Drastic dietary changes can jumpstart weight loss, but may also cause another result: hair loss. Our team at Konscious Keto has been through this before. The body interprets significant differences in weight and lifestyle as a form of stress, and this can cause thinned tresses.
Although hair loss can be experienced by a small few who begin the ketogenic diet, there are a few best practices to follow to avoid or mitigate excess shedding.
A ketogenic diet is a fantastic approach to eating, as consuming an abundance of healthy fats, as well as low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, is advised and encouraged to ensure followers of the plan receive a broad spectrum of food-based nutrients.
Although the prospect of thinning or excessive shedding may be daunting, there are measures you can take to reduce or eliminate increased hair loss on keto. More below on how carb intake can impact hair loss and ways to preserve your mane while keeping it keto-friendly.
Can Low-Carb Cause Hair Loss?
Some hair shedding is to be expected throughout life, and is a normal part of the natural hair cycle, with most people losing 50 to 100 strands a day, but increased shedding can pose a problem for some new to cutting the carbs on a ketogenic diet.
Seeing a significant initial drop on the scale is always encouraging, but can restricting carbs lead to hair loss? And if so, is the damage permanent?
Rapid weight loss can cause hormonal fluctuations, and these dips and spikes can affect hair integrity. As a result, temporary hair loss may occur during the process of becoming fat-adapted, as you transition to living in a ketotic state, but this shedding is usually short-lived.
Fortunately, most find that the hair loss they may experience during the initiation phase of transitioning to a ketogenic diet is temporary, similar to the keto flu, and most find that their hair returns as thick and healthy as usual in their next natural hair-growth cycle.
Symptoms of Keto Hair Loss
The hair growth cycle is the natural generation and shedding cycle experienced by all humans, with each strand going through four stages of life as follows:
- The Anagen Phase: Hair is actively growing during this period, which usually lasts between two to seven years.
- The Catagen Phase: This brief 10-day phase when hair growth halts as the hair follicle contracts and shrinks.
- The Telogen Phase: The hair usually rests during these 3 months, remaining attached to your head, as new growth is generated to enter into the final phase of the strand's life.
- The Exogen Phase: This is the point when the hair detaches and sheds.
Aside from the natural hair shedding that occurs during the cycle noted above, environmental, dietary and lifestyle influences can all impact increased hair loss.
Consult a dermatologist if excessive hair loss continues for an extended period or if you notice hair falling out in patches, as these symptoms may be indicative of an underlying medical issue.
Low-Carb Diet Effects on the Hair Cycle
Although shedding pounds is a welcomed side effect of starting a ketogenic diet, a drastic change in dietary choices is still interpreted by the body as stress.
And increased stress, be it associated with accelerated weight loss, severe illness or the effects of medication can expedite the hair's natural transition from the anagen to telogen phase—which can result in what's called "telogen effluvium," a temporary hair loss that usually ends after two to three months on keto.
An introduction to a ketogenic diet presents an approach to weight loss and wellness that flies in the face of conventional Western wisdom, which says that fat is bad for you.
True that a caloric deficit is needed to cause weight loss, but a ketogenic diet is not about restriction, rather eating healthy fats and proteins so that you naturally feel fuller, longer and without deprivation.
The key takeaway here is to eat enough calories to avoid going into a deep starvation mode while keeping carbs low enough to convert your body into a lean and vitalized fat-burning machine.
A standard ketogenic diet advises eating less than 50 total carbs or 20 net carbs (carbohydrate grams less fiber), but everybody's needs are different. Women or highly active people, may want to eat slightly more carbs each day to balance hormones, or activity levels.
Fortunately, a ketogenic diet is flexible, and you can adjust your macronutrient intake (e.g., carbs, fat, protein, and fiber) to suit your needs to make the dietary approach work for you.
Myth or Fact: No Carb Diet Causes Hair Loss
It's essential to take a holistic approach to a ketogenic diet, and doing so will help keep excess strands out of your hairbrush and on your head—and food choices are vital to ensure you're eating nutrients to help your hair thrive.
Eat delicious fatty fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon or drizzle some cold-pressed coconut or olive oil over a bed of dark leafy greens to ensure your focus is as much about dense nutrition as it is about keeping carbs low.
More than causing hair loss directly, excessive shedding is generally a result of the changes the body undergoes during the process of becoming fat-adapted.
Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to prevent hair loss during the transition to ketosis, and we'll share more on how to care for your hair and compose your diet to foster healthy growth and regeneration below.
How to Slow Down Keto Hair Loss
Focus on eating dense nutrition, primarily from grass-fed beef, wild-caught fatty fish, poultry, pork, and organic dairy—with particular attention placed on consuming healthy fats like avocado as well as nuts and seeds to provide the body with the sustenance needed to maintain a marvelous mane.
Here a few more tips to keep your locks lovely and robust:
We experience various forms of internal and external stress, including environmental pressures or those related to maintaining mental health.
As we mentioned, stress directly impacts hair health and the proper execution of the hair life cycle. Go for a walk to clear your head or consider adopting mindfulness or meditative practice, along with eliminating carbs and sugars from your meal plan, to stay grounded.
Get Your Rest:
Although often underestimated, getting adequate and restorative rest is vital in the weight-loss process, with a deficiency known even to cause fat-loss stalls.
Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and treat your rest as an essential element in your weight-loss arsenal—as critical as anything you eat or drink.
Plan Ahead for Success:
Create a plan and give some thought to the menu you'll eat and activities you'll engage in as you begin a ketogenic diet, so you can work your plan to achieve the desired results.
Consider doing some form of meal prep to make sure you have a variety of delicious, keto-friendly foods ready, for whenever hunger strikes.
Also, prepping food eliminates an element of stress since it removes any guesswork around whether a given food will compromise ketosis or bump you out of your set caloric target needed, to create a deficit and produce fat loss.
Keep Demands Low:
Avoid starting a ketogenic diet, or making any significant dietary change, while beginning a new and complex project at work or during a move.
Again, plan your work, and work your plan. Having keto foods at the ready will prevent making unwise food choices dictated by your grumbling stomach, from a position of desperation.
Add More Carbs and a Biotin Supplement if Needed
Some followers of the ketogenic diet, especially women and those who are athletes or very physically active, may find that eating slightly more carbs helps to make the eating style sustainable long-term.
If you're feeling like a little side of sweet potatoes will make you happy on a given day, eat it! Don't obsess over macros, especially as you become fat-adapted, and over time you'll find that your appetite naturally diminishes and cravings tend to flee.
It will quickly become more comfortable to eat less without any effort, while always feeling satiated by eating primarily healthy fats and proteins.
In addition to the best practices mentioned, consider adding a high-quality biotin supplement to your regimen to support healthy hair, skin, and nails on a ketogenic diet.
Also, check out our recent article, for a deeper dive into the nature of biotin and why taking a well-formulated supplement is advisable when following a ketogenic dietary plan.
A biotin deficiency is directly associated with thinning hair and advocates champion the effectiveness of this B vitamin to aid in keeping your hair supple and fortified.
More research is needed to understand the full spectrum of benefits provided by biotin, as it relates to the health of skin and hair.
It's hopeful when you consider that keratin is a building block of healthy strands and biotin is known to improve the body's keratin structure—something promising as an indicator of its efficacy to improve the look and feel of your hair.
However, a 3-month randomized, double-blind study conducted in 2015 found that when compared to the test group taking a placebo, those who took an oral marine protein supplement (MPS) containing biotin twice a day for 90 days, noticed significant hair growth as well as less natural shedding.
Furthermore, the noted findings were similar to a 2012 study of the same nature—with participants experiencing significant hair growth and retention over a 90 and 180-day period.
Biotin deficiency is relatively rare, but more likely when eating a more restrictive diet that may exclude certain foods. Look for a supplement free of added fillers or artificial ingredients and use the following as a dosage guideline:
Those aged 10 or older should get between 30 and 100 mg of biotin per day. While infants and children should take this B vitamin as follows:
- Birth to 3 years: 10 to 20 mcg (micrograms)
- 4 to 6 years: 25 mg (milligrams)
- 7 to 10 years: 30 mg
Also, expectant moms or new moms who are breastfeeding may need more biotin. Speak with your physician to determine the dosage required to provide your nutritional needs.
A ketogenic diet offers a brand new dietary world to so many! An entire society of people told for so long that fat makes you fat, and extreme calorie restriction is needed to lose weight, are now aware that they haven’t been shown the full picture.
While those loyal and following a ketogenic diet long-term would confirm that neither fat is our foe, nor that drastically less is more in terms of caloric intake, to produce weight loss.
Here are some tasty, low-carb, biotin-rich foods to enjoy on a ketogenic diet:
- Organ meats, such as liver or kidney
- Egg yolk
- Nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts
Also, keep in mind that heat degrades the potency of biotin, so tossing some raw portabello mushrooms into a salad with hard-boiled eggs, a scattering of pumpkin seeds or pili nuts, drizzled in a fatty and nutrient-rich dressing is an excellent way to ensure the best potential for absorption thanks to these foods' heightened bioavailability and biotin content.
Feel free to enjoy seafood, grass-fed beef, poultry, low-glycemic fruits, and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds, along with cold-pressed oils, to ensure a well-rounded low-carb, high-fat dietary protocol.
Click here for a more in-depth look at how to begin the ketogenic diet, along with best practices to set you up for success on a low-carb, high-fat dietary plan.
Lastly, plan, prep, and focus on eating enough to keep hormone levels balanced and weight melting away easily, without compromising the health of your beautiful mane.
- Ablon, G., (2015). A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair.
- Dermatology Research and Practice, 2015, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2015/841570
- Dupuis, N., & Auvin, S., (2016). Anti-Inflammatory Effects of a Ketogenic Diet. Oxford Medicine Online. doi:10.1093/med/9780190497996.003.0017
- Westman, E. C., Yancy, W. S., Mavropoulos, J. C., Marquart, M., & Mcduffie, J. R. (2008). The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1). doi:10.1186/1743-7075-5-36