then, the aim of this page is to look at the various ways in which exercise can increase hair loss… and how to stop it from happening!

Is there a connection between exercise and hair loss

Note: This information does not constitute medical advice. It is important to consult a health professional for a proper diagnosis of your hair loss.

There are various ways in which your fitness routine may be impacting your hair.

Sweating (or should we say perspiring?)

‘Sweat is just fat crying!’

That’s a great quote to get you motivated in the gym and certainly helps you look at sweat in a positive way! Unfortunately, though, a head drenched in sweat can play havoc with your hair.

The problem is that sweat has a drying effect on your strands and leaves them looking dull. If you’re prone to breakage, you could well see an increase by allowing sweat to dry in your hair.

Some sources point to the lactic acid in sweat as the culprit, suggesting that it strips the hair of protein. However, I could find very little scientific evidence to support this, aside from this article by trichologist Erkkie Harris-Wells. The article suggests that lactic acid also shrinks the hair follicles – which sounds alarming. But it then goes on to mention the author’s line of products designed to counteract this effect… which does lead one to wonder about the  scientific truth behind the claims!

Nevertheless, sweat undoubtedly dries the hair – and dryness isn’t the only issue . A sweaty scalp can lead to itching and encourage the growth of scalp bacteria and fungus. As we explain on our itchy scalp page, persistent scratching can trigger hair loss, whilst a less-than-healthy scalp can inhibit hair growth.

So the safest option is to rinse sweat from the hair after working out (unless – like one of our readers – you appreciate the extra volume that your post-workout hair has when it dries!). 

Should you shampoo your hair after every workout?

In a word, no!

Unless you only exercise a couple of times a week, shampooing your hair after every workout is likely to cause more damage than the sweat, because it strips the hair of its natural oils.

If possible, try to wash with shampoo only once every 2 to 3 days.

Here are a few ways to keep your locks looking clean and smelling sweet in the meantime…

  • Rinse your hair after your workout with water ONLY.
  • If your ends are particularly dry, add a little conditioner after rinsing – making sure it doesn’t get on to the roots – then rinse again.
  • Forget water altogether and use dry shampoo.

Tips for using dry shampoo

Dry shampoo can be an absolute lifesaver if you work out regularly, but you need to use it properly for best results.

  • Always, always shake dry shampoo for at least 30 seconds before you use it, to properly disperse the ingredients. This should help avoid the ‘caking’ for which dry shampoo is notorious.
  • Don’t wait until after your workout… spray your roots with dry shampoo before you start. This will help soak up moisture as you exercise.
  • If you need to use dry shampoo post-workout, don’t apply it while your hair is wet – it will look ‘cake-y’ and you’ll be forced to go for a full shampoo! Instead, dry your hair first with the ‘cool’ setting of your hairdryer, or allow it to dry naturally.

How to protect your hair from sweat during your workout

In addition to applying dry shampoo before you start, try these tips…

Try to keep your hair back.

There are various ways to accomplish this. A bandana can be useful, as it doesn’t stress the hair too much, as can a good sweat band made from a ‘moisture wicking’ fabric. Make sure your sweat band isn’t too tight, or you may put yourself at risk of traction alopecia. If you’re prone to traction alopecia, then simply leave the hair down and rinse off any sweat.

Some women like to tie their hair back in a ponytail, but I find that a ponytail needs to be quite tight to keep the hair secure. This puts the roots under stress. And if your fitness routine involves a lot of mat work, a ponytail at the back of your head can be pretty uncomfortable.

Instead, try dividing your hair into pigtails and securing them at the sides – I find they stay in better and distribute the tension, making them more comfortable and better for the hair.

Another option – if your hair is long enough – is to loosely braid the hair around the face.

If none of those options work for you, try securing the hair back with bobby pins. This allows you to hold the hair back in sections, thereby allowing a little more circulation to the scalp and reducing perspiration.

Keep a small towel to hand when you exercise.

Use it to dry off excess sweat as you go. 

And if you are exercising outdoors, remember to use a UV protector on your hair too.


Swimming brings its own unique challenges if you suffer from hair loss or damaged hair – so much so, that we have a separate article devoted to it!

Please see How to  Stop Hair Damage from Swimming


Exercise can be a great for relieving emotional stress – but some experts feel that exercising excessively – over a long period of time – can put the body into a state of chronic physiological stress. (Please note: Up to one hour of daily exercise up to 5 days per week is NOT considered to be excessive).

Extreme dieting can also contribute to the problem.

Please see this article which explains how stress can trigger hair loss.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutrition plays a big part in healthy hair growth – so it’s very important to ensure that our nutritional intake meets our needs if we are exercising on a regular basis.

The problem for many of us is that we exercise in order to lose weight, whilst simultaneously cutting calories. This may mean that we are cutting back on certain foods at a time when we are actually INCREASING the need for them, potentially leading to deficiencies.


Protein deficiency is not particularly common – but if you are cutting back on the calories AND doing a lot of exercise, it’s possible that you are not getting the protein your body needs.

Our hair is around 97% protein, so it’s crucial we monitor our intake in order to keep it strong and healthy.

Pure, natural protein is preferable to protein shakes – and an added bonus of consuming protein-rich foods is that they keep us feeling full for longer.

Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, lean meat, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils and eggs. (Nuts are good too, but not so good if you’re counting the calories!).


Of particular importance are our iron levels – as explained on this page, sufficient iron is essential for healthy hair growth.

Some doctors may dismiss the idea, but there is research to support the fact that a lot of exercise can lead to iron deficiency. And iron deficiency – as we know – can lead to hair loss.

This article – published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – states that iron deficiency tends to be higher in athletic populations. The article acknowledges that this could be due to dietary choices – women who do a lot of exercise are generally more likely to limit their food intake, thereby cutting back on the amount of iron-rich foods they consume.

But the article also refers to evidence that exercise can lead to ‘increased rates of red cell iron and whole-body iron turnover’. In other words, we use up our iron stores more quickly when we engage in regular physical activity.

And women following a vegetarian diet may have an even harder time maintaining healthy iron levels, since iron from meat is better absorbed by the body than iron from plant-based foods.

Your multivitamin may not be the answer…

This study also notes that the bioavailability of iron from multivitamins is not as high as from a standard iron supplement, which means that our multivitamin may not give us the amount of iron we need.

How to ensure your iron levels are adequate…

  • If you’re watching your calories, make sure that a good proportion of the foods you are consuming are good sources of iron. If you exercise only a modest amount,  this is relatively easy to accomplish. Studies have shown that consuming a single, meat-containing meal a day is enough to maintain ferritin levels for a fitness routine consisting of aerobic dance workouts .
    Click here for a list of other foods rich in iron (including non-meat options)
  •  Have your iron levels checked by your doctor – this requires a simple blood test. It is very important that you only take an iron supplement if advised to do so by your doctor. Too much iron can be dangerous (please click here for more information about iron overload).
  • Don’t assume that your multivitamin is meeting your body’s iron needs. Not only is the iron less well absorbed, multivitamins are often taken along with a meal – or a cup of tea/coffee – which can reduce absorption even further.


Zinc is known as an ‘essential’ element – essential because it is used by just about every cell in the human body!

Our bodies do not store zinc, so we need to keep up a regular, steady intake through our diets. But if we cut down on – or cut out – certain foods, then we might not be consuming all the zinc we need.

What’s more, research has shown that we LOSE zinc through excess sweating during exercise, which can compound the problem.

Visit this page to learn more about zinc, including the risk factors for zinc deficiency and how to make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet.

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Natural remedies

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We hope that you’ve found this information about exercise and hair loss helpful – if you have any questions or tips for protecting your hair during exercise, please let me know.

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Bamboo Leaf Tea for Hair Loss

Bamboo grows amazingly quickly – up to 35 inches per day – and with a Guinness World Record to prove it. It’s also extremely strong, whilst remaining flexible.

Wouldn’t it be great if our hair could behave like bamboo?

Well, that’s the basic premise behind consuming bamboo leaf tea, which is made from chopped, processed bamboo leaves and is caffeine free.

Bamboo leaf tea for hair loss

The secret is in the silica…

Bamboo is incredibly rich in silica, an element that’s also found – to a lesser degree – in horsetail (another popular hair loss remedy).  

Silica is believed to promote clear skin and to strengthen both hair and nails. It also plays an important part in bone formation and it is believed to help guard against osteoporosis.

As we age, the level of silica in our bodies drops, so it’s important that we get enough of it in our diets. There are certain foods that are particularly good sources, including cucumbers, barley, oats and brown rice.

But because the silica content of bamboo is higher than any other, bamboo leaf tea is growing in popularity as a silica source. And the idea is that drinking bamboo leaf tea will confer the same benefits on the hair that it does to the plant – i.e. it will grow faster and stronger.

Bamboo offers other health benefits too…

It is rich in anti-oxidants, potentially offering protection against heart disease and cancer, whilst research has shown that it also has the ability to lower lipid levels.

So can drinking bamboo leaf tea actually prevent hair loss?

There is no scientific proof that bamboo leaf tea can prevent hair loss or improve the condition of the hair. And I have been unable to find any research into how much silica is actually absorbed by our bodies from the tea – so the fact that the silica content is high doesn’t necessarily mean our bodies are receiving the maximum benefits from it.

It’s also important to remember that hair loss has many different causes, so it would be quite remarkable if any one remedy could ‘cure’ them all!

Nevertheless, there are many positive reviews of bamboo leaf tea from women who’ve found that – at the very least – it seems to strengthen their existing hair. Even that can be a significant bonus if your hair loss is excessive. Given the other benefits that silica provides – and considering that our levels drop as we age – drinking bamboo leaf tea may well be worth a try.

Does bamboo leaf tea cause any side effects?

Bamboo leaf tea appears to be safe to try, unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is NOT because it has been found to be unsafe – it’s simply because not enough research has been carried out to be sure whether or not it could cause any problems.

We also received a comment from a reader who had been told to avoid bamboo because of her thyroid issues. Whilst WebMD warns against bamboo supplements for those suffering from thyroid issues, it doesn’t specifically mention bamboo leaf tea. Nevertheless, the safest option is to discuss this with your doctor.

Putting bamboo leaf tea to the test…

As part of the research for this article I will be trying bamboo leaf tea and will update the article on a monthly basis to report back on any benefits. Fingers crossed!

Update – Month 1 (Sept 25 2017)

I’ve now been drinking one cup of bamboo leaf tea daily for exactly one month, using each tea bag 3 times, as described below.

Before I started the tea, I was losing hair fairly steadily, with the most noticeable loss occurring every time I washed my hair (once every 3 days). I didn’t notice any improvement until this week, when the loss was considerably less. And whilst it may only be wishful thinking, my existing hair seems a little stronger too.

Now, the amount of hair I lose tends to fluctuate anyway. So the reduction I noticed may only be temporary. But I’m really hoping it isn’t, because I’m finding the bamboo leaf tea quite pleasant in taste and an easy remedy to try.

I’ll update this article again at the same time next month, by which time it should be clearer if the tea really is helping halt my hair loss, or if the improvement I’ve seen so far is just a coincidence!

Update – Month 2 (Nov 1 2017)

A few days late with October’s update… however, the news seems to be a mixture of good and bad!

The bad first: I have had quite a lot of breakage this month.

That being said, I blow-dried my hair twice in one week, which is I know more than it can take. (I had two social events and really wanted it to look nice – having such fragile hair can be so tough to deal with sometimes!).

The breakage itself was at least halfway along the length of each hair. To be fair, I believe it would take longer than 2 months for the overall strength of my hair to have been drastically improved. I feel (hope) that only the newest hair growth could possibly have benefited! So… I am not giving up on the tea’s ability to strengthen my hair just yet!

Now for the good news: The reduction in hair loss has continued – in fact, I can tentatively say that the shedding has slowed almost to a halt! What’s more, I am seeing some regrowth all along my hairline – the region from which I’ve steadily been losing hair for months. 

Is the bamboo leaf tea to thank for this improvement? I can’t say for sure – but to try to keep this trial as effective as possible, I haven’t changed anything else about my hair care routine, diet etc. So I am cautiously hopeful that I may have found something that actually helps. 

I will report back and let you know how things go in November.

Update – Month 3 (Dec 1 2017)

Well, things this month are much the same as last month!

I am still dealing with last month’s breakage, which – fortunately – doesn’t seem to have got any worse.

But I’m happy to report that the reduction in shedding has continued! I can safely say at this point that the amount of hair I’m losing per day is normal and NOT excessive. I do so hope this is due to the bamboo tea, which I’m quite happy to drink on a daily basis.

The fine regrowth along my hairline continues – only time will tell if this hair will grow back strongly, although I suspect it may always be somewhat fragile and weak.

I will be back next month with my fourth update – fingers crossed for more positive news!

Update – Month 4 (Jan 8 2018)

Despite being busy over Christmas and New Year (hence the late report – sorry!) I managed to keep up my daily tea regimen. 

Things don’t seem to be looking quite so good this month. I’ve suffered extensive breakage, with no obvious cause. After several months of consuming the tea on a daily basis, I had hoped that the silica might have worked its magic and made my hair more resistant to breakage. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. And whilst the regrowth of fine hair on my hair line has remained in place, it doesn’t seem to have grown much at all.

On a positive note, I am still not shedding, and I can safely say that this is the longest I have gone without losing an excessive amount of hair from the root each day. I am grateful not to be losing any more hair, but disappointed that any regrowth appears to have stalled. 

Where to buy bamboo leaf tea

I have found good quality, organic bamboo leaf tea quite hard to locate here in the UK and have decided to order mine online from bambooleaftea.net in Florida. This company takes care to separate the bamboo leaf from the stem before processing, acknowledging that the nutritional profile and processing time of the stem differs from the leaf. Bamboo stem tea is thus sold separately.

Bamboo leaf tea – which is sold either as loose leaves or tea bags – is also available online at Amazon.

How to make bamboo leaf tea

You make it much like any other tea, by steeping a teaspoon of the tea (or a teabag) in a cup of water.

The tea leaves or teabag can be re-used up to 3 times – you simply boil the leaves/bag for a few minutes the second time, then for at least 10 minutes the final time. This isn’t just a thrifty practice – it ensures you’ve unlocked all the nutrients from the leaves.

There’s no official ‘dose’ but aim to drink at least a cup of day to help you gauge any positive effects!

A nicer taste than most herbal teas!

I’m not a fan of herbal teas – green tea being at the bottom of my list! – but bamboo leaf tea is actually quite pleasant!

It has a slightly sweet, vaguely earthy flavour and can be enjoyed hot or cold. If you don’t find the taste particularly appealing, you can add a little honey or lemon to make it more palatable.

Over to you…

If you’ve tried bamboo leaf tea, please do share your results – good or bad. Please use this form to contact me  – I look forward to hearing from you.

And to follow this page for updates about my results with bamboo leaf tea, please either subscribe to my newsletter, or follow Hair Sentinel on Facebook!

Readers’ Comments

*I couldn’t stomach the taste of the bamboo tea, so I order bamboo supplements (Swanson Superior Herbs Bamboo Extract 300 mg).   I take one a day.  It is recommended to take bamboo extract standardized to 70% organic silica. I looked at many brands and found that Swanson was the most affordable, especially when ordered directly from Swanson Vitamins. I have ordered it from Amazon, but it’s more expensive. 

My bottle has 60 veggie caps/300 mg. 

After about a month or so, I noticed a difference in the strength of my hair and nails.  I also noticed less hair fall out.  I’ve been taking the supplement now for roughly six months.  However, I recently had some incredibly stressful situations occur (both physically and emotionally) and now I’m back to the condition my hair was at before I started the supplement.  I know that stress will cause hair to fall out and some breakage to occur.  I’m going to continue taking the supplement while I recover, hoping that it will bring me back to the place I was before the stress occurred. 

From Janine, US

*Note from editor: The bamboo tea Janine tried was a different brand to the one mentioned in this article.

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Mercury Amalgam Fillings and Hair Loss

The possible connection between mercury amalgam fillings and hair loss is one of the most hotly debated topics I’ve researched! 

In fact, hair loss is just one of a slew of health problems attributed, campaigners say, to the use of mercury in dentistry.

Mercury amalgam fillings and hair loss

Yet the mainstream dental profession – and the FDA – strongly refutes the idea that mercury amalgam fillings are in any way harmful to human health.

So who to believe?

Should you be concerned if your existing fillings contain mercury? Should you try to avoid mercury amalgam fillings in future?

This article looks at why some experts warn against the use of dental amalgam – and what to do if you believe your fillings may be affecting your health.

Please note: This information should not be seen as medical advice. You should speak to a qualified dental practitioner about any concerns you may have regarding mercury fillings.

Why are some experts concerned about the use of mercury in fillings?

In short, because mercury is a highly toxic element, with mercury poisoning the second most common cause of toxic metal poisoning.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • headache
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • burning sensation in the extremities (known as peripheral neuropathy)
  • sweating
  • elevated heart rate
  • increased sweating
  • skin discoloration (pink fingertips and toes, pink cheeks)
  • rashes
  • increased production of saliva
  • poor co-ordination
  • twitching 
  • hair loss
  • high blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • muscle weakness
  • sensitivity to light
  • memory problems

Mercury poisoning may also lead to zinc deficiency – another contributing factor for hair loss.

There are 3 forms of mercury – elemental, organic and inorganic – and various ways we can be exposed to them, including via:

  • certain fish – particularly swordfish and tuna
  • fresh produce and seeds treated with mercurial fungicides
  • certain medications and vaccinations
  • mercury amalgam fillings
  • occupational exposure (through, for example, adhesives, fabric softeners, disinfectants, batteries and chemicals used in the control of algae)

So if there’s a risk, why is mercury used at all?

Mercury is a popular filling material with dentists because it is both cheap and pliable. The pliability enables the dentist to mix it and then press it into the tooth, where it hardens quickly and has the strength to withstand biting and chewing.

The problem, however, is that these fillings may not be as robust as previously believed, with some sources suggesting that small amounts of mercury vapor can be released into the body as the filling wears.

Small as these amounts may be, some experts fear that they can be harmful because of the extended period of time the body is exposed to them.

How does the dental profession view this risk?

The dental profession is somewhat divided on this issue.

Currently, both the American and British Dental Associations state that mercury fillings are safe. Indeed the British Dental Association (BDA) and the Council of European Dentists have been actively lobbying against a full ban on dental amalgam.

Nevertheless, new EU guidelines state that its use should be restricted – not, the BDA says, because it is harmful to human health, but because its disposal is harmful to the environment.

This may be so – after all, the metallic mercury used by dentists is treated as a hazardous material, both for shipping and disposal purposes.

But the stipulation in the guidelines agreed on March 14th 2017  state that there should be 

No use of amalgam in the treatment of deciduous teeth, children under 15 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women, except when strictly deemed necessary by the practitioner on the ground of specific medical needs of the patient (from 1 July 2018)

This surely indicates a clear sense of doubt as to its absolute safety (although, yet again, the BDA refutes this).

Furthermore, there has been a rise in the number of mercury-free dentists, who are firmly convinced that it poses a danger to human health and are actively working to provide an alternative.

A 2011 article published in the UK’s Guardian included comments from Marie Grosman, scientific adviser for the Non au Mercure Dentaire organisation, who stated:

We should pay attention to the materials dentists are using in our mouths. Toxicity tests are needed to guarantee that they are innocuous and compatible with our bodies. That would rule out mercury immediately, which has several proven toxic effects.

The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) – a not-for-profit organisation and accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP’s) Global Mercury Partnership – works to inform consumers about the risks of amalgam mercury and ways in which those risks can be eliminated.

Their (inarguably logical!) goal is “to always seek the safest, least toxic way to accomplish the goals of modern dentistry and contemporary healthcare”. In a world where health care provision is sometimes more strongly motivated by financial considerations, some may find this a refreshing philosophy.

You can read more about their work here (external link). 

So should I have my mercury fillings replaced?

As opposed to the use of mercury amalgam as they are, even mercury-free dentists do not always recommend the removal of existing fillings. This is because drilling and other techniques used in removal can cause a lot of mercury to be released very quickly. This can then be inhaled by both you AND the dental staff treating you.

Other dentists recommend removal only if the fillings are worn or damaged (in which case they are more likely to be releasing mercury into the body), or if there is decay under the filling. 

The IAOMT, however, has developed safety recommendations for the removal of fillings – the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART). This is designed to minimize any risk.

You can read the SMART recommendations here and the IAOMT actually recommends that you do so, in order to ensure your own dentist follows the corrects procedures if you go ahead with removal.

There are currently a small number of SMART certified dentists listed here. 

NOTE: The IAOMT does not recommend that you have mercury fillings removed if you are pregnant.

Are there any alternatives to mercury amalgam fillings?

Yes. There are new dental amalgams that contain both iridium and mercury – the iridium helps prevent the mercury from being released into the body.

There are also amalgams made of a mixture of copper and mercury, with the mercury making up the smaller proportion of the mixture.

Mercury-free – but somewhat less strong than amalgam – is composite resin. Composite resin fillings take longer to prepare and require extreme care by the dentist, so you would need to spend more time in the treatment chair.

The other problem is that some composites contain Bisphenol-A (BPA). 

BPA carries its own set of health risks – indeed, its use is banned in the manufacture of baby bottles. And some cancer charities are asking that its use in food packaging is banned too. 

If you choose a composite resin filling as opposed to mercury amalgam, be sure to check that it’s BPA free.

To sum up…

When you’re suffering from hair loss and looking for answers, any potential causes are worth consideration and investigation.

The concept that hair loss may be triggered by mercury poisoning from fillings is not  proven – but there seems to be enough doubt within the dental profession to take the possibility seriously.

If you have worn or broken mercury amalgam fillings – or simply feel that you would like to have these fillings removed – then you may wish to speak to a mercury-free dentist for advice.

And should you require any NEW fillings, then you may wish to request a mercury-free (and BPA-free) alternative.

Sources and for more information

Mercury Toxicity and Antioxidants:
Part I: Role of Glutathione and alpha-Lipoic
Acid in the Treatment of Mercury Toxicity

The Dental Amalgam Toxicity Fear: A Myth or Actuality (an article supporting the use of mercury)

Mercury Fact Sheet from IAOMT

Over to you…

Do you have any comments or opinions about the connection between hair loss and mercury fillings? Have you had fillings removed, or looked for an alternative to amalgam?

Please do use the form below to share your thoughts.

Mercury Amalgam Fillings

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Zinc and Hair Loss – Why This Mineral Matters When it Comes to Healthy Hair

Have you ever considered your zinc levels when trying to identify the cause of your hair loss?

Few of us have – yet zinc is an incredibly important nutrient for your overall health, and particularly for the health of your hair.

On this page, I’ll look at why zinc is so crucial, how to tell if your levels are low, and how to ensure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet.

NOTE: this information should not be seen as medical advice. Please speak to your doctor if you are experiencing hair loss and before taking any supplements.

Zinc and hair loss

Zinc is an essential ‘trace element’ or micronutrient, meaning it is indispenable for human life.

We obtain zinc through food and require a regular, steady intake. This is because our bodies do not store it.

That being said, too MUCH zinc can be as harmful as not enough, so it’s very important to speak to your doctor before trying to boost your zinc level with supplements.

Zinc plays a critical role in every cell in the human body

It helps heal wounds and reduces inflammation.

It’s needed to make protein and is necessary for growth and development.

It supports the immune system and is needed to maintain our senses of taste and smell.

It appears to reduce the severity of colds and helps us get rid of them more quickly, although scientists are still not sure quite why this is!

And – of particular interest to those of us affected by hair loss – it is essential for healthy hair growth.

There are many symptoms of zinc deficiency

These may include…

  • Tiredness
  • Slow wound healing
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormalities in taste and smell
  • Skin problems, such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss and breakage

Some people are at an increased risk of zinc deficiency…

There are a number of causes of zinc deficiency.

The main one is simply not consuming enough zinc in your diet.

But there are other factors that can make zinc deficiency more likely, either by making the absorption of zinc difficult, or by causing too much zinc to be expelled by the body. This, then, creates the need for a higher zinc intake than usual.

Risk factors include:

  • Pregnancy, due to your developing baby’s zinc requirements
  • Breastfeeding, which can deplete your supply
  • Gastrointestinal surgery
  • Malabsorption syndrome, where your body struggles to absorb certain nutrients
  • Digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease
  • Medical conditions including cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, HIV, liver disease and chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Alcoholism, because a lot of zinc is lost through increased urination, whilst the ethanol in alcohol stops dietary zinc from being properly absorbed
  • Taking diuretics
  • Low calorie diets
  • Excessive exercise, which increases the body’s nutrient requirements and causes zinc to be lost through sweat.

Older people are more likely to be zinc deficient, with research showing that 35-45% of adults over the age of 60 have zinc intakes below the estimated average requirements.

How is zinc deficiency diagnosed?

A true zinc deficiency can only be identified by your doctor, although
diagnosis isn’t always straight-forward. This is because zinc is
distributed throughout the body in tiny amounts, making it hard to

Doctors often use a blood plasma test to look for a deficiency,
although research has shown that the concentration of zinc in the hair
is a more reliable indicator. This means that a blood test could show
your levels are adequate, whilst a subclinical (hard to detect)
deficiency may be present. For this reason, doctors often look at ‘the big
picture’ when diagnosing zinc deficiency and will take your risk factors
into account too.

Experts suggest that anywhere from 150 to 240 mcg/g of hair is normal. If your level is less than 70 mcg/g, then you would be considered deficient.

DIY tests for zinc deficiency

Whilst not 100% reliable, there is actually a test you can use at home to see if you are deficient in zinc. It’s known as the ‘Zinc Taste Test’, ‘Zinc Assay Test’, ‘Zinc Challenge’ or ‘Zinc Tally’.

It involves taking a spoonful of a liquid zinc supplement such as Liquid Zinc Assay (Amazon) and assessing how that spoonful tastes to you.

  • If the liquid seems virtually tasteless, like water, then your zinc status is low.
  • If you can’t taste anything at first, but then start to notice a sweet, mineral or stale flavour, then your zinc levels are higher, but not as high as they should be.
  • If you immediately notice a mildly unpleasant flavor that grows stronger with time, then you may only be mildly deficient in zinc.
  • If you immediately notice a very strong flavor and feel as if you need to spit the liquid out, then your zinc levels should be adequate and you do not need a supplement.

This is a popular test because it’s so cheap and easy to administer at home, but experts warn that other factors – besides zinc deficiency – can influence the way we perceive the flavor of the liquid. So it’s still a good idea to speak to your doctor to arrange for formal diagnostic testing.

Why zinc deficiency can have such a big impact on the hair

Zinc is a key element in the hair growth cycle and is needed by the follicles to produce new shafts. If you don’t have enough zinc, you may experience telogen effluvium, where you shed hair from all over the scalp.

Zinc deficiency can also cause your hair to be brittle, dry, fragile and prone to breakage. It may even lead to loss of pigment. These changes can affect the eyelashes and eyebrows too.

But there are many other ways in which a deficiency of zinc can affect your hair, since zinc influences so many functions throughout the body.

Alopecia areata

Whilst zinc deficiency may not be the cause of alopecia areata, researchers have found that sufferers find their symptoms get worse when their zinc levels are low.

A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology concluded:

Lower serum zinc level existed in patients with (alopecia areata) and correlated inversely with disease duration, severity of (alopecia areata), and its resistance to therapies. Therefore, assessment of serum zinc level in patients with (alopecia areata) appears useful as a marker of severity, disease duration, and resistance to therapies. Accordingly, zinc supplements may provide a therapeutic benefit.


Zinc affects the hormones, too, and is needed to make the thyroid hormones. So a deficiency in zinc can lead to hypothyroidism, a very common cause of hair loss.

In an unfortunate vicious circle, thyroid hormones are needed by the body to help with the absorption of zinc, so hypothyroidism itself can lead to zinc deficiency!

The importance of zinc in treating hypothyroidism-related hair loss is highlighted by this research, published in the International Journal of Trichology (India). In the study, a patient with thyroid problems was treated with thyroid hormone supplements.

Interestingly, her hair loss continued until zinc supplements were also administered.

The report describes how the thyroid function in 9 patients with low zinc levels was improved when zinc supplements were given, and concludes:

An evaluation for features of zinc deficiency, which is often under-recognized, is warranted in all cases of hypothyroidism.


Zinc plays a part in how our bodies process iron, so zinc deficiency can
lead to iron deficiency anemia (Source: Serum zinc levels in patients with iron deficiency anemia).

Iron is another nutrient critical to
hair growth and too little iron can lead to hair loss.

If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia then it’s important to discuss your zinc levels with your doctor to establish if a zinc supplement may be necessary.

| RELATED: Iron and Hair Loss


Hair loss is a common symptom of PCOS.

Researchers have looked at the benefits of zinc supplements for PCOS sufferers and found that their hair loss decreased after 8 weeks of supplementation. (So, too, had their hirsutism – hair growth in places it wasn’t wanted!).

If you suffer from PCOS, then you may wish to speak to your doctor to see if zinc supplements would benefit you.

Learn more about PCOS and how it affects your hair

Female pattern hair loss

Interesting research published in the 2013 issue of the Annals of Dermatology looked at the amount of zinc in the blood serum of 4 types of hair loss patients, including a group affected by female pattern hair loss.

Whilst those with the lowest zinc levels were patients with alopecia areata and telogen effluvium, women with female pattern hair loss were also found to have lower levels of zinc than those in the control group.

Learn more about coping with female pattern hair loss

So how can I improve my zinc levels?

Researchers certainly seems to have established the importance of zinc in healthy hair growth – but how do we go about improving our zinc status?

It can be tempting to focus on eating as many zinc-rich foods as possible whilst simultaneously loading up on zinc supplements.

This, however, is NOT a good idea.

Too MUCH zinc can be harmful… and it can lead to even MORE hair loss!

The National Institutes of Health recommends an upper limit of 40mg a day for adults.

Consuming too much zinc can cause:

  • a reduction in the amount of copper we absorb, leading to copper deficiency. This can cause anemia and other health problems.
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • lack of appetite
  • headaches
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain

I have heard from visitors to this website who have ‘overdosed’ on zinc. They described feeling very sick and experiencing a strong metallic aftertaste.

Zinc supplements can also interfere with certain medications, so it’s VERY important you don’t take them without talking to your doctor first.

Are you getting enough zinc from your diet?

Our bodies are designed to thrive on wholesome, natural foods, so it’s always a good idea to address nutritional deficiencies through the diet before reaching for supplements (unless your doctor suggests otherwise!).

A normal diet SHOULD provide all the zinc we need.

The problem, however, is that fad diets and counting calories can leave us consuming less zinc than necessary.

What’s more, the way in which certain foods interact with each other plays a part in how we absorb their nutrients.

So if you’re concerned that low zinc levels may be contributing to your hair loss, it’s worth taking a good look at exactly what you are eating.

Foods naturally high in zinc include:

  • oysters (the very best source)
  • crab
  • lobster
  • poultry
  • red meat
  • beans
  • nuts (especially pine nuts)
  • whole grains
  • eggs
  • seeds
  • fish oil
  • flaxseeds
  • wheat germ
  • dark chocolate
  • zinc fortified foods (including dairy and cereals)

In addition to consuming a variety of zinc-rich foods, you need to make sure you are absorbing enough zinc from them.

Some foods contain antioxidant compounds called phytates. Phytates bind with zinc – and other minerals your body needs – and stop you from absorbing them properly.

Phytates are found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and cereals.

Thus, the ‘bioavailabiltiy’ of zinc – the amount available for our bodies to use – is lower in plant-based foods than in animal foods.

In order to continue consuming these healthy foods without affecting your zinc absorption, it’s a good idea to soak them before use. In addition to reducing the binding effect of the phytates and therefore ‘unlocking’ the nutrients, soaking these foods improves their digestibility in general..

How to soak foods to release their zinc

TIP: If you need more zinc, always choose bread over crackers. Leavening helps break down the phytates, so you will absorb more zinc from leavened products than unleavened!

Simply place the nuts, legumes etc into a bowl of cold water and leave them to soak for a few hours, or preferably overnight.

Ideally, you should then drain them and leave them to sit until ‘sprouts’ begin to form – this may happen within as little as 24 hours. Be sure to rinse/drain them every 12 hours or so in the meantime.

The foods are then ready to be consumed or cooked, giving you the maximum benefits from them.

| RELATED: Soaking and Sprouting Beans, Nuts, Seeds, and Grains (external link)

Soaking and sprouting phytate-containing foods is particularly important if you are vegetarian, or eat little meat.

Vegetarians need up to 50% more zinc in their diets than meat-eaters in order to absorb enough to meet their needs.

More protein=more zinc absorption (usually!)

There’s a direct relationship between your protein intake and zinc, with dietary protein helping you absorb zinc more efficiently. Animal protein is the most effective, so it’s a good idea to eat zinc-rich foods – or take a zinc supplement – with a meal containing meat (if your diet allows, of course).

Although milk is a high protein ‘food’, it actually hinders zinc uptake. This is because the casein in milk binds with the zinc, making it hard to absorb. It’s best to avoid consuming milk at the same time as a zinc supplement or zinc-rich meal.

Other supplements may affect your zinc absorption

Whilst consuming iron-fortified foods seems to have no significant effect on zinc absorption, the use of iron supplements may cause you to absorb less than you need.

Calcium, too, is believed by some experts to block absorption, although research into this has produced mixed results.

This underlines the importance of discussing the use of supplements with your doctor in order to avoid these negative interactions.

Can zinc be applied directly to the scalp to prompt hair growth?

Unfortunately, no one seems to have had much success with applying zinc topically (to the skin).

There seem to be reports online of various potions containing zinc that people have created (and sometimes marketed) to combat hair loss. However, I have found no reports of any of them actually working for an extended period of time.

If you want to try topical zinc, the best option may be to use a zinc shampoo. These are normally used to control dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

Researchers comparing a 1% zinc pyrithione shampoo to the established hair loss treatment minoxidil studied a group of men, who used the shampoo daily.

A ‘significant net increase in total hair counts’ was noted for those using the shampoo. This improvement was recorded as having lasted the entire 26 week duration of the study.

Whilst this may sound promising, the report also noted that only those carrying out the study could see the improvements in the hair – the patients themselves could not.

Nevertheless, there is no harm in trying one of these shampoos – at the very least, they tend to improve scalp health, which is always an important consideration when you’re battling hair loss.

To summarize…

Zinc is – without a doubt – critical to healthy hair growth.

The best way to obtain zinc – aside from supplementation recommended by your doctor – is through a healthy diet, taking the steps described in this article to absorb as much zinc from food as possible.

Zinc supplements should ONLY be used on your doctor’s advice – and the only way to be sure you have a deficiency is to see your doctor or trichologist (who will then refer you to a doctor if necessary).


National Institutes of Health


Dietary Factors Influencing Zinc Absorption

Mayo Clinic

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Taking care of your hair

Hair issues are one of the inescapable issues to every last person. It is incredibly natural; it has dependably been the real pricking thought among each and everybody, particularly the adolescents and youths. These issues incorporate dandruff, hair fall and so on. Various reasons cause these issues. These issues have been all the more stressing because hair shapes a piece of clothing and essential for gorgeous. Here is a portion of the means to deal with your hair and keep them from hair issues.


Drink Adequate Water

Water is a basic support for hair to develop and remain solid. In this way, it is essential to drink water that is required to meet your natural prerequisites routinely. Around 2 liters of water for every day is required for a human body.


Keep off Synthetic Hair 


It is imperative to comprehend that your hair is not something like earth to shading and reshape it as your desire. Certain chemicals that are available in engineered hair Color and other styling gels decimate your hair and causes hair fall. In this way, it’s ideal to maintain a strategic distance from hair styling.


Always be happy And have enough Sleep

Strains and stress additionally cause hair issues like hair fall and dandruff. In this way, it is critical to oversee worry by honing contemplations, yoga, and different activities. It is similarly essential to have an adequate rest since restlessness like this causes push.


Avoid Pollution 

The condition is brimming with unsafe gasses. It is ideal to keep ourselves route from contamination. In today’s method for living, it’s incomprehensible. Along these lines, cover your hair utilizing any material to maintain a strategic distance from any introduction to contamination.


Have A Balanced Diet

Hair needs certain vitamins for its sustenance. Along these lines, see that you a take an adjusted eating routine that satisfies all your natural necessities. Abstain from eating garbage nourishments excessively.


Legitimate Hair Cleaning

A most extreme care must be taken to clean our hair. See that you utilize those shampoos that suit your hair and maintain a strategic distance from those shampoos and different conditioners that are allergenic. Additionally, utilize shampoos and water in adequate amounts. Utilize clean towels and brushes. Wash them in boiling water.


Legitimate HAIR Coloring 

From adolescents to old matured individuals, shade misfortune in hair has turned out to be extremely normal, and it gives an old matured look to youths too. Along these lines, hair shading is unavoidable for somebody. Henceforth, it is essential to pick those shading items that doesn’t contain unfavorably susceptible chemicals.


Treating Hair By Methods Of “Ayurveda.” 

Ayurveda is a decent approach for the treatment of a few hair issues without symptoms. This strategy doesn’t require medicinal supervision. The treatment will be through actually happening materials like aloe vera, bhringaaraj, jatamansi, neem leaves, coriander leaves and so forth. Certainly, recommended arrangements must be set up by taking after appropriate stoichiometry and connected in fundamental measurement. Utilizing shikakai and soapnuts, rather than standard cleanser is additionally an ayurvedic rehearse.


Counseling A Dermatologist Or Trichologist

If there should be an occurrence of hair misfortunes because of extreme medical issues or genetic, it’s ideal to counsel a dermatologist or a trichologist for quick medicine through Allopathy. Additionally, if there should arise an occurrence of hair trouble because of radiotherapy medications, allopathy is the best treatment. This solution will be through pills, shampoos, and moisturizers that contain biocompatible chemicals.

It is based upon the sort and seriousness of the issue; the arrangement must be picked. Some of these measures can’t be performed unless a unique hour from our everyday life is dispensed for it. It aids in dealing with them as well as in ensuring them.

Finally, if your scalp is irritated, dry, and flaky, it could be because you aren’t flushing the greater part of the cleanser out. Or, on the other hand, it could be on account of dandruff. It’s truly recognizable in case you’re wearing dull Color. You can utilize an excellent cleanser that your folks can purchase at the store. There are many to browse. Talk with your specialist or a skin specialist (dermatologist) to help you settle on the best cleanser for you.