Many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can contribute to healthier hair. Bodily functions like collagen, keratin, and sebum production, as well as other functions like blood flow can affect how strong and long your hair can grow. That’s why there are many supplements and other hair care products rich in these nutrients that claim to help with hair growth. And among all these nutrients, vitamin A is one of them.
So why does too much vitamin C cause hair loss? This has to do with how vitamin A stimulates your hair follicles, and how overstimulation can result in more frequent hair loss. While vitamin A is generally good for the hair, you can suffer from hypervitaminosis A, which is the overstimulation of hair follicles: as hair growth speeds up, it also falls out more quickly. It’s important to only take a sufficient amount of vitamin A for your hair to remain healthy.
Why Is Too Much Vitamin A Bad for Your Hair?
In the right amounts, vitamin A can benefit your body in a number of ways. Aside from hair growth, it can also help with immune function and cell growth. But when your body has excessive vitamin A, you can develop a condition called hypervitaminosis A. Too much vitamin A is toxic for your body, and you may start to experience negative side effects, one of which can be hair loss.
There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A (such as retinol), which comes from animal products and dietary supplements, and provitamin A carotenoids (such as beta-carotene), which come from plants and are transformed by our bodies into retinol.
When used in the right amounts, retinol can increase blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. It can also regulate sebum production and help with removing debris on the scalp, which can help other hair care products penetrate the scalp better.
Too much retinol, however, can overstimulate your hair follicles. Your hair follows a natural cycle, and retinol speeds up that cycle. As a result, your hair can reach the end of its growth phase quickly and can start to shed. However, while your follicles are still shedding, your body isn’t ready to replace the lost hair. As a result, you may experience significant hair loss and hair thinning.
How Much Vitamin A is Enough?
To avoid the effects of hypervitaminosis A, it’s best to only take regular levels of vitamin A every day. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A in adults is 3,000 international units (IU) for men and 2,300 for women. Under the Institute of Medicine, this is around 900 micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) for men and 700 micrograms RAE for women.
If you’re getting more than this, then you should make sure that you don’t go beyond the tolerable upper intake level. This is the maximum daily intake of vitamin A that’s unlikely to result in negative health effects like hypervitaminosis A. For vitamin A, the maximum is 3,000 micrograms for adults. Any more than this and the excessive vitamin A can develop into hypervitaminosis A.
Do You Need Vitamin A Supplements?
Vitamin A supplements are best for those with nutritional deficiencies. If you’re taking a balanced diet, you may already have enough vitamin A for your body to function. Some foods that are good sources of vitamin A include:
- Dairy products
- Fatty fish
- Fish oil
- Beef liver
- Leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli)
- Orange, yellow, and red vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Other fortified processed food
Animal-based products contain preformed vitamin A, while vegetables and fruits contain beta-carotene that your body can convert to vitamin A. If you eat a healthy diet including of these foods, you likely already have enough vitamin A. However, it’s best to consult your doctor for medical advice if you suspect you have a vitamin deficiency. You may be asked to undergo blood tests to see if there’s enough vitamin A in your body.
Since vitamin A comes from meat and animal products, vegans and vegetarians may not have dietary sources rich in vitamin A. It’s possible to get beta-carotene out of fruits and vegetables to convert to vitamin A, but some people may have complications and conditions that make it difficult to get their daily vitamin A from these sources. In these cases, vitamin A dietary supplements may be a good addition to your diet.
What to Do if You’re Taking Too Much Vitamin A
If you think you have too much vitamin A in your body and are losing hair because of it, you can take steps to reduce it. If you’re taking nutritional supplements without your doctor’s instruction, stop taking it immediately.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin stored in the liver, so you need to use up the reserve as much as possible. Stop taking supplements and reduce your intake of vitamin-A rich foods, such as the food sources mentioned earlier. Once your excess vitamin A is gone and your stored vitamin A is used up, it should bring your vitamin A reserve down to a normal level. If your hair loss persists, it may be due to another deficiency or an underlying medical condition. To learn why you’re losing hair, consult your doctor.
Isn’t Vitamin A Good for Hair?
In normal amounts, vitamin A can have several benefits for your hair. Vitamin A plays a role in bodily functions that can affect how well your hair grows.
First, vitamin A is used in cell growth to build new and healthy tissue, including tissues like hair. Hair grows when new hair cells form at the base of the hair follicle. These cells then multiply to create the building blocks of the hair strand. Because hair is the fastest-growing tissue in the body, vitamin A can assist in healthy hair building. It won’t fix existing hair, but new hair can grow faster, stronger, and thicker than usual.
Second, vitamin A can assist in sebum production. Your body naturally produces an oil called sebum from the sebaceous glands inside your skin. These oils are released onto the roots of the hair follicle, which then spread outwards. Sebum is responsible for keeping your skin, scalp, and hair moisturized, which can prevent drying and flaking. Vitamin A helps regulate sebum production so that there’s enough oils to prevent dry and brittle hair.
If you have a vitamin A deficiency, you may see a difference in your hair health after taking nutritional supplements. However, those who don’t have a deficiency and take supplements as a means to improve their hair can see varying results. Some people report vitamin A supplements have improved their hair, but these are mostly anecdotal results. With the risk of getting hypervitaminosis A in mind, it’s best not to take additional vitamin A supplements especially if you’re already getting enough of it from your diet.
Other Causes for Hair Loss
Both hypervitaminosis A and a vitamin A deficiency can result in hair loss and poor hair health. If you suspect you have either, your best option is to see your doctor. You may be asked to undergo a blood test to see how much vitamin A you have in your body.
If you don’t have either, it’s possible for you to experience hair loss due to a number of other reasons. Some of the causes for hair loss can include:
- Underlying health conditions – dietary supplements cannot promote healthy hair growth if there is an underlying medical condition causing loss of hair. Some conditions like an autoimmune condition, thyroid diseases, bacterial infections on the scalp, depression, cancer, and chronic physical stress are some examples of conditions that can cause your hair to fall out.
- Harsh hair treatment – practices like shampooing your hair too often, bleaching your hair, using heat-based treatments like curling irons and flat irons frequently, and using other harsh chemical procedures and treatments on your hair can cause it to lose its natural moisture and become brittle. Using protective hair care products and practicing healthy hair habits can reduce the natural damage that comes with styling and managing your hair.
- Tying your hair too tightly – styling your hair in ways like tight braids, high ponytails, and cornrows can pull your hair from the roots and cause hair loss. Minimize instances of tying your hair or tie your hair more loosely.
- Post-pregnancy hair loss – pregnant women have high estrogen levels, which can cause their bodies to grow hair faster and slow down their hair’s natural cycle that triggers shedding and hair fall. After giving birth, estrogen levels can take around 4 months up to a year to return to normal levels. During this time, hair fall is common.
- Genetics – some people inherit genes that trigger male or female pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia. The thinning of hair can start as early as your mid-twenties and can see less hair growth over time. There’s no cure for androgenetic alopecia, but you can undergo hair loss treatment and take medications to slow down the hair loss.
- UV exposure – excess sun exposure can harm your hair in a number of ways. Its UV rays can dry out your hair’s natural moisture, which can cause it to become dry and brittle. UV rays can also expose your hair to free radicals, which can trigger oxidative stress that can damage your hair. If you have to undergo prolonged sun exposure, wear a hat or apply hair care products that can protect your hair from sun exposure.
- Other nutrient deficiencies – if it’s not a vitamin A deficiency, check with your doctor if it’s any of these other essential vitamins that can affect hair growth:
- Vitamin B Complex – biotin deficiencies are associated with hair loss, while other B vitamins can help with blood flow to the scalp.
- Vitamin C – an antioxidant that can assist in collagen production and maintaining your iron levels.
- Vitamin D – those with low vitamin D levels are linked to alopecia and poor hair growth.
- Vitamin E – an antioxidant that can protect your hair from free radicals.
Protect Your Hair with FACE Med Store’s Hair Care Products
Vitamin A can be beneficial to your hair, but too much can cause health risks. Vitamin A supplements are best for those with deficiencies who want to get their daily recommended dose. Otherwise, those with a balanced diet of vitamin-A rich foods may have to consider other reasons that’s causing problems with hair growth and hair health.
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