This is the link between iron deficiency and hair loss

Addressing iron deficiency anaemia sooner could save you from longer-term harm.
Written by
Sophie Overett
Reviewed by
Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
Exploring the Link Between Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss | Kin Fertility
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While we all know shedding hair is a natural daily phenomenon, the question of how much hair loss is normal can be a sticky one.

No one likes to see ribbon-thick sets of strands on their hairbrush or circling their shower drain, but a degree of that — particularly during or after illness — isn't uncommon.

It means broaching the topic can be challenging, but it's one that can and should be talked about. After all, understanding the reasons for hair loss is important, particularly as it can be an indicator of an underlying condition.

Androgenetic alopecia, hormonal changes, stress and even certain hairstyles can all cause unnatural hair loss, and increasingly, studies are finding there's a link between your body's iron levels and losing hair.

Iron deficiency anaemia can have long-term health ramifications, and if your hair loss is a result of that, addressing it could save you from longer-term harm.

What is iron deficiency?

As the name implies, an iron deficiency is just that — a nutritional deficit. In other words, your body is not getting enough iron.

Iron is a crucial mineral in the body, being responsible for the transportation of oxygen in the blood, and the storage of it in organs like the liver and spleen, and in your bone marrow and skeletal muscle [1][2].

Iron carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, giving you energy, and supporting your muscles, your brain and your immune system [1].

What causes iron deficiency?

While there are many things our bodies can do, they can't produce iron. As a result, iron has to be consumed and it has to be stored, and if you don't eat or store as much iron as you use, the result is an iron deficiency [3].

In this sense, there are 3 main causes of low iron levels:

  1. Not eating enough iron-rich foods such as red meat, leafy green vegetables and dried fruit
  2. Having an underlying condition such as Coeliac or Crohn's disease, which makes it difficult to absorb iron properly; and
  3. Loss of blood through menstruation, childbirth, ulcers, surgery, or gut conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and hookworms [3].

Symptoms of iron deficiency

Luckily, there are a lot of symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, meaning there are lots of indicators that can help you to identify this nutritional deficiency.

In particular, symptoms of low iron can include:

  • Fatigue and feeling tired
  • Difficulties with breathing or breathlessness
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Getting infections
  • Difficulties with cardio exercise
  • Decreased libido
  • Hair loss [3].

Does iron deficiency lead to hair loss?

Some studies certainly suggest it.

Hair grows fast, and as a result, it needs a lot of energy and blood to function, meaning it requires a lot of micronutrients too [4].

Since the 1960s, it's been understood that iron is the main nutrient that hair needs to flourish, and as a result, iron deficiencies can and do have an impact on how and where hair grows.

The exact ways an iron deficiency can impact hair loss and hair growth though is still uncertain, but recent studies have shown significant evidence that, particularly for women, lower iron levels can cause some patterned hair loss [5].

What does iron-deficient hair loss look like?

Iron deficiency hair loss ultimately looks like female pattern hair loss, or, in extreme cases, female pattern baldness.

It starts as a thinning of hair either at the hairline, at the crown or at the temples, and generally recedes from there [6].

As a result, you might start to notice some hair falling out in the shower or when you brush it, or patches of thinning hair. For women, this can be especially confronting, and the question of does iron deficiency cause hair loss is one that carries a lot of weight.

Will the hair loss from low iron levels grow back?

With the right iron intake, it can!

Iron plays a crucial role in your body across the board, getting oxygen to where your body needs it and as a result, giving your muscles and organs what they need to get active [1].

Addressing your iron deficiency with an increase in dietary iron (in other words, upping those leafy greens in your diet), or with the right iron supplements, you can see yourself regrow hair that you might've thought was lost forever.

What is the ideal iron level for hair growth?

Iron deficiency anaemia is diagnosed with a blood test that involves checking your complete blood count, your haemoglobin levels, blood iron levels, and ferritin levels.

This ferritin test is crucial as ferritin is the iron your body stores to use in your liver, spleen and bone marrow [2]. Put simply, it's what your body's got in the pantry.

Low ferritin is like having an empty shelf, and as a result, indicates you have less iron which can be a cause of iron deficiency hair loss. Encouraging hair regrowth is a matter of getting those iron stores replenished.

The exact levels that are ideal for your body (and for your hair follicles!) depend on your gender, health history and any underlying conditions, which is why it's important to talk to a medical professional to treat hair loss.

Getting your iron levels back to what's right for you though can stimulate hair growth and hair health, but too much iron can have health implications as well. As a result, monitoring your levels is really important.

Do iron supplements help boost your hair growth?

They can! Iron deficiency hair loss is rarely permanent hair loss, and iron supplements will slowly help to bolster your iron stores and give your body what it needs to operate at its best.

Addressing your iron deficiency by taking iron supplements can help you to see a level of hair regrowth, life and energy.

Kin's daily Iron Support supplement is designed to relieve fatigue from inadequate iron intake and low iron levels in pregnancy.

Iron is an essential mineral for growth, yet 1 in 2 women experience iron deficiency in pregnancy.

Designed to support you during conception, pregnancy, postpartum or just daily, the Iron Support relieves tiredness, supports a baby's development, sustains healthy iron levels and maintains energy production.

How long do iron tablets take to stop hair loss?

Iron supplements take time to work, often taking several months and sometimes even longer [3]. Taking iron supplements is a process of replenishment, and to get those low iron stores back to where they should be requires patience and persistence.

It's that patience and persistence though that will reap rewards, kicking your iron deficiency to the curb and helping you combat your hair loss.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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