The number on the scale may reflect a reduction in weight on keto, but the extra strands you might notice in the sink a few months into the plan could indicate a loss you never expected.
You are not alone - some of our team at Konscious Keto went through the same issues.
Many embark on a ketogenic diet to release excess body fat, and the lifestyle is an excellent way to do just that, but some on keto experience hair loss when transitioning to fat-adaptation and nutritional ketosis.
Fortunately, the hair loss experienced by those starting to eliminate carbs and increase fats is short-lived.
Most experience minimal hair loss about three to six months into living La Vida Keto, but that usually ceases soon after—with hair growing back as thick as before.
While hair loss is an individual situation, linked to many factors including hormone health, there are still some precautions we can take to avoid excess shedding, and we'll detail some helpful tips below.
How Hair Grows
Aside from molding it into a coveted style, most give little thought to the structure of their hair, how it grows, or why normal growth might be interrupted due to illness or sudden lifestyle changes—that is until our lovely locks are littered about the bathroom floor.
Hair is a bit more complicated than we likely realize and it's composed of two parts, the follicle, and the shaft.
- The follicle: The portion of your hair that resides in the skin.
- The shaft: The hair above the scalp that's visible. There are two separate shafts—inner and outer—that encase the follicle. And the follicle and shaft are both essential to hair health and growth, and hair loss can occur when either element is damaged.
Hair growth and shedding occur in a natural cycle, operating in phases as follows:
- Anagen phase — This is the phase of active hair growth and lasts between two to six years. During this stage, one can expect hair to grow up to one centimeter every 28 days.
- Catagen phase — Growth halts during this short transitional period, which lasts for two to three weeks.
- Telogen phase — This stage is known as the resting phase, and as its name suggests there is no growth during this time, which lasts for up to 100 days.
In addition to the natural phases of growth and maintenance, lifestyle changes like starting a low-carb diet can pose stress to the body as it adjusts from running on glucose to adapting to using fat and ketones for fuel.
The root of hair loss can have various causes, but the following are some common reasons why people, especially women, may experience hair loss on a keto diet.
Why Women Experience Hair Loss on the Keto Diet
Quiet as it's kept—unless you scour the keto chat boards online religiously—hair loss or thinning is a pretty common side effect of eating a very low-carb diet.
For instance, a retrospective study of 45 participants with epilepsy, aged 12–19 years, found a ketogenic diet highly effective in mitigating symptoms of seizure disorder. However, two out of the 45 patients experienced hair thinning.
The hair loss experienced by some on keto may be more linked to the stress imposed on the body when switching to nutritional ketosis—whereby we force the body to pivot and use fat instead of sugar for fuel.
Here are a few lifestyle changes common to those starting keto and how they may contribute to hair loss or thinning:
- Massive Calorie Deficits: Losing a significant amount of weight, as is often the case on keto once we remove carbs and restrict calories to create a deficit, is common. And although weight loss can have a beneficial effect on self-esteem and overall health, studies have shown that significant weight loss within a short timeframe can cause hair loss.
But keep in mind, restricting calories on any diet can lead to hair loss; this is not a side effect exclusive to a ketogenic diet.
The issue of hair loss comes into play on a ketogenic diet because many followers of the protocol don't replace the calories saved by removing carbs with enough healthy fats and protein.
A mental shift is required to unlearn that fat doesn't make you fat. That is, recovering from the Western industrialized food complex propagated by our food regulatory bodies for decades, will take a while to unlearn.
While we need a caloric deficit to produce weight loss, restricting calories too much can leave you panicking at the sight of your comb draped in a handful of strands.
But never fear, a well-composed meal plan will help mitigate or altogether avoid hair loss on keto.
- Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: Avocado may be Earth's perfect food, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium, but we cannot live on a single nutrition source, no matter how delicious and healthy!
While removing carbs, and increasing fats, equally important is comprising a meal plan abundant in vital micronutrients: minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes, to avoid hair loss among other health issues.
- Stress and our Strands: We may only associate stress with scary moments like the Sunday-night fright as Monday morning approaches or the misfortunate event of confronting a bear while camping. However, even a positive occurrence like weight loss poses a level of stress on the body and can contribute to hair loss.
Here are some reasons why you may be experiencing significant stress on keto:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Massive caloric deficits and restriction
- Mental stress
- Keto flu
Stress can lead to many health problems, including the following related to hair loss:
- Alopecia Areata — Rapid and sudden loss of large clumps of hair in areas about the scalp
- Telogen Effluvium — A disorder where more hairs than usual are ripe to fall out
- Trichotillomania — A chronic condition caused by stress where a person compulsively pulls out their hair due to irresistible urges
Telogen effluvium is the form of hair loss most common at the start of the ketogenic diet. Fortunately, in most cases, it is short-lived, only lasting for two to three months.
Consuming new foods, ditching donuts, and abandoning sugar in general, can cause stress on the body as we release habits that no longer serve us—withdrawal cravings are intense and very real.
Picking up a light yoga practice, committing to a daily and refreshing walk, or finding time to get grounded in whichever way works for you is a worthy goal as you begin keto, to help manage stress and reduce the possibility of hair loss on keto.
- Lack of Biotin: One of the most favorable and noted hair-growth supplements, biotin, is known to encourage and facilitate rapid hair growth, as well as hair regrowth.
Adding a quality biotin supplement can aid significantly in keeping your strands on your head rather than in your sink's drain.
- Not Enough Protein: While a ketogenic diet advises moderate protein, some new to the diet make the mistake of eating too little protein, concerned that higher consumption will compromise ketosis—an unfounded myth.
Furthermore, a study found that calorie deficits and low protein consumption were the nutrient deficiencies primarily responsible for hair loss. But there’s no need to shy away from protein for fear of compromising ketosis, enjoy it in moderation.
- Gut Health: Those in the know don't call the gut our second brain for no reason; gut health impacts every system in the body, including the mechanisms that control the health and growth of our hair, skin, and nails.
In addition to potential hair loss, an unhealthy microbiome can lead to leaky gut syndrome which can prevent proper nutrient absorption.
Furthermore, a recent study even found that certain gut bacteria were responsible for suppressing biotin production.
The researchers fed antibiotics to mice in order to eliminate bacteria in the gut, and observed mild hair loss in their subjects.
Keto Hair Loss Supplements
The most acclaimed hair supplement, vitamin H, better known as biotin, is an excellent nutritional aid to prevent hair loss and one worth including in your keto kickstart plan to avoid hair thinning.
Our well-crafted supplement is filled with high-quality ingredients and is an option worth trying as its formulation is composed to nurture present hair follicles, and increase the production of new growth while following a ketogenic diet.
How to Stop Keto Hair Loss
While keeping calories in an ideal range and consuming adequate electrolytes and protein is an excellent baseline to prevent hair loss, there are additional tools to help fortify hair follicles.
The foods and quality supplements we choose to use daily have a significant impact on our hair health.
Here are the seven best foods and supplements to consider using, to ensure a lustrous and full head of hair while keeping it keto!
- Biotin: Long hailed as a champion supplement to thicken or regrow hair, biotin is a valuable element to add to any healthy hair arsenal.
An ideal way to increase biotin intake is through choosing excellent ketogenic-friendly whole foods like:
- Eggs (with yolk)
- Peanuts (in moderation)
- Dairy products (preferably organic)
Adults only require about 30 micrograms of biotin daily, so if your low-carb meal plan contains an abundance of the foods listed above, you can do well with a smaller dose of a biotin supplement.
- MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is a compound present in sea algae, vegetables, and animal products.
MSM helps to build links in the structural tissue in the body, including skin, nails and hair—which boosts keratin, a fibrous structural protein needed for hair and nail health.
- Bone Broth: This delicious savory beverage, filled with collagen, is highly-beneficial to hair health and growth.
Collagen is essential for supple skin and robust, pliable hair strands, as well as muscle growth and proper organ function.
Plus, bone broth is a terrific and affordable dietary aid to help prevent leaky gut and the malabsorption of nutrients that follows.
- Collagen: If you're looking to get even more collagen into your system, you can skip past the bone broth and take a pure collagen supplement.
Oral collagen could prevent:
- Premature hair loss
- Hair thinning
- Graying of hair
Collagen is part of our hair follicle stem cells (HFSC)—the cells that generate new hair strands. A collagen deficiency can cause early aging in those stem cells, resulting in premature hair loss.
Unfortunately, collagen levels naturally decline with age. Luckily, our proprietary blend found in Keto Shake is made using whey protein from grass-fed cows, and it’s rich in MCT oil for the maximum support of ketosis.
- Zinc: Numerable studies have shown that zinc deficiencies can lead to extreme hair loss and hypothyroidism. A diet rich in zinc will aid in achieving and maintaining healthy body weight as well as vibrant hair.
Here are some keto-friendly foods with ample amounts of zinc:
- Grass-fed beef
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cacao powder
- Coconut Oil: Although not a supplement like biotin, and not directly responsible for hair growth, coconut oil is fantastic to help with sealing in moisture in the hair to keep strands healthy and agile.
Plus, coconut oil is rich in essential nutrients like iron, and vitamins E and K, all of which are helpful to support healthy hair growth.
Symptoms of Keto Hair Loss
Noticing excessive hair strands in your brush or the basin of your sink is a clear indication of hair loss related to keto if it's only seen after following the plan for some months.
But again, hair loss associated with following a ketogenic diet is temporary and should subside soon. Stay focused on the many benefits of keto and use the tips noted to prevent hair loss as you become fat-adapted.
Not Eating Enough Calories
When we deprive our body of calories for extended periods, the body experiences stress and enters a fight-or-flight mode.
When in a state of threat, the body stops using energy for non-essential functions like hair growth, which can result in hair loss.
Don't fret, focus on constructing a well-balanced keto meal plan and you'll reduce the likelihood of excessive strand shedding.
Not Eating Vitamins or Minerals
Mineral and vitamin deficiencies are common on many diets as we look to follow macronutrient limits while neglecting micronutrient needs. However, it's simple to keep your diet nutrient-dense while restricting carbs and sugar.
Stick to nutrient-dense, low-glycemic, fruits and vegetables and don't shy away from quality supplements if deficiencies persist.
Regardless of your chosen dietary style, chronic and high levels of stress can cause hair loss. Couple lifestyle stress with starting a new diet, which also poses stress on the body, and you have a recipe for hair health decline.
The body reads all stress as danger whether you're participating in a marathon, running from a wild bear, or giving birth to a beautiful baby—all three experiences translate as stress and can trigger the fight-or-flight response and, you guessed it, hair loss.
Fortunately, as we mentioned, the type of hair loss experienced by those on a ketogenic diet is a synchronized hair loss called telogen effluvium, and it is temporary.
The noted hair loss typically occurs two to four months after the stress event (e.g., childbirth, a new diet, traumatic physical event, etc.) but subsides as new hairs begin to regrow two to three months later.
A Biotin Deficiency
Skin conditions like dermatitis and hair loss are also common symptoms of a biotin deficiency. And having enough biotin is essential to overall health as it helps the body absorb other nutrients, especially B vitamins.
Furthermore, a 2013 study published in the Nutrition Journal highlights that those consuming a ketogenic diet have an increased biotin requirement.
This research conducted on mice advises biotin supplementation for those considering living a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle.
Fortunately, we've formulated a premium biotin supplement, free of fillers or artificial ingredients, explicitly designed to support the nutritional needs of individuals following a ketogenic diet.
Steps to Correct the Problem
Although the hair loss some experience on a ketogenic diet is temporary and self-corrects relatively quickly, as we've shared, there are a few ways to prevent the severity of hair thinning on keto. Here's a quick recap on how to prevent hair loss on keto:
- Eat enough calories
- Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods filled with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes
- Eat biotin-rich foods (liver, egg yolks, avocado, etc.)
- Take up a yoga practice or meditation to reduce stress.
Avoiding hair loss on a ketogenic diet can be painless by implementing the tips noted above. Include the advice noted in your comprehensive nutrition plan on keto to keep your hair full and lustrous.
Eat a Whole Food Keto Diet
MCT oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed beef are all excellent food options on a ketogenic diet, and all support healthy hair growth and renewal.
Focus on eating a whole food, organic diet rich in vitamins and minerals to keep your mane thick and shiny.
Here's a short list of go-to foods to eat with great keto macros:
- Nuts and seeds
- Liver and other meats
- Organic dairy
- Egg yolk
Take a Biotin Supplement
As we mentioned, biotin is essential to keeping your strands atop your head rather than in your comb.
Since a ketogenic diet causes a higher level of loss in body fluid, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, eating dense nutrition and adding supplements into your keto protocol, like Keto Activate is strongly suggested.
The thought of thinning hair concerns everyone, women and men alike, especially if in the prime of life. We get it, looks matter and can affect self-esteem as well as how we're perceived and treated by others.
Ketosis is an incredibly powerful eating style to achieve accelerated fat loss, regulate glucose, and increase mental sharpness, all making it worth trying.
Just be sure to take the precautions noted above, and you'll have it all, a taut waistline and beautiful locks.
Caloric Restriction And Hair Growth. (2009). Nutrition Reviews, 14(3), 90-90. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1956.tb01499.x
Mady, M. A., Kossoff, E. H., Mcgregor, A. L., Wheless, J. W., Pyzik, P. L., & Freeman, J. M. (2003). The Ketogenic Diet: Adolescents Can Do It, Too. Epilepsia, 44(6), 847-851. doi:10.1046/j.1528-1157.2003.57002.x
Mock, D. (2013). Biotin: Physiology, Dietary Sources, and Requirements. Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition, 182-190. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-375083-9.00026-x