Okay, so you’re on the keto diet and losing some serious weight—but you’re also noticing a little more hair in the shower drain…and in your hair brush…and all over your clothes. What gives? Is keto to blame?
Unfortunately, maybe. The Instagram hashtag #ketohairloss is full of horror stories (and before-and-after pics) of people who started shedding pounds and hair on the diet. Here’s the real deal on keto diet hair loss—straight from the experts’ mouths.
Tell me the truth: Is my hair going to fall out on keto?!
Hair loss on keto is definitely possible, but it’s not so black-and-white. According to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet, there are two main reasons for hair loss that could be associated with the diet: rapid weight loss and lack of protein.
Because keto tends to swap carbs for high amounts of fat (and moderate amounts of protein), it would be unusual for a dieter to not be getting enough protein in their daily intake. But it could happen—and New York City dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, agrees that the deficiency could be the source of your hair loss woes.
Without adequate protein, “the skin will not have the necessary building blocks for healthy hair growth,” he explains. But again, not getting enough protein on the diet is rare—and severe calorie restriction may be the bigger reason for hair loss, says Palinski-Wade.
“Severe calorie restriction can cause the body to conserve energy and spend less energy on hair growth,” she says, “which can result in shedding of hair and slowed or halted new hair growth.”
Another possible reason for keto-related shedding? The diet’s stress on the body. Zeichner says that while actual evidence linking keto to thinning hair is sparse, some people theorize that the strain placed on the body while it’s in a state of ketosis—simply because using fat for energy is far different from using carbs as energy—can limit its ability to allow hair to grow optimally.
Well, I’m on keto and I’m pretty sure my hair is thinning. What should I do?
First, get yourself to a dermatologist. Your hair loss might be keto-related, but it could also be caused by something else. Zeichner says it’s a good idea to get an evaluation and correct diagnosis before you panic or start treating a problem that doesn’t exist.
These celebs are obsessed with the keto diet:
From there, your doc will likely determine through blood tests what’s going on with your hair loss. If they suspect it’s diet-related, they may ask you to make changes (like eating more protein, or more food altogether). There’s also a few things you can do to slow hair loss (or regrow hair)—like topical Rogaine, OTC supplements like Viviscal or Nutrafol, or doctor-prescribed medications—but again, you really should be doing them under the supervision of an MD.
Anecdotally, there are people who swear by biotin as a supplement to promote hair growth, but there’s not much evidence to show that it actually produces results. Plus, biotin can have some side effects (it might mess with your lab test results!), so it’s a good idea to also run this supplement by your doctor before you decide to try it out.
Is there anything I can do to prevent hair loss on the keto diet?
Some good news: You might be able to stave off keto-induced hair loss if you’re intentional about your nutrient intake from the get-go.
Palinski-Wade recommends making sure you’re consuming at least 15 percent of your total calories from protein each day to avoid becoming deficient. She also suggests avoiding other nutrient deficiencies—which can also cause hair loss—by taking a high-quality multivitamin. (The keto diet restricts a lot of foods, some of which may include nutrients that contribute to your skin and hair health.)
Finally, even though one of the selling points of keto is that its weight-loss results are often crazy impressive, Palinski-Wade says that slow and steady is the way to go when it comes to avoiding some of the diet’s more unpleasant side effects—including hair loss. “Focus on slow to moderate weight loss versus a rapid weight loss of more than two pounds per week, which can accelerate hair loss,” she says.
The bottom line: While keto hair loss is possible, check in with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis before you panic or make any changes.