The Best Diet For Hair Loss? Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong

The diet-hair loss connection is complicated. A bad diet is more closely linked to telogen effluvium (a form of hair loss) than it is pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia). Contrary to popular belief, the best foods and diets to stop hair loss will vary for everyone. Here's why.

Medically reviewed by:
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.

Never seek dietary advice in a hair loss forum

On page one of any hair loss forum, you’ll find a thread that reads something like:

Title: Will this food regrow my hair? PLEASE READ!

Person A: “I’m changing my diet so I can stop my hair loss. I read that zinc reduces DHT. So, if I eat oysters and foods rich in zinc, will I regrow my hair?”

Person B: “Diet has nothing to do with hair loss. Stop misleading people with your bro-science. If you want to reduce DHT, take Propecia® and be done with it.”

Person A: “Don’t be naive. My friend regrew his hair after going vegan. So diet has to affect hair loss. Your an idiot.”

Person B: “You mean you’re*, you illiterate moron–

…and the conversation devolves into ad hominem attacks and dietary generalizations absent any reasoning, references, or science.

Unfortunately, the facts will always get lost in the noise of hair loss forums. And the truth may surprise you…

Person A and B are both right and wrong about diet and its connection to hair loss. It just depends on the context of their claims.

  • Zinc can non-competitively inhibit 5-alpha-reductase and therefore reduce DHT levels. But, zinc alone probably won’t reduce DHT levels enough to improve hair loss from androgenic alopecia.
  • Zinc can help regrow hair loss from hypothyroidism. So sometimes eating oysters can improve hair loss.
  • A vegan diet can improve some types of hair loss – but only if that diet is (1) nutrient replete, (2) avoidant of a calorie deficit, and (3) avoidant of allergenic foods specific to each individual.

This is why the diet-hair loss connection is so polarizing. Forum users rarely contextualize their statements.

Even worse, the internet has thousands of articles on “The five foods you need to reduce DHT”… or “The three foods to stop hair loss in its tracks”… or “The little-known ingredient that regrows hair”. These articles lack the necessary context to provide real, actionable advice to someone looking into how their food choices affect their hair.

A snapshot of (mostly) terrible advice on the best diets for our hair

My advice? Stop reading the opinions of misinformed forum members; stop reading useless listicles.

Instead, take the time to learn the nuances of diet, nutrition, and hair growth. Read studies exploring the connection between nutrients and hair disorders. Don’t know a term? Look it up. Confused about a study’s findings? Contact the authors. Most love discussing their research.

In doing so, you’ll begin to learn where the line blurs between diet and hair growth… and how to make healthier food choices to benefit your hair. Yes, it might take a few hundred hours, but you’ll get there.

Or you could just read our article: the ultimate guide to the diet-hair loss connection. This is an unbiased, comprehensive, evidence-based approach to uncovering how foods affect hair loss and hair growth.

By the end, you’ll learn how to avoid fad dieting, uncover how manufacturers misrepresent nutritional data to sell us scientifically baseless hair care products, and why the best diet for hair regrowth will likely vary for everyone.

It all starts by covering the basics of nutrition, dieting, and our hair.

Fact #1: at the extremes, a bad diet will hurt our hair

At a certain threshold, the diet-hair loss connection is undeniable. Think of it this way…

Food contains energy. Energy fuels our cells. Without energy, our cells can’t do their jobs. This includes growing hair. So, in cases of severe nutrient deficiencies or malnourishment, many of us will experience hair loss.

This is constantly observed in the third world. For example, this 2017 literature review dove into hundreds of studies on nutrition and hair loss. The authors found that chronic deficiencies in…

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B complex – i.e., riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (B3), biotin (B7), cobalamin (B12), folic acid (B9)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Fatty acids

…were all linked to hair loss. So, at the extremes, our diets do affect our hair. That means we should pay attention to the foods we eat.

Fact #2: hair loss from a nutrient deficiency is called telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium (TE) is a common cause of general hair thinning for women. Specifically, it’s a hair shedding disorder: when our hair cycle is disrupted and the hairs we shed throughout the day – and would normally grow back later – stop growing back. The end-result: diffuse hair loss (hair thinning throughout our entire scalps).

TE is caused by a variety of factors – stress, medications, birth control, pregnancy, and even malnourishment and/or nutrient deficiencies. But one of its defining characteristics of telogen effluvium is that it’s almost always temporary. For instance, this 2010 literature review found that in nearly all cases, if we correct our nutrient deficiency, we should see hair recovery from telogen effluvium in 3-6 months time.

That’s encouraging. It gives more credence to the idea that diet impacts hair loss. After all, food choices influence our nutritional status. If we eat foods low in iron or selenium, we’re at risk of becoming deficient. And if we correct those deficiencies, we’ll see hair regrowth.

So, this must make the diet-hair loss connection ironclad and irrefutable. Right?

Wrong. There are three caveats that muddy this connection. And, unfortunately, these caveats get misinterpreted all the time by listicles about the “best” foods to stop hair loss.

Caveat #1: for a diet to cause telogen effluvium, your nutrient deficiency must be incredibly severe

Most studies showing a connection between nutrition and hair loss were conducted on children, individuals with genetic mutations, or impoverished populations in the third world – all of whom had severe nutrient deficiencies (often for years) prior to developing thinning hair. For example:

Which brings us to our second caveat…

Caveat #2: in the U.S., diet-driven telogen effluvium is relatively rare

The Standard American diet has plenty of problems. We consume too many refined sugars, we eat diets high in processed foods, and our soil’s nutrient levels have been in rapid decline for the past 70 years. Because of this, the C.D.C. estimates that 10% of Americans have some sort of nutrient deficiency.

But there’s a catch: in most cases, our nutrient deficiencies aren’t generally severe enough to cause diet-driven telogen effluvium (hair shedding). This is because nationwide programs like grain fortification – or the adding of nutrients into white grains – have kept most of us from becoming severely deplete in any one nutrient.

For a perfect example, let’s look at the research on biotin – a nutrient in which many Americans feel they’re deficient, and which many Americans associate with hair loss.

But in the first world, does supplementing with biotin actually improve our hair? Most research suggests no.

For reference, see this study on women who self-perceived hair loss. The authors discovered that 38% of women reporting hair loss also had – according to first-world standards – a severe biotin deficiency. But fascinatingly, supplementation only led to marginal (if any) improvements to their hair.

The implication? That a biotin deficiency was likely associated with their hair loss but it wasn’t the main driver of their hair loss. Resultantly, here’s what the authors concluded:

“…Treating women complaining of hair loss in an indiscriminate manner with oral biotin supplementation is to be rejected unless biotin deficiency and its significance for the complaint of hair loss in an individual has been demonstrated. …At the same time, potential additional causes of hair loss, for example, androgenetic alopecia, other nutritional deficiencies, and endocrine disorders must systematically be addressed and treated as needed.”

These findings have been confirmed by other studies time and time again. The bottom line: if your hair loss is exclusively driven by a nutrient deficiency, that nutrient deficiency has to be incredibly severe. In the U.S., severe deficiencies are rare. Therefore, hair loss driven entirely by diet is rare.

Which brings us to our third caveat.

Caveat #3: in the U.S., some nutrient deficiencies are linked to hair loss. But in most cases, these nutrient deficiencies aren’t due to poor diets; they’re due to other problems

It’s important to note: our diets are just one of the dozens of things that affect our nutritional status. In reality, our nutritional status is determined by a combination of the following

  1. Our body’s demand for nutrients
  2. Our body’s intake of nutrients
  3. Our body’s absorption of nutrients

And there are dozens of factors that affect the above. For instance, even if everyone ate the same diet, we might still see nutritional deficiencies in people who are athletes, pregnant, sick, suffering from hypothyroidism, taking medications, or dealing with an autoimmune disorder or hormonal imbalance.

Why? Because all of the above will affect our demand, intake, and absorption of nutrients… and that’s outside the context of diet.

In the U.S., there are trace elements and vitamins – like iron and vitamin D – where moderate nutrient deficiencies are linked to hair loss. But these deficiencies tend to overlap with non-dietary causes.

For instance, the biggest risk of an iron deficiency in young women with thinning hair isn’t diet; it’s menstruation. And the leading cause of a vitamin D deficiency? Kidney disease, liver disease, or simply not getting enough sun.

The list goes on, but mainly, we see that in the first world, subtle nutrient deficiencies linked to hair loss aren’t due to food choices; rather, they’re due to other factors and conditions like…

  • Hypothyroidism (iron deficiency, zinc deficiency)
  • Hyperparathyroidism (vitamin D deficiency, calcium surplus)
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) (widespread nutrient deficiencies)
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) (widespread nutrient deficiencies)
  • Trace element / heavy metal toxicities (widespread nutrient deficiencies)
  • …and a variety of other conditions

The bottom line: if you live in the first world, have hair loss, and have also discovered you have a moderate nutrient deficiency, don’t automatically assume that deficiency is due to your diet!

Rather, evaluate your overall health. Are you taking medications? Do you have one of the above conditions? Are you sick, stressed, pregnant, or consistently have heavy menstruation?

If so, do more testing. And whatever you do, don’t read a listicle online about the foods to fight hair thinning.

Summary (so far)

At the extremes, chronic malnourishment can cause hair loss. We see this in people with genetic disorders and in impoverished populations. So, if you’re severely under-eating or if you haven’t ingested any selenium or biotin for years, you’ll likely develop a temporary form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.

But, in the first world, nutrient deficiencies severe enough to cause telogen effluvium are rare. Even despite the abysmal state of standard American diets, grain fortification protects us from this form of hair loss.

So, if you’re losing your hair, stop indiscriminately supplementing with a multivitamin. And if you have hair loss alongside a moderate nutrient deficiency, don’t assume it’s due to your diet. Rather, evaluate your overall health and then test for other suspected conditions that are likely affecting your nutritional status.

In doing so, you’ll save thousands of dollars on supplements and improve your odds of regrowing hair.

Fact #3: diet (probably) has little impact on pattern hair loss

So far, we’ve covered diet and its relationship to telogen effluvium – a common hair loss disorder in women.

But what about male and female pattern hair loss, also known as androgenic alopecia (AGA)? After all, pattern hair loss is arguably more common – affecting up to 50% of women and 80% of men throughout a lifetime.

So, is there a connection between pattern hair loss and the foods we eat? And if so, can we build a diet that will help us slow, stop, or even prevent this form of hair loss?

We can answer this question by examining:

  1. What pattern hair loss (AGA) is
  2. What causes AGA
  3. Where these causes and our diets intersect
  4. What the actual research says on diet and its relationship to AGA.

Let’s take these one-by-one.

What is pattern hair loss (AGA)?

Pattern hair loss is arguably the most common hair loss disorder in adults.

In men, it often starts at the temples (i.e., a receding hairline) or the crown (i.e., a bald spot). In women, it often starts as diffuse thinning throughout the entire top part of the scalp.

 

Androgenic alopecia (AGA) progression in men

This condition should look familiar to you. It’s so common, you often can’t walk a city block without spotting someone with it. And, unlike telogen effluvium, pattern hair loss (AGA) is chronic and progressive. Without treatment, it gets worse. And even with (most) conventional treatments, we generally just see a stop its progression (rather than full reversals).

What causes pattern hair loss?

Researchers aren’t yet 100% sure, but the overwhelming body of evidence suggests that AGA is due to an interaction between

  • Genetics
  • The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
  • Inflammation

There are dozens of other culprits – like reactive oxygen species, pathogenic bacterial colonization, our scalp environments, and even a fatty acid derivative called prostaglandin D2 (PGD2). But if we asked our doctor why we’re losing our hair, they’d likely say something like this:

For reasons not fully understood, pattern hair loss (AGA) begins when DHT starts accumulating in our scalps. Our scalp’s hair follicles become sensitive to DHT and start shrinking. Over a series of hair cycles, DHT makes our hair thinner and wispier, until our hair becomes so thin that it stops growing. The end result: pattern baldness.

The relationship between DHT, pattern hair loss, and hair follicle miniaturization

DHT Shrinks Hair Follicles

Can our diets influence the causes of pattern hair loss?

Yes.

When it comes to AGA, there are some aspects we cannot control – like our genes. But we do have some control over our degrees of inflammation, DHT, and even prostaglandin activity. And interestingly, one of the levers we have at our disposal is our diets.

Just see this 2018 literature review on hair loss and plant-based remedies. It summarizes the causes of AGA and how food extracts, phytochemicals, and other plant derivatives can be used to target the causes of pattern hair loss. For example:

  1. Epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG), a polyphenol in green tea, can help reduce DHT levels
  2. Curcumin, a part of turmeric, can reduce reactive oxygen species activity and inflammation
  3. Quercetin, a substance found in kale and red onions, might help reduce prostaglandin activity

And, since these derivatives come from foods, people often make the logical jump that eating more of these foods (or designing a hair loss-fighting diet) might achieve a similar effect.

Four ways to fight pattern hair loss with food

If we take the evidence in that literature review to heart, we can build a diet filled with substances shown to reduce DHT, inflammation, reactive oxygen species, prostaglandin D2 activity… and all the other “causes” of AGA within our control.

In fact, this concept is essentially the basis of every listicle ever written on the best foods to stop hair loss.

I’ll save you several hours of reading. We can summarize all of these articles in a few lines of text:

  • Reduce DHT: ingest more zinc, green tea, cooked tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds
  • Reduce inflammation: eat more curcumin, avoid processed foods and sugar, and stay nutrient replete
  • Reduce reactive oxygen species: drink more tea and eat more berries
  • Reduce prostaglandin activity: minimize polyunsaturated omega fats (specifically, omega 6)

At face value, this is great advice. These foods all contain substances shown to reduce DHT, inflammation, and prostaglandin activity – the very same things implicated in AGA.

So, will following these dietary recommendations help slow, stop, or even reverse pattern hair loss?

I wish it were the case. Unfortunately, most research says no.

The evidence (so far): diet has little influence over pattern hair loss (AGA)

While debates surface over the diet-AGA connection surface every day on hair loss forums, this question has already been thoroughly examined (and answered) in the medical literature.

The conclusions: in most cases, diet has no correlation with AGA.

Just see this 2017 literature review. The authors dove into hundreds of studies on nutrition and hair loss – all conducted over the last few decades. Their findings? While telogen effluvium is linked to certain nutrient deficiencies, there’s little-to-no evidence linking our diets to pattern hair loss (AGA).

In this 2018 literature review, the authors found that AGA sufferers with an iron deficiency saw hair loss improvements by taking iron supplements (often alongside vitamin C). Moreover, the authors of this review found that vitamin D supplementation improved hair loss outcomes for female pattern hair loss.

At face-value, this seems to paint a muddier picture. However, in both reviews, the populations with iron and vitamin D deficiencies were at a high risk of also having telogen effluvium. As such, it’s likely that these people had both pattern hair loss and telogen effluvium. Therefore, improving their iron or vitamin D status probably just improved their hair loss from telogen effluvium and not their AGA.

How can foods help reduce DHT, inflammation, and prostaglandin activity… but not help fight pattern hair loss?

If food extracts can help reduce DHT, reactive oxygen species, inflammation, and prostaglandin activity (the causes of AGA), then how come a diet filled with foods containing these extracts doesn’t improve AGA?

The answer is several-fold.

Reason #1: food extracts are rarely comparable to whole foods

Remember: most people build diets for pattern hair loss based on research on food extracts, not whole foods. Then, they look up foods containing those extracts and tell you to eat more of them.

Unfortunately, food extracts and whole foods are rarely (if ever) comparable.

Food extracts are highly concentrated forms of food substances. For instance, pumpkin seed oil is extracted from pumpkin seeds; saw palmetto is extracted from the fruit of a Serenoa repens plant.

If we eat pumpkin seeds and saw palmetto fruit, we do ingest some of these extracts… but at just a fraction of what we’d get from a concentrated supplement.

Consequently, whole foods generally don’t have the same effects as their food extracts. In some cases, these whole foods might even have the opposite effect of their extracts.

Example: resveratrol, red wine, and life expectancy

Resveratrol is an antioxidant. Studies show that resveratrol can enhance lifespan in mice. Resveratrol is found in red grapes; red grapes make red wine; red wine has resveratrol.

Accordingly, dozens of articles posit that drinking red wine will increase our lifespan. Why? Because red wine contains resveratrol, and resveratrol increases lifespan in mice.

But here’s the problem.

In that lifespan study, mice were given the human equivalent of ~20 mg of resveratrol daily. A glass of red wine contains 0.5 mg of resveratrol. So, in order to see the same lifespan-increasing effects, how much red wine would a human need to drink daily?

Over 40 glasses of red wine. Every. Single. Day.

It goes without saying that this volume of alcohol would kill most people. Ironically, new research suggests that even drinking just 1-2 glasses of red wine daily might increase our risk of death – the opposite goal we’d hope to achieve from drinking red wine to get more resveratrol.

The bottom line: we can’t look at research on a food extract, eat foods containing that extract, and then expect to achieve the same effect as eating just the extract. Why? Because we might not be getting enough of that extract to make any difference.

And even if we do eat enough of a food extract to do something (like reduce DHT), it’s possible that this reduction just isn’t enough to even slow or stop pattern hair loss.

Problem #2: foods and food extracts can reduce DHT, inflammation, and prostaglandin activity… but not always by enough to have an effect on AGA

For any medication, there’s a dose-dependent response curve. This measures the effect of a medication based on how big of a dose we’ve taken.

The general rule-of-thumb: we want to take enough medication to produce a therapeutic effect, but not too much to increase our risk of side effects.

So, let’s think about this in the context of pattern hair loss.

The leading drug prescribed to men with androgenic alopecia is called finasteride (or Propecia®). Finasteride helps to slow, stop, and partially reverse pattern hair loss. Studies show that for 80% of men, the drug will stop hair loss and lead to a 10% increase in hair count over a two-year period. That’s encouraging.

The way finasteride does this is by reducing DHT levels in our scalps. Again, the hormone DHT is implicated in the balding process, and finasteride shows that by reducing DHT, we can also improve our AGA.

Unfortunately, finasteride can also lead to sexual side effects – which is why so many men look for natural alternatives to the drug. And one of the most famous natural alternatives to finasteride? A food extract called saw palmetto.

Saw palmetto has also been shown to reduce DHT in men. Resultantly, saw palmetto often makes headlines for its potential ability to help improve pattern hair loss.

So, if we take saw palmetto, will we see an improvement in AGA?

Not necessarily. And why? Because while finasteride and saw palmetto both reduce DHT, finasteride reduces DHT at a threshold high enough to actually improve pattern hair loss. Saw palmetto doesn’t.

Just see this chart (from our saw palmetto article).

This is why saw palmetto underperforms versus finasteride in long-term clinical studies. It just doesn’t reduce DHT enough to have an effect for most hair loss sufferers. And this is also why this food extract needs to be combined with other supplements, drugs, and treatments for it to have a positive impact on our hair.

The same is true for eating saw palmetto fruits. You’re only going to get a fraction of the food extract, and thereby you’re only going to get a fraction of its DHT-reducing capabilities.

The same goes for trying to eat things like rosemary or foods high in zinc. Will you reduce DHT levels? Probably by a little. But not nearly enough to have an impact on your hair.

Bottom line: food extracts contain substances that help reduce the suspected causes of pattern hair loss. But food extracts behave differently than the whole foods that contain them, and sometimes, even those food extracts won’t have a big enough effect to improve your hair.

So, don’t try to follow a DHT-reducing diet! You’ll just waste money and time. And there are much better ways to fight hair loss using diet. You just need to be made aware of them.

Which brings us to our final point…

Fact #4: you can build a good diet to help fight hair loss

Even if you have telogen effluvium, pattern hair loss (AGA), or both hair loss disorders – you can still customize a diet that helps to improve your hair. All you need to do is stop reading useless “foods for hair loss” articles… and start building a diet tailored to your individual needs.

Will the following dietary recommendations reverse hair loss? It depends.

  • If you have dietary-driven telogen effluvium, most likely.
  • If you have pattern hair loss, this diet might help to slow its progression (and enhance wounding-based hair loss treatments).

And the good news? There are probably just three things you need to do to get this right.

Rule #1: become nutrient replete

In other words, make sure to get enough of the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and micronutrients your body demands on a daily basis.

Studies show that nutrient repletion enhances our recovery from inflammation. After an injury, vitamin C helps synthesize new (healthy) collagenglucose helps create new blood vessel passageways… and zinc improves bacterial clearance and helps to activate stem cells.

Without enough vitamin C, glucose, and zinc – we’re going to be inflamed. The same is true for nearly every single micronutrient in existence.

We’re not going to cover the science behind each nutrient and how a deficiency can evoke inflammatory reactions in our body. That would turn this 5,000+ word article into 100,000 words.

Instead, just take our word for it. Design a diet that is nutrient replete. Direction on how to do so will follow the next recommendation.

Rule #2: avoid a prolonged calorie deficit

This is an extension of being nutrient replete, but to be absolutely clear, I’m spelling it out again:

Make sure to get all of the macronutrients your body demands on a daily basis. That means enough fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

This may seem simple enough, but for people doing intermittent fasting or low-carb diets like Atkins or a ketogenic diet, accidental under-eating is widespread. In fact, this happened to me when I tried a low-carb (ketogenic) paleo diet. It’s because protein is incredibly satiating – so much so that on low-carbohydrate diets, you’re more likely to enter into a calorie deficit and not even know it.

Ironically, I also probably did this when I went vegan. (Yes, I’ve tried a lot of diets for hair loss).

Unfortunately, these calorie deficits can exacerbate conditions linked to telogen effluvium – like hypothyroidism. This is because under-eating can reduce our output of thyroid hormone and increase cortisol levels — two biomarkers that, when out of line, often predict future excessive hair shedding (i.e., telogen effluvium).

How do I track my micronutrients and macronutrients?

Enter your daily food ingestion into a calorie tracker like FitDay.com and see how you stack up. It’s as simple as that. Chances are that you’ll find your diet is low in several nutrients, and you’ll need to make adjustments accordingly.

Rule #3: avoid inflammatory or allergenic foods

Trust me when I say that we’re all consuming allergenic foods on a consistent basis. But before we get into that, here’s why we should avoid them.

Since the 1940’s, we’ve known that allergens (e.g., pollen) prolong our recovery from acute injuries. However, recent studies have finally clarified how: allergen exposure increases inflammation and our propensity for scarring. This is also true for allergenic foods. That means that the ingestion of common allergens (i.e., dairy, gluten, etc.) can increase inflammation, prolong our wound recoveries, and likely put us in a chronically inflamed state.

But… does allergen ingestion actually lead to hair loss?

Not directly. Having said that, allergens like gluten can exacerbate hypothyroidism — a condition that leads to telogen effluvium. And importantly, research shows that a gluten-free diet can help reverse many hypothyroid symptoms.

That means that for sensitive individuals, a food allergen may indirectly contribute to hair thinning — and removing that food allergen may improve the condition causing hair thinning (thus improving their hair).

Food allergy prevalence: high. Food allergy intake: high.

Let’s just look at the suspected number of Americans suffering from food allergens… and the number of allergens ingested per person.

For starters, 65% of adults have a dairy / lactose intolerance. Knowing this, how much dairy does the average American consume daily? Three-quarters of a pound.

Likewise, up to 35% of Americans have gluten sensitivity (many of them undiagnosed). So how much wheat does the average American eat yearly? 130+ pounds.

One average American, two common food allergens, hundreds of pounds devoured, every single year. Knowing this, it’s no wonder why 50% of U.S. adults have a chronic disease. We’re constantly inflaming ourselves with our food choices.

Beyond gluten and dairy, other estimates suggest that almost 11% of U.S. adults have allergies to foods like soy, nuts, and shellfish. This number is probably much higher, but our reactions are so subtle that we’re not yet aware of how the inflammation presents: dermatitis, rosacea, acne, bowel discomfort… the list goes on.

How do I identify my own food allergens?

Either avoid foods that are commonly allergenic or do testing to identify your own food allergens. If you’re going to take the testing route, I’d recommend Median Release Tests (MRT) over igG tests – as MRT’s (while significantly more expensive) tend to have a significantly lower risk of producing false-positive results.

What’s the perfect diet to fight hair loss?

It depends on every individual: your hair loss type, food allergies, nutritional demands (i.e., medications, activity levels, underlying conditions), nutrient absorption capacities, and beyond.

That’s why there is no perfect diet to fight hair loss. The perfect diet will be intrinsic to your needs. You can’t compare your needs to what others need. But, in general, if you’re following a diet that is…

  1. Nutrient replete
  2. Avoidant of a calorie deficit
  3. Avoidant of allergenic / inflammatory foods specific to you

…then you’re likely doing everything you can to fight hair loss with foods.

A dietary chart: the pros, cons, and constraints of popular diets

If you’re reading this, chances are that you have already committed to a diet in an effort to improve your health and your hair. Veganism, vegetarianism, low-carb, paleo, you name it.

There are shortcomings to every one of these diets in terms of lacking nutrient and inflammatory foods. To help you address these, I’ve made a chart of the pros, cons, and constraints of most diets – inspired by examine.com:

*Note: “Our diet” refers to the diet outlined in our membership site

Now it’s your turn to take this advice and turn into action.

Final summary

Hair loss forums do a terrible job explaining the intricacies of the diet-hair loss connection. In reality, diet’s connection to both hair loss and hair growth depends on our type of hair loss and our nutritional needs.

At the extremes, chronic malnourishment can cause hair loss. This has been observed in impoverished populations. So, if you chronically under-eat or if you haven’t consumed certain nutrients in years, you can develop a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.

However, in the first world, nutrient deficiencies severe enough to cause telogen effluvium are rare. Even despite the abysmal state of standard American diets, grain fortification programs help to keep us out of nutrient deficiencies that are that severe.

In the first world, hair loss in combination with a nutrient deficiency is usually less related to diet… and more related to medication use, chronic conditions, autoimmune disorders, bleeding disorders, and other health problems. So, if you’re in the U.S. and have hair loss alongside a moderate nutrient deficiency, don’t assume it’s because of your diet. Rather, take note of your overall health and start exploring whether you have other health issues connected to hair thinning.

While the research is still unclear, pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia) is not strongly linked to food choices or diet. Technically, we can use foods to reduce our levels of DHT, inflammation, and prostaglandin activity. However, in most cases, doing this with food alone won’t have enough of a therapeutic to actually improve AGA.

Even still, we can design a diet that will help us fight thinning hair. It won’t be a miracle cure, but it’ll hopefully reduce our risk of telogen effluvium and maybe slow the progression of pattern hair loss. All we need to do is design a diet that is (1) nutrient replete, (2) avoidant of a calorie deficit, and (3) avoidant of allergenic and inflammatory foods.

This diet will vary for everyone. As such, there are a ton of ways to cross the finish line. Just use FitDay.com to track your food intake, avoid commonly allergenic foods (or do allergen testing), and follow the advice above.

Questions? Comments? Please reach out in the comments section! I’m happy to help.

42 thoughts on “The Best Diet For Hair Loss? Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong”

  1. Great article Rob. The only supplement I ever noticed that had any effect on hair growth was nettle, but I had stop taking it because it was also a laxative.

    One thing I’m curious about is if high-dose omega-3 might have a mild immunosuppressive effect for people with food-reactive immune systems. I initially noticed my rate of hair loss went down when I was able to control my asthma with fish oil and vitamin D (and then regrew using the massage technique). I suspect that systemic inflammation accelerates hair loss and that diet plays a big role in this, but that there may be alternatives to restrictive diets via modulating the immune system with supplements.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading, JD! And great points.

      I agree with your sentiments re: diet, inflammation, and the acceleration of AGA. In young men with AGA, we see elevated estrogen levels, insulin resistance, and a hormonal profile with deviations similar to women with PCOS. This all suggests that if you’re suffering from early-onset hair loss, chances are you’ve also got a lot of systemic inflammation. Moreover, chances are that if you’re genetically predisposed to pattern hair loss, then a bad diet is going to exacerbate this inflammation and likely accelerate an earlier onset of AGA.

      Your anecdote fits with so many others on this site: people don’t see major improvements to their hair until they dial in a diet that works with them. After that, massages, microneedling, and other mechanical stimulation exercises seem to work way better. In your case, omega 3 + vitamin D likely helped tremendously – especially given the link between asthma, prostaglandins, pattern hair loss, and the potential ability for omega 3’s and vitamin D to help modulate prostaglandin activity (and thereby potentially dampen some immune responses).

      Reply
      • This is most interesting, Rob. If what you assume about the connection between systemic inflammation and hair loss is correct, shouldn’t we find a strict correlation between allergies and AGA? I mean allergies of any kind, not just food. Say someone is allergic to dust – he or she would then be constantly inflamed as the allergen is everywhere.

        Best
        Wayne

    • Hey JD,

      I remember you were quite enthusiastic about K2 as a supplement. Have you stopped taking it?
      And how’s your hair in general after all this time – have you managed to keep what you had gained by massaging?

      Best
      Wayne
      PS: Great blog – I enjoyed reading about all your experiments a lot, and it inspired me to do some myself!

      Reply
  2. I gotta say, Rob, this is an absolutely thorough post on diet and hair loss. Well done!

    What do you think about the Asian diet? I live in Southeast Asia and a lot of young men start balding at early 20s.

    Could it be because of the excessive consumption of palm oil (PUFAs) and cigarettes?

    Reply
    • Another good article.

      Any comments on the following supplements and their effects?

      1- Saw palmetto at higher dosage (1-5 g)
      2- Stinging nettle root extract (300-600 mg)
      3- Flushing Niacin (500mg)
      4- Magnesium oil for scalp treatment
      5- Vitamin K2 + Apple Cider Vinegar + Magnesium (intake)

      Reply
      • Thanks Al! Expect an article about saw palmetto soon – including a section on mega-dosing. In terms of stinging nettle root, here’s a quote from a past article:

        One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of nettle root extract demonstrated that nettle root really can alleviate the symptoms of BPH. One possible explanation for this is that nettle root reduces DHT and is therefore beneficial for hair as well.

        However, some studies cast doubt on the link between nettle root and DHT levels.

        Not only that, there is evidence to suggest that lignans – found in nettle root extracts – bind to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As the name implies, SHBG binds to sex hormones such as testosterone and DHT, preventing them from binding to androgen receptors.

        …Given its impact on SHBG, it’s probably safer to stay away from nettle root supplements altogether.

        I don’t have any strong opinions for or against niacin supplementation. In all my years of communicating with other hair loss sufferers, magnesium oil, vitamin K2, and ACV have yet to make a discernible difference for any reader. That’s not to say they’re useless; it’s just that if there are success stories from this combination, they seem to be few and far between.

        Best,
        Rob

    • Thanks Reza! There’s debate over whether AGA onset is on-the-rise, and whether it’s disproportionality affecting younger people more than ever before… especially in developed countries. Southeast Asia is an area of interest – since it seems like complaints of hair loss there are increasing in younger men and women.

      If it turns out this is the case, then essentially anything to increase inflammatory biomarkers in the body – i.e., stress, poor diets, nutrient deficiencies, etc. – would likely accelerate the onset of AGA in those who are genetically predisposed. After all, studies in young men with AGA tend to show higher estrogen levels and also match the hormonal profiles of women with PCOS. This suggests a higher degree of inflammation and insulin resistance in younger men with AGA. So, anything that might contribute to elevating those markers might also kickstart the balding process.

      Best,
      Rob

      Reply
  3. Hey Rob,

    Congrats on yet another objective, informative and thorough article! What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting (16:8) and chronic inflammation? Do you think it can aid in reducing it thus maybe giving a bit of an edge when battling pattern hair loss?

    Reply
    • Hey Adrian,

      I think intermittent fasting is potentially great. It seems to have beneficial effects on IGF-1, and provided that you maintain your caloric requirements daily, it seems to help reduce inflammation as well as improve longevity and overall health. I don’t see intermittent fasting as a huge lever when it comes to pattern hair loss. At the same time, it certainly wouldn’t hurt (provided you don’t go into a calorie deficit, and that you find a restriction window short enough to keep you from going hypothyroid).

      Reply
  4. Hello Rob

    Great work, and great Article, my only question is, so you think multivitamins are not necessary or some vitamins?

    have a good day

    Reply
    • Thanks Christian! Taking a multivitamin really depends on your hair loss type and unique set of circumstances. For people with androgenic alopecia, the research tends to suggest these are a waste of money.

      Take Nutrafol®, for example: a well-marketed supplement that ostensibly contains all of the micronutrients flagged in this article: zinc, selenium, iron (in some cases), biotin, etc. But, in clinical studies, the company has only published research on women with perceived hair thinning (read: not always androgenic alopecia). I’m assuming that they probably also tested this supplement on men, but didn’t find the results favorable, so didn’t publish them.

      Reply
  5. What would be best way to reduce estrogen levels for young men. I assume just getting rid of whatever is causing them to raise in the first place (ex. Stress)?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • In general, you’d probably want to target insulin resistance and inflammation.

      Diet is one place to start. But objectively speaking, the biggest lever usually isn’t diet; it’s lifestyle. So, I’d first prioritize:

      1. Sleep (7-8 hours per night)
      2. Sunlight (15-30+ minutes daily during UVB hours, no burning)
      3. Daily movement (spaced throughout the day)
      4. Stress management

      If you can do those things well, then you’ll likely see more of an impact from diet. In my experience, if you don’t have the right lifestyle, strict diet adjustments will feel more stressful than they will helpful.

      Reply
  6. Great work Rob , this was such an important article to cover.

    I’ve tried gluten free while being vegatarian , but I felt that I was lacking the nutrients needed to fight aga.

    So I added fish , and maybe meat again. But I don’t react to wheat or milk ? I’ve had few BBqs and I didn’t notice anything.

    The takeaway is eat healthy, and nutrient replete. I know people stress on diets.

    I look forward to saw Palmetto article. I’ve been taking saw Palmetto for three years.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Paz! I’m excited to share the new article with you.

      Have you noticed any side effects from saw palmetto? Any benefits? I just had a conversation over email with someone who said that massaging + saw palmetto restored parts of their hairline, but when they tried transitioning off saw palmetto, they noticed a continued shed.

      It’s great to hear that you don’t react to wheat or milk. It’s usually location-dependent. A lot of Americans swear that most wheat and milk from Europe doesn’t bother them, but that they have inflammatory reactions when consuming these foods back in the U.S. There are a bunch of different hypotheses as to why: iron enrichment / fortification requirements in America, differences in bovine IGF-1 levels in U.S. dairy, etc.

      Best,
      Rob

      Reply
  7. That’s a difficult one Rob.

    First off I remember an article you did on Dht blocking which included saw Palmetto. your idea at the time was that saw Palmetto is effective , but not to the level of finesteride.

    So I took saw Palmetto along with pumpkin seed oil twice daily before meals. But this was during massages and made gains/ thicken.

    I did stop taking the two for like a week or two. I didn’t notice any large amounts of shed.

    Its difficult to determine their efficiency, even more now , that I have incorporated new massages ( scalp perimeter) and two weekly dermarolling. Along with reintroducing meat into my diet

    Reply
    • Hi Paz,

      you wouldn’t notice any change after stopping saw palmetto within this short time span. In my case, it took one month until the first changes became visible. Two weeks after that, I had lost nearly all of my gains. So if you want to find out whether the SP or the massages are doing the work, stop SP for at least a month. However, this does not rule out a cumulative effect, and I wish I knew whether the SP alone or its combination with the massages was responsible for my regrowth. All I can safely say is that in my case it was not the massages alone (after 5 months, that is).

      Best
      Wayne

      Reply
  8. Hi Rob,

    Great article as always!

    Do you think mechanical stimulation can cause even more hairloss if you have inappropriate diet or hormonal imbalance? Is it more important to do the massages right – having loose scalp, right amount of pressure or should one focus more on things as hormones and diet?
    Do you think ashwagandha is good supplement for hairloss?

    Thnak you.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading, Dawe. It’s certainly possible. There are two scenarios where mechanical stimulation exercises (i.e., microneedling or massaging) can sometimes trigger excess shedding:

      1. If someone has a hair shedding disorder instead of AGA
      2. If someone has both a hair shedding disorder and AGA

      In these cases, you’ll likely want to treat the hair shedding disorder first, and the AGA second. The mechanisms why are discussed in the membership site.

      In terms of ashwagandha – I generally don’t think this supplement will help most people with hair loss. However, some people swear it makes them feel better.

      Best,
      Rob

      Reply
  9. Hi, Rob!
    From your experience with several clients, what do you think is the most effective way to reduce androgen levels (testosterone) to normal levels in women with androgenic alopecia? Is better with medications, supplements? Or is more effective with lifestyle changes?

    Reply
  10. 1. Fast!!!!!!
    2. Eat Meat
    3. Massage and Micro needle
    4. Repeat
    5. Success. 🙂

    Need to get the soil nice and nutrient dense then you hit it with sun and water every day. Sh*t soil, no sun, crap water= no grass….takes a little time but it works.

    Reply
  11. Great work Rod ,well researched and presented .You hit the nail on the head with your excellent work .

    Thank you

    Reply
  12. Hi Rob!

    Any advice what can cause overproduction of sebum? Is is diet or simply genetics? Not all guys with AGA are having oily scalp but I just can’t stand a day without washing my head because it gets so oily. I know you recommended to not to wash your hair at all with shampoo but when I don’t do that I’m loosing even more hair and my scalp gets incredibly itchy. So far I’ve tried several types of diet but nothing seems to make a major difference. Would you recommend anything specific for oily scalps?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Thanks for the feedback, Rob!

    What are your thoughts on Pygeum and Quercetin supplementation?

    Thanks again, and I will look forward to your future article on Saw Pameltto mega dose supplementation:)

    Reply
  14. Hi Rob, I know its a bit off topic but i just needed to ask. Im really struggling with the stretching portion of the scalp massage since some of the areas im doing the stretch on is completely bald and my hands sweat a bit during it, making it hard to get a good grip. There is a stretch occurrin its just not a complete one since my hands slip a lot, just wanna know if it will still be beneficial even with this slippery factor? Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Hi Rob and other readers,
    My perspective is as follows. The fundamental issue is inflammation which is basically an autoimmune condition. While there are so many factors – scalp tension, skull expansion, microbial action at scalp and gut, gene expression, lack/low nutrition and minerals, thyroid and many more, its manifestation is in different forms – pattern baldness, scarring alopecia, alopecia areata. Its not that scalp tension/skull expansion/microbial action which is causing loss, it is body’s reaction to these issues which is causing loss. These factors have always been there in the population but now because of our internal environment and external factors has un-required inflammation starting out as a response to all these factors {and hence the infamous ‘too much androgen’ and/or ‘gene expression’}. My suggestion [and this is what I plan to do for next 6 months] is 1. Make sure there is no external infection/infection – SIBO, colon yeast, scalp infection and any other infectious factors. 2. Work on internal self – foods to consume, how fresh, vitamins&minerals, the very way one sits, stands, sleeps, sh*ts, thinks, interacts and other day-to-day activities making sure there is no room to create a disturbance/inflammation within the body. 3. And of course for the existing damage – do scalp massages and/or microneedling and other targeted action depending on how barren the area is. Sounds like a plan? Give a thought about this and follow it one hundred percent honestly!

    Reply
  16. Great article, Rob – always clearing up the misinformation!
    I remember reading on Dr. Mercola’s site about 10 years ago saying he reckons he’d still have much of his hair had he not been such a heavy consumer of grains. Someone forward this article on to him!
    Also, I remember years ago reading (another article on Mercola’s website) that having a 12 hour period each day when not eating can be beneficial. I often do this (albeit unintentionally) because I’m lazy so often don’t get around to eating my first meal until 1-2pm. Any thoughts on fasting in regards to a narrow window for eating (consuming food only for an 8 hour window each day [Hugh Jackman did that to help get in shape])?
    Also, years ago I used to think that the so-called alkaline diet was the key to helping stay healthy, though now I know that reducing inflammation and making sure one isn’t calorie deficient is the real trick!

    Reply
    • Hey Chris!

      Great points. Intermittent fasting is hugely beneficial to staving off diseases that shorten our lifespan – most likely because being “hungry” tends to activate sirtuins and autophagy. There are a ton of benefits to this in regard to overall health. As far as our hair – I haven’t yet seen any research done specifically in this regard. I’m a bit hesitant to extrapolate the research since pattern hair loss is such a localized thing.

      In any case, as long as you’re not accidentally going into a calorie deficit, intermittent fasting should NOT hurt your hair. So, keep at it!

      Best,
      Rob

      Reply
  17. Hey Rob, thanks so much for your time and effort in these articles. OK, so i have a bit of a lengthy story:
    I started hair improvement protocols when I was 19. I used castor oil and peppermint and rosemary, oiled 2x a week, and did detumescence and handstands. I was losing hair fast at the time, but I couldnt help but notice that my hair actually started to come back, at least the thickness did.
    However, the thing is, my hair never felt like it used to do when I was younger. WHen I was young, it was measureably thick. Even when my hair thickened up after following the protocols, it didnt feel the same
    Fast forward 1 year, and I fell into a pretty bad habit of masturbation. I went from masturbating 6 times a year to 15 times in a month, and some days I would binge and rub out 5 of them. I noticed my hair getting super thing, but more interestingly, my chest hair thickened up a LOT, and it spread to my nipples in an x pattern.
    Since I realized that fapping might be a factor in my hairloss, i have completely cut it out, although I sometimes edge because the urges come very strong. I want to ask, though: Rob, can someone like me heal again? Im 21 years old now, extremely committed to regrowing my hair. Ive gained it, lost it, and want to gain it back again. Is it less likely that I will get my hair back now that I have done hormonal damage to myself? AT any rate, looking forward to your response. Thanks in advance for your time, Sir. Take care

    Reply
    • Hey Ken,

      Thanks for reaching out. This question isn’t related to the above article about diet, and so future communications on this topic will need to go through email or a consultation. However, there’s very little correlation between pattern hair loss and masturbation.

      Theoretically, there may be a connection to frequent masturbation, prolactin dysregulation, and hair shedding (which is not AGA) – though there’s very little evidence here.

      There progression of your hair loss alongside your increase in body hair all suggests that the return of your hair issues are probably more so related to AGA and less so other activities – as increasing DHT levels are associated with both scalp hair loss and body hair growth.

      There is hope for nearly everyone losing their hair. But the right treatment approach is person-specific: it depends on their age, gender, hair loss type, hair loss severity, comfortability with drugs, time availability, and finances.

      Best,
      Rob

      Reply
  18. Hi Rob, I assume you’re familiar with Ray Peat / Danny Roddy approach (I’ve seen Ray Peat mentioned in one of your articles) which is generally (I hope I abbreviate correctly): pro carbs + pro thyroid nutrition (including thyroid supp) + anti inflammation (including aspirin supp).

    Personally, it has somewhat shifted my views on carbs (which in other diets are usually portrayed as evil). Would love to hear if you have any thoughts on their diet approach (especially the carbs angle)?

    Thanks!
    Ron

    Reply

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