With age, hair loss is sometimes inevitable. Yes, like it or not, losing your hair can be a normal part of getting older, according to Mayo Clinic, and can also result from heredity, hormonal changes, and medical conditions. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent, and while it’s more common in men, women also experience thinning hair later in life. But regardless of how common it is, losing your hair can cause a serious blow to your confidence. As it turns out, you could actually be contributing to the issue, as there’s one sneaky cause of hair loss that you might not be aware of. Read on to find out which supplement healthcare providers warn could be making your hair to fall out.
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Hair is an integral part of identity for many of us, whether you prefer to wear it long or short, keep it natural or experiment with different colors and shades.
Experts recommend different precautions you can take to keep your hair happy, particularly when you wash it. If you enjoy a shower that’s on the hotter side, you may want to rethink the temperature, as using hot water to wash your hair can weaken your strands and lead to more hair loss. Experts recommend washing with warm or lukewarm water and then rinsing with cooler water to retain moisture and prevent breakage.
But if you already follow these steps and notice that you’re losing more hair than usual, it could be an indicator that you need a blood test—especially if you’re a woman. If you’re losing hair suddenly, it might not be tied to your genes and could signal a medical condition such as pregnancy, thyroid disorders, anemia, autoimmune disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and different skin conditions.
And if you take a daily supplement for a different medical malady, that could also play a role, experts now warn.
Vitamin A is vital for your health, keeping your vision in tip-top shape and ensuring that both your immune and reproductive systems are functioning. Interestingly, it also plays a crucial role in keeping your hair healthy.
“Vitamin A is used in hair loss treatment to stimulate hair growth, as well as to repair damaged hair and keep the scalp moist,” Michael May, FRCS, medical director and principal surgeon at Wimpole Clinic in London, says. “It is also an antioxidant, which aids in the fight against free radicals that cause hair damage.”
For people with alopecia areata—or sudden hair loss with one or more bald patches—one of the two forms of vitamin A, beta-carotene, is particularly helpful. According to May, this is due in large part to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, taking too much vitamin A can have the opposite effect on your hair and be harmful to your health, experts warn.
The second form of vitamin A, retinol, is the variety that poses a threat if overused, according to May. Vitamin A toxicity can only occur if you take too many supplements, as the levels in food are “far too small to cause serious harm.” The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 4,300 International Units (IU), but if you take more than that amount (about 10,0000 IUs a day), it can result in hypervitaminosis A, otherwise known as vitamin A toxicity.
“Taking too many supplements of the retinol kind over a prolonged period results in your hair follicles going into overdrive,” May says. “This means that your hair will reach the end of its development phase too rapidly and begin to fall out.”
When your body can’t keep up with this loss and produce enough hair to replace it, thinning and baldness will set in, he adds.
Your healthcare provider might recommend a vitamin A supplement if you have a limited diet that necessitates additional vitamin A, or if you have conditions like pancreatic disease, eye disease, or measles, Enrizza P. Factor, clinical dermatologist and researcher with My Vitiligo Team, says. You may also be instructed to take these supplements if you have declining night vision or skin disorders like psoriasis and acne, according to Krista Elkins, NRP, RN, specialist at HealthCanal.
But while vitamin A is integral to keeping you healthy, too much of a good thing can cause problems beyond just hair loss, and experts recommend that you speak to a doctor before you begin taking supplements. If you’ve already taken too much and experienced resultant hair loss, the Wimpole Clinic recommends that you stop or “drastically reduce” your intake, allowing your body to use up the reserves stored in your liver. After levels return to normal, you should see your hair grow back normally.
Thankfully, the average, healthy person can actually get all of the vitamin A that they need through their diet. Red, yellow, orange, and dark green vegetables are all healthy sources of vitamin A, as are eggs, liver, fortified milk, and cheese, the Wimpole Clinic states.