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 certain 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 risk for hair loss while on the keto diet, along with other tips to promote healthy hair growth.
Typically, your body uses carbohydrates from the food you eat for energy. But if you follow a low carb, high fat keto diet, you can go into a state of ketosis. When this happens, your body starts using fat, instead of carbohydrates, for fuel.
Several aspects of ketosis can trigger hair loss and a change in the health of your hair. Two of the most common reasons include:
- Fewer nutrients. By limiting your intake of carbohydrates, including some higher carb fruits and vegetables, you may be reducing the variety of nutrients your body typically needs for healthy hair. This could cause you to lose more hair than normal, or for your hair growth to slow down.
- Your body’s response to cutting calories. When you reduce your calorie intake, your body responds by making sure the energy that’s available goes to the most important functions first. This includes things like cell growth and the functioning of your heart, lungs, and other organs. This means there may be less energy for hair growth.
As with any function in your body, you need key 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 key nutrients may be less abundant if you’re following a keto diet and trying to stay in a state of ketosis.
To protect the health of your hair, 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 B vitamin long associated with hair growth, biotin is available in a wide range of foods. However, many foods rich in biotin, 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.
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 the most widely known sources of vitamin C, the following foods are also excellent sources and easy to include in a keto eating plan:
- 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).
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for hair growth, as well as for healthy skin, vision, and a strong 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. Too much of it can 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.
We get vitamin D from the food we eat. Our bodies also make it from the sunlight that reaches our skin. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and numerous 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 sees very little sunlight, your intake should be closer to
Vitamin E is another antioxidant, like vitamin C, that promotes the healthy growth of cells and hair.
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.
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 as well as more serious complications, like loss of muscle mass and an impaired immune system.
If you don’t want to consume animal based protein, try to include a good 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 butters
- chia seeds
- vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts
- green peas
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 for iron is 18 mg per day.
In addition to making sure 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.
When you change your diet, it can affect the balance of good bacteria that live 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 least temporarily, while your body is adjusting to your new diet, try to limit coloring, straightening, curling, or relaxing treatments.
Also try to avoid pulling your hair back into tight braids or ponytails. This could pull on your hair, loosening it at the root, and cause more hair loss.
Use coconut oil
A 2018 review of studies found that coconut oil may be useful in preventing hair damage due to protein loss. Due to its
To help nourish and protect your hair, try the following:
- Massage coconut oil into your scalp to promote blood flow and hair growth.
- Use a coconut oil hair mask to protect your hair from breakage and dryness.
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.
If you’re on the keto diet and still experiencing hair loss after making dietary adjustments and taking other hair loss prevention steps, be sure to follow up with your doctor.
It’s also important to talk with your doctor before starting a keto diet to make sure it’s safe for you. This is especially important if you have:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- any other chronic health condition
Maintaining a state of ketosis may require you to make some fairly drastic changes to your diet.
Switching to the low carb, high fat diet may reduce your intake of some of the key 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, and iron, as well as vitamins A, C, D, and E.
If you still have hair loss after taking steps to improve your hair health, be sure to follow up with your doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying health condition.