Diffuse Hair Thinning? Check Your Zinc Levels

Read time: 10 minutes

The Zinc-Hair Loss Connection

Suffering from hair loss? You might think your hair thinning is due to hypothyroidism, a hormonal imbalance, or even dihydrotestosterone (DHT)… But what you may not know is that hair loss can also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency – specifically, zinc.

Zinc is an essential trace metal our bodies need to regulate hormones and even stave off conditions from infertility to macular degeneration. But zinc’s importance for hair health – and even zinc’s ability to reverse hair thinning – is only just now gaining attention.

But just how important is zinc for hair health (and hair regrowth)? Check out this case study.

A Case Study: Zinc & Diffuse Hair Thinning

These clinicians published a study in the International Journal of Trichology about a 28-year old female patient with widespread hair loss and scaly lesions. Her conditions had persisted for 2+ months.

Look at the severity of her hair thinning:

The photo on the left is suggestive of a type of hair loss known as diffuse thinning – or evenly spaced thinning throughout the scalp. This most commonly occurs in women, but it’s not exclusive to women (after all, diffuse thinning was also part of my hair loss diagnosis).

The photo on the right resembles three kinds of hair loss: 1) traction alopecia – hair loss as a result of the “pulling” of hair (typically from too tight of a ponytail). 2) telogen effluvium – hair loss often induced by stress — where many hairs simultaneously enter a “resting” and stop growing. And 3) a hair loss-related fungal infection. We can see some discoloration of her bald skin — which likely means that some sort of inflammation could be triggering the hair loss (for instance, inflammation from a fungus).

Regardless of the type of hair loss, this woman’s health is deteriorating. So what did these doctors do?

Treatment #1: Thyroxine (Thyroid Hormones)

The clinicians tested the patient for low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and confirmed her thyroid levels were low. Then they attempted to treat her with thyroxine – a thyroid drug.

Hair loss is often a symptom of hypothyroidism. So it’s no surprise that this woman had 1) suppressed thyroid function, and 2) widespread hair loss on the scalp.

So did thyroxine improve this patient’s symptoms – or her hair loss? Unfortunately, no.

Treatment #1 Fails. The Patient’s Hair Loss Persists…

Thyroid supplementation did not improve this patient’s symptoms – or her hair health.

So what next? The investigators decided to do more blood work. The next step: checking the patient’s blood zinc levels. And this is where things get interesting…

Testing Serum Zinc Levels

For reference, normal blood (serum) zinc levels range from 66-144 mcg/dl. But if you’re familiar with health sciences, you know there’s a huge difference between what’s considered a “normal” range for nutrients… and what’s considered optimal.

In fact, optimal serum zinc levels are more likely in the range of 90-150 mcg/dl, at least according to the clinicians in this case study.

So what was this patient’s serum zinc levels? 62 mcg/dl.

Many doctors would see that number and think, “Oh, you’re barely below normal. Zinc probably isn’t an issue for you.” But these kinds of conclusions are becoming outdated. Why? Because new research suggests that someone’s nutrient needs change depending on their environment.

For example, someone with hypothyroidism (like this woman) might actually require more zinc than most other people – because zinc is required to synthesize thyroid hormones. As a result, a zinc deficiency might be the reason why this woman wasn’t seeing hair regrowth from thyroid medication.

At least, that’s what clinicians suspected. So they settled on a new approach…

Treatment #2: Thyroxine + Zinc + Multivitamin

The clinicians continued giving the woman thyroxine, but also started her on zinc monohydrate supplements – twice daily – 140mg capsules each (50mg of elemental zinc). They also gave her a multivitamin — since safe mega-dosing on zinc often demands the consumption of other nutrients like selenium and iodine.

So what were the results?

After one month, the scaly lesions on her face and scalp disappeared.

After four months on zinc, she regrew all of her hair. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

So what can we glean from her hair recovery? The answers might not be what you expect.

Is Zinc The Answer To Fighting Hair Loss?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s tough to say with certainty how much of an impact zinc had on this woman’s hair. Why? Because there are two confounding factors: the multivitamin, and the thyroid medication. As a result, it’s short-sighted of us to say, “Everyone start taking zinc for hair loss!”

With that said, zinc is likely an overlooked (and necessary) element required for hair regrowth. So keep reading to uncover if you should take zinc, and if so, how much you should take, and why.

Supplementing with zinc? Be careful.

Some zinc supplements contain heavy metals. And too much zinc can cause copper deficiencies, neurological problems, and even worsen hair loss.

Take the guesswork out of supplementation. Enter your email. I'll send you a FREE guide on how to supplement with zinc safely.

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Zinc & Pattern Hair Loss

Zinc works through a variety of mechanisms to promote hair health and even prevent hair loss. But for purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on zinc and its effects on…

  1. Thyroid metabolism
  2. Anti-inflammation
  3. DHT reduction
  4. Proteins required for hair shaft development

Hypothyroidism, Zinc, And Hair Loss

Widespread hair loss is often a symptom of low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism). And our thyroids are also in charge of regulating our bodies’ hormones. As a result, hormonal imbalance, hypothyroidism, and hair loss often go hand-in-hand.

Interestingly, studies show that zinc is necessary for thyroid hormone synthesis.

Zinc supplementation can improve thyroid function in those with zinc deficiencies. Moreover, zinc is required for the proper activation of thyroid receptors in response to thyroid hormone.

The bottom line: without zinc, your thyroid can’t function properly. And without a properly functioning thyroid, your chances of hormonal imbalances and hair loss increase substantially.

Zinc Is Anti-Inflammatory

One of the key causes of pattern hair loss is chronic inflammation in the scalp.

Chronic inflammation leads to fibrosis (scarring) and calcification of scalp tissues and the blood vessels supporting the hair follicles. The end-result is reduced blood, nutrient, and oxygen supply flow to our hair, which over a series of years, results in hair miniaturization (and eventually hair loss).

One way zinc may prevent hair loss and improve hair growth is by reducing inflammation.

In fact, studies show that chronic zinc deficiency is associated with increased inflammation and the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines — or proteins responsible for sending more inflammatory cells to damaged tissues.

The net: if we’re inflamed and zinc deficient, our bodies are going to overreact to the inflammation. And when it comes to hair loss, this overreaction is something we absolutely want to avoid.

So, keep your zinc levels optimized. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for an inflammatory cascade (and potentially a further progression of hair loss).

Zinc Decreases DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a sex hormone closely linked to pattern hair loss. In fact, DHT is elevated in balding scalp tissues, men who can’t produce any DHT don’t go bald, and men deficient in the enzyme which converts testosterone into DHT never go bald.

And while there’s still debate over whether DHT is the root cause of hair loss – or merely just one of many causes – it goes without saying that if we want to keep our hair, it might be in our best interest to at least balance our scalp tissue DHT levels between balding and non-balding sites.

Enter zinc: a natural and potent DHT inhibitor.

DHT, 5-Alpha Reductase, And Zinc

DHT is synthesized from testosterone by an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase.

If we block (or inhibit) the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, we can reduce DHT levels and potentially increase hair growth.

In fact, this is exactly how the hair loss drug Propecia (Finasteride) works. Propecia inhibits the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, and in doing so, lowers DHT (which can help slow, stop, or even partially reverse hair loss).

Research shows that zinc acts in similar ways to Propecia by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase and thereby reducing DHT levels.

In addition, zinc also decreases the formation of something called NADPH. NADPH is a cofactor our bodies need in order to form the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. In other words NADPH is necessary for 5-alpha reductase to work.

Evidence suggests that zinc reduces NADPH production, thereby decreasing 5-alpha reductase activity. This ultimately results in lower DHT levels, which could also explain why zinc is so critical for hair health.

Zinc Fuels Transcription Factors Critical For Hair Growth

Transcription factors are sets of proteins that tell our cells which genes to turn on and off. In other words, transcription factors change our cells’ gene expression – telling each cell what to become and which functions to perform.

Interestingly, new research reveals that gene expression might be more critical than we think for disease development. In fact, gene expression might also be the critical factor for the development of hair loss.

Certain transcription factors are required to activate the genes our bodies need to use to develop hair shafts. For instance, the KROX20 transcription factor is essential for the development of a hair shaft. Without the KROX20 transcription factor, hair cannot grow.

Interestingly, KROX20 doesn’t just show up all on its own. It needs to be activated by certain inputs. Specifically, zinc.

KROX20 is what’s known as a zinc-finger transcription factor – meaning that it requires zinc to be activated. And given KROX20’s importance for hair follicle development, it’s in our best interest to avoid a zinc deficiency so that KROX20 can keep doing its job of maintaining our hair.

What You Need To Know About Testing For A Zinc Deficiency

Most doctors will measure your zinc levels with a blood (serum) zinc test. Unfortunately, this method is relatively inaccurate. Evidence shows that many people with mild zinc deficiencies often have normal serum zinc levels (like that woman in the above case study!).

In addition, zinc and another trace element – copper – have a balancing relationship with one another. Sometimes normal zinc levels can mask a copper deficiency (or too high of copper), and vice-versa. This makes testing for a zinc deficiency difficult, and it makes diagnosing a zinc deficiency even harder.

So if we suspect we’re zinc deficient, what should we do?

Well, let’s first look at the kinds of people who are most likely deficient in zinc.

90% Of Athletes Might Be Zinc Deficient

Athletes – or gym warriors – are extremely susceptible to a zinc deficiency. Why? Because their exercise habits means that their bodies require far more nutrients than their sedentary counterparts.

I’ve competed in athletics my entire life. I also grew up on a standard American diet. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that I was diagnosed with pattern hair loss at the ripe old age of seventeen. I was probably severely deficient in several nutrients… zinc being one of them!

Vegans And Vegetarians Are At A Higher Risk Of Zinc Deficiency

Studies show that, compared to omnivores, vegans and vegetarians have significantly lower zinc levels.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Animal-based foods like oysters tend to also have the highest bioavailable zinc. And despite the fact that some vegan-friendly foods – like pumpkin seeds – are high in zinc, this zinc isn’t that bioavailable due to the binding properties of others substances in seeds.

I’ve experimented with many diets. I’ve tried vegetarianism for a year. I’ve also done a few stints of veganism – all to see if the diet would improve my hair health. It didn’t. Was a zinc deficiency part of my lacking success? It’s impossible to say. Nowadays, I can’t help but wonder.

Bottom line: if you’re an athlete, chances are you’re zinc deficient. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, chances are you’re zinc deficient. And if you’re a vegan athlete, we can pretty much guarantee you’re zinc deficient.

How Can I Tell If I’m Zinc Deficient?

We know that serum zinc tests are unreliable. So how can we tell if we’re zinc deficient?

Well, there is evidence to suggest that the concentration of zinc in hair is the most reliable sign of chronic zinc deficiency. Zinc levels are normally 150 to 240 mcg per gram of hair, but levels <70 mcg/g indicate zinc deficiency. So, you could just get a hair analysis test…

But one case study suggests that the best way to test for zinc deficiency might just be to start supplementing with zinc, and to start tracking if your symptoms go away.

So you can try that!

First, determine if you’re at risk for a zinc deficiency. Are you an athlete, a vegetarian, or a vegan? If so, you might be zinc deficient.

Secondly, are you exhibiting any of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency? For instance: hypothyroidism, cold hands / feet, depression, irritability, hair loss, or diffuse hair thinning.

If so, then you might be zinc deficient. That means that zinc supplementation might be a good option for you.

BUT please! Be warned…

Too much zinc is dangerous. If you’re going to supplement, you have to do it safely. Otherwise, you might worsen your condition and even cause neurological impairments.

How To Supplement With Zinc

Zinc is absorbed in the small intestine. And about 20%-40% of the zinc you ingest actually gets absorbed. Once absorbed, the majority of that zinc gets stored in your bones and muscles.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I still believe that the best way to take zinc is by naturally incorporating it into your diet.

Getting zinc from natural food sources ensures two important things:

  1. You make overdosing really hard – since you’re not eating a food concentrate, but rather a real food.
  2. You also consume zinc’s adjunct nutrients – like selenium (since zinc-containing foods often contain these nutrients as well).

Most meats and seafoods (like oysters) are great sources of zinc. Nuts and lentils might look like great sources of zinc, but the bioavailability of zinc from plant sources is debated. So if you want to maximize your absorption, you’ll probably want to go with animal foods.

What If I Want To Supplement With Zinc?

Go for it. But you have to do it wisely.

For instance, some zinc supplements contain high levels of cadmium – a metal that we don’t want to over-consume — especially for our hair health. (Again, this is just another reason why 99% of the time, I’m anti-supplementation.)

And here’s another challenge…

Most people can tolerate up to 100mg of zinc per day, but excessive doses of zinc can result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Even worse, people who mega-dose on zinc can also develop kidney damage, copper deficiencies, and even neurological impairments.

The takeaway: it pays to know how to supplement with zinc safely — which forms to take, which nutrient adjuncts to include, how much to take, and why.

To help you out, I decided to write up a free guide on how to supplement with zinc safely. Inside you’ll find:

  • The optimal dosage for zinc
  • The optimal form of zinc
  • Which foods to avoid while supplementing with zinc
  • Which supplements to pair with zinc for successful long-term supplementation

You can access it here (my thanks to you for reading this far!).

Supplementing with zinc? Be careful.

Some zinc supplements contain heavy metals. And too much zinc can cause copper deficiencies, neurological problems, and even worsen hair loss.

Take the guesswork out of supplementation. Enter your email. I'll send you a FREE guide on how to supplement with zinc safely.

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Summary: Zinc & Hair Loss

Zinc is an essential trace element that supports the thyroid and is critical for over 300 enzymatic processes inside our bodies. It’s also needed for thyroid hormone synthesis, quelling inflammation, and even decreasing the conversion of testosterone into DHT. In fact, zinc is also necessary for the expression of transcription factors that control hair shaft development and maintain hair growth. All of these mechanisms help support our hair!

Case studies have shown that zinc supplementation can improve hypothyroidism and even lead to complete hair recovery in those who are unresponsive to thyroid medications and suffering from suppressed thyroid function.

Athletes, vegans, and vegetarians are at the highest risk for zinc deficiencies. But the reality is that anyone suffering from hair loss might benefit from increasing their consumption of zinc — either through natural foods, or a zinc supplement.

But if you’re going to supplement, you have to do it safely! Stay smart, get informed, and don’t buy the first zinc supplement you find online or in the grocery store. The zinc supplement guide I put together should help. Otherwise, just stick to natural foods and try to eat a few ounces of oysters weekly.

Supplementing with zinc? Be careful.

Some zinc supplements contain heavy metals. And too much zinc can cause copper deficiencies, neurological problems, and even worsen hair loss.

Take the guesswork out of supplementation. Enter your email. I'll send you a FREE guide on how to supplement with zinc safely.

No spam. Unsubscribe any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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81 Comments

  • Adrian

    Reply Reply May 25, 2017

    Another winner of an article! I had a minor Bronxfrontation with my General Practioner yesterday, during which he refused to check my serum zinc levels. I only wish I had this article on hand at the time. This doctor is a like a falsehood Pez dispenser, not only dismissing the importance of testing my zinc (there’s no way he would’ve consented to a hair test) but trying to tell me that male hormones are responsible for hair loss. The conversation ended before he could explain how the Earth was flat, but the ignorance on display was astounding. All I could think “bad news, a**hole: I know a writer infinitely more educated than yourself, and he’s not even a doctor”. That guy is Rob, of course.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Thanks Adrian! Sadly, I can believe the ignorance of your doctor. Most general practitioners are 15 years behind the medical literature. It’s almost as if after they graduate medical school, there’s nothing that requires them to keep up with new research (unless they’re some sort of specialist).

      I’ve always wondered how new medical advice is disseminated for all doctors post-medical school. Do they receive a newsletter? Do they spend a few hours reading new studies each week? Do they limit their new learnings to pharmaceutical sales reps? I haven’t a clue. Of the doctors with whom I’ve talked, they’ve all said that for general practitioners, acquiring and digesting research is a non-priority (because of their work hours). And unfortunately, you just experienced the wrath of that. Also – I laughed out loud at your flat earth comment.

      • Flatter

        June 28, 2017

        Why? Earth is flat, research it!

  • Matt W

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Thanks for another great article Rob! Your guide mentions that Calcium decreases Zinc absorption, yet other sources say they complement each other, so much that they combine them into one supplement (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01E96GWKC)… I’ve been supplementing with this for a few weeks now, and also eating oysters as per your advice; do you have any thoughts on it?

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Thanks Matt! Interesting — thanks for passing along the product. I checked on your question, and here’s the source I’m using for the zinc-calcium connection:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9174476

      If you find any conflicting research (especially if it’s dated later than 1997), I’d love to read it. I absolutely want to make sure I’m giving you accurate information. From what I understand, high calcium intake still inhibits zinc. But I’m always open to being shown otherwise!

      Oysters are a great move. I try to have 3-6 each week.

  • Jennifer

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Hello Rob, I noticed My spaced hair loss after I’ve goten a tubal ligation in 2012. My health has been deteorating since then. I also suffer from hypothyroidism and check my levels every 6 mos to a yr and they are always normal thanks to 100mg of levothyroxine. But I also suffer from chronic fatigue which has also gotten worse and extreme irritability, anxiety and stress headaches immediately when I get upset. Would this be lack of zinc?

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Jennifer — your symptoms sound exactly like this case study. The woman was on thyroxine, and saw no results (but continued to feel depressed and lose her hair).

      I can’t legally give you any medical advice. But if I were in your position, I’d absolutely increase your zinc intake and take a multivitamin (just as the woman did in the case study). If you follow the advice in the zinc guide, I think that’s a good start. And keep us posted with how you do!

  • Jennifer

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    U would think I’d need a physic. Instead! Lol!

  • Jennifer

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    I will try the zinc and keep u posted Rob. Thank you for responding so quickly. God Bless you!

  • Manuel

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Vegan athlete over here, haha. My hair loss started years before I went vegan and worked out so regularly, though. Thanks for the article. I’ll dig through it carefully later and might consider zinc supplementation.

    • Manuel

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Another thought: There are many long-term vegan athletes who have no issues with hair loss at all. For example Rich Roll, Tim Shieff, and Patrik Baboumian (Germany’s strongest man), just to name a few prominent ones. Not trying to make a scientific point here, just sharing my thoughts on the topic. 🙂

  • Myles

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Excellent article Rob. Regarding oysters, how much and how often? I’m using canned smoked oysters in sunflower. I drain as much of the oil as possible. I aim for a couple of cans per week, around 16 oysters. I am also starting liver 100g weekly. I am otherwise an ovolactovegetarian athlete, so I’m guessing low on zinc, as per your article. My hair is also rapidly greying. Is that suggestive of a copper deficiency also?

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Hey Myles,

      I eat 5-7 raw medium-sized oysters per week. It’s tough to say if (and where) there is an upper limit for oysters. What I’d consider is that oysters contain other trace elements that, when consumed in high amounts, are cause for concern. But nutrient needs vary with each individual – based on diet, activity level, etc. So I’d experiment with consumption rates until you find a sweet spot where you feel best.

      Also… it pays dividends to know the farms from where you get your oysters. Check out my response to Manuel on that!

  • Manuel

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    One thought just came up: when recommending oysters, I think it is necessary to bear in mind that oysters contain cholesterol (plus toxins, heavy metals etc.) which can significantly contribute to the development of atherosclerosis and the clogging of one’s arteries, which, as you stated, in turn can contribute to hair loss.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/295834-oysters-cholesterol/

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Hey Manuel! Thanks for commenting. I think the concerns about heavy metal accumulation and toxins are valid. In fact, I make an effort to contact the farms from where I get my oysters to ask them about something called cyanobacteria.

      In the last two years, there have been some huge breakthroughs regarding inadvertent cyanobacteria consumption (through oysters, or through animals who eat cyanobacteria-ridden seeds and are then consumed by humans) and neurological disease development. In fact, new research suggests that protein folding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s aren’t necessarily genetic. Rather, they’re triggered by the lifetime accumulation of cyanobacteria.

      See this incredibly well-written story:

      http://www.jayheinrichs.com/blog/2016/9/1/flying-foxes-caribbean-monkeys-a-tiny-laboratory-in-a-wyoming-cabin-and-a-young-mormon-missionary-who-became-a-samoan-chief-before-pursuing-one-of-the-greatest-medical-mysteries

      Long-story short: if you’re buying oysters, your oyster farmer should know about blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, and they should be able to tell you the ways they’re preventing it from occurring in their farms. If they’re unfamiliar with this, contact another farm until you find oyster farmers who know what it is and can explain how they’re preventing cyanobacteria overgrowths.

      One other note: cyanobacteria isn’t unique to oysters. It also can accumulate in seeds.

      RE: cholesterol & oysters–

      The research I’ve read suggests cholesterol — especially when consumed uncooked (raw) — is uncorrelated with heart disease and atherosclerosis — and that most arterial plaque is actually the build-up of oxidized polyunsaturated fats (I think ~75% of arterial plaque is this). So I wouldn’t worry about the uptick in cholesterol from oysters, especially if consumed raw.

      Best,
      Rob

  • Sierra

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Thanks for another informative article! I’m 30 and generally healthy and I do strenuous workouts (heavy weights, HIIT) 4-5 times a week so ut makes sense that my zinc may be low. I already have a supplement inn hand do ill give that a whirl.

    • Sierra

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Oops darn autocorrect*… I’ve also had thyroid problems too.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Thanks Sierra! Let us know how it goes. Zinc has made a huge difference for a few readers. I’d love to keep in touch and up-to-date with your progress.

  • Micheal

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    What is your opinion on a topical zinc for hair loss? I have seen it discussed in hair loss communities and some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it has worked. I have also been thinking of purchasing this product

    https://kourosh.com/collections/men/products/dht-blocker

    It seems legit and it also contains zinc. I am always looking for the most convenient way possible to do all this lol

    Thanks in advance

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Kourosh products are ridiculously overpriced. They also make unsubstantiated claims on their products. For example, that zinc topical says that it “reduces DHT by 96% in the scalp.” To make that claim, you need to run a study on your product and then publish it. I’ve seen Kourosh make these types of claims over and over and always without any scientific backing. Bottom line: avoid. They’re marketers, not hair loss researchers. And they’re essentially begging to get in trouble with the FDA or other governing bodies with their misleading terminology.

      With that said, you can certainly try a topical zinc. I haven’t seen / read much research on topical zinc’s systemic absorption, but I imagine it’s much smaller than oral ingestion. Because of this, I think the benefits of topically applied zinc for hair loss are limited (especially if that zinc isn’t making its way into the system to benefit thyroid hormone synthesis). But, try it and let us know how it goes!

  • Micheal

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    what is your opinion on LLLT Rob?

  • Francisco

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Another amazing and detailed article Rob! Thank you so much for providing new knowledge based on researchers. Do you know what might be the correlation between being an athlete and having low levels of zinc?

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      Thanks Francisco! As it stands now, the correlation is driven by the fact that athletes have higher nutrient demands than their sedentary counterparts, and because most people under-consume zinc already, those athletes typically have even more depleted levels of the trace element. That’s why so many are zinc deficient!

  • Pete

    Reply Reply May 26, 2017

    Apparently you eat enough oysters to get your zinc, yet you take supplements. Maybe I’m missing something but why take supplements on top..?

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 26, 2017

      I wish it were always guaranteed that increased dietary zinc = no zinc deficiency. Unfortunately, I’m probably one of the cases that needs increased zinc just as a result of my size and activity levels. I’m 6’4″ and 200 lbs with a consistent workout regimen, which puts me at a higher risk for certain deficiencies versus sedentary counterparts.

      In any case, it never hurts to experiment. I’ve always taken the stance that 99% of supplementation is unnecessary, but I’ve felt great since incorporating more zinc, and a lot of readers have reported the same.

      I hope that clarifies things!

      • dante

        May 27, 2017

        Hi Rob,
        Do you monitor your serum copper and ceruloplasmin levels while supplementing with zinc ?

      • Rob

        May 30, 2017

        I don’t! I’ve been taking 100mg of zinc gluconate for a couple of months, so haven’t been too concerned about measuring serum copper just yet. Though measuring ceruloplasmin never crossed my mind. Have you found that to be a better benchmark for copper or iron metabolism?

      • dante

        June 1, 2017

        Well, if one is deficient in copper , cerluplasmin will likely by low however low ceruloplasmin can even happen in presence of adequate copper. Generally docs usually test serum copper , serum ceruloplasmin, urinary copper secretion for testing copper metabolism. It’s role in iron metabolism is a different subject though.
        Since you are keen on not letting iron build up in tissues, you may want to read this

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12055353

        (I hope you have used sci-hub before)

  • Finn

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    Hey Rob,

    I was just wondering, what do you recommend for someone that is younger and seeing slight thinning? My question in essence is; your massage recommendation is 2 sessions of 20 minutes a day, I don’t have ‘bald’ patches, just some thinning, should I do 40 minutes a day? Or should I do less? I know you could get results doing 2×20 a day, but is that aggravating my scalp too much? I also heard progress seems to halt if you reduce time. Thanks 🙂

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Hey Finn! When it comes to fighting hair thinning (especially at a young age), it’s much easier to stop hair loss than it is to regrow hair (though both are possible). I’d suggest sticking to the routines inside the book. Most readers who stick the regimen purely for preventive measures report that after ten or so months, their scalp environment (elasticity, etc.) has changed to the point where they’re no longer worried about hair loss and can taper the regimen to simply maintaining what they’ve already got. That means dramatically fewer massage sessions (even just a couple per week). Based on their experience, it pays to do the work upfront!

  • Ez

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    Great post, Rob!

    Quite dramatic changes to the woman’s hair situation. I’m glad she found her solution.

    There may be another source of low levels of zinc through from SIBO infections causing chronic inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients. Zinc is important in the healing arsenal for repairing the lining as well as bolstering the immune system.

    Interesting note – Here is another genetic predisposition whose common symptom is often hairless. Social anxiety and shyness, often associated with a condition called pyroluria, is oftentimes correlated with low zinc to high copper ratios. Reversing this low zinc to high copper along with B6 has been documented to decrease fear of speaking in public and lower aggression in children.

    A highly recommended supplement is Optizinc for anxiety. The other targeted for gut lining repair is zinc-carnosine.

    Thank you for the writeup on zinc. The fact that it is need for balanced hormones, I think the info ties in with my annoying sparse hairline issue and my, going on 10 years, IBS puzzle.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Ez – great points, and something that goes undiscussed in the article. SIBO can create a wide range of nutrient deficiencies — zinc being no exception. Thanks for sharing!

      Have you had any success with supplementation? Or any success in treating SIBO? Chris Kresser and Dr. Amy Nett in California have had incredible success treating SIBO through a variety of functions — but mainly through dietary changes + antibiotics that release only in the small intestine. I’m curious to hear if you (or anyone else) has had success in the realm.

    • Manuel

      Reply Reply May 27, 2017

      More in-depth article by UCSF itself: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2017/05/407121/new-hair-growth-mechanism-discovered

      Seems interesting..!

      • Rob

        May 30, 2017

        Thanks for sharing! Similar to KROX20, it looks like researchers have identified yet another factor (Tregs) required for hair shaft growth and hair elongation. Based on the pattern of the mice’s hair loss, they suspect that these regulatory T cells might play a role in autoimmune-driven hair loss like alopecia areata.

        This is a far cry from a miracle cure, or even a therapeutic treatment for pattern hair loss. It’s just that scientists have discovered another cell/transcription factor/signaling protein necessary to make hair. It doesn’t mean that increasing regulatory T cells will reverse hair loss — as the Unilad article’s headline suggests.

        In order for that to be true, we would need to answer those same questions voiced in the KROX20 article:

        https://perfecthairhealth.com/why-krox20-isnt-a-miracle-hair-loss-cure/

        In general, these types of discoveries aren’t the breakthroughs the media makes them out to be. For instance, I could design a study with similar results on skin cells. Skin cells are necessary to make and support hair follicles. If we take away skin cells, hair can’t grow. But does that mean more skin cells = a reverse of pattern hair loss? Not at all.

  • Paz

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    That’s interesting.

    Then in theory anything which is anti-inflammatory, will help hair loss. Ie cold water shower, zinc , apple cider ECT.

    Look forward to seeing what Rob says.

  • Ivan

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    Rob, the water washing only method isn’t working too great for me 🙁

    I’m trying to reduce any exposure to shampoos and conditioners as advised but I’ve noticed that by the end of the week, around the weekend, my hair sort of forms into clumps or strands and it has a very dead sort of look.

    I wouldn’t say it’s super greasy or oily looking but it definitely doesn’t look very flattering.

    Right now I’m only shampooing and conditioning once per week but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong with the water only washing. It just doesn’t seem to be enough to clean my hair.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Hey Ivan,

      This might sound counterintuitive, but try adding rosemary oil diluted 1:1 in water to your hair in the evenings. When you wash it out the following morning, your hair should feel less oily. Rosemary oil also has a host of benefits beyond the management of oiliness that should benefit your hair. And if in a few weeks you don’t notice a difference, reach back out!

      • Ivan

        May 30, 2017

        Do I have to rinse it out in the mornings? I usually get up half hour before work and don’t really have enough time to wait for my hair to dry if I’ve completely washed it.

        Also, do you apply it to the scalp or just the strands of hair?

        Thank you for the suggestion, I will try this.

      • Rob

        June 2, 2017

        I think if you get up just ten minutes earlier each morning, it shouldn’t be a problem. Apply to the scalp, not the strands.

  • Paz

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    Ivan , just curious.

    How long have you done water washing for ?

    I did it for a month of cold water rinses by month two it was working well.

    However I use a low power cold air dryer after showers , which gets rid of any clumps. But now my hair after 7 months of regimen has gone to healthy normal levels.

    Hope that helps

    • Ivan

      Reply Reply May 28, 2017

      I do water washing every day but by the 7th day I use shampoo and conditioner.

      I start with hot/warm water to wash out any dirt and excess oil and then I finish my shower with cold water.

      I don’t have an air dryer and I don’t have the money for one at the moment.

      I let my hair air dry then use a wooden wide toothed comb to detangle and smoothen any clumps.

    • Ivan

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Do I have to rinse it out in the mornings? I usually get up half hour before work and don’t really have enough time to wait for my hair to dry if I’ve completely washed it.

      Also, do you apply it to the scalp or just the strands of hair?

      Thank you for the suggestion, I will try this.

  • Bebe

    Reply Reply May 28, 2017

    Thank you for the great and informative article Rob! as I’m still trying to figure out the reason for my hair thinning, (as all my family members have thick hair, my dad is 67 with a full thick hair) so I’m currently trying everything you mention in your book and articles to see what will work for me. I’ve been taking a Hair Multi-vitamin as well as an 1500 Vitamin D3 supplement for about 3 months, didn’t notice any improvement but maybe it’s still early to see. But I would never have thought of zinc although I’m not athlete or vegetarian, but I do have some of the symptoms like really cold hands and feet. So why not try it out.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Thanks Bebe! Let us know how it goes. Oftentimes a zinc deficiency is compounded with hypothyroidism, and resolving both simultaneously appears to be more effective than just trying to tackle one first, then the other. Keep us posted!

    • Ed

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      Bebe,

      I’m no expert but I do know that gluten can be really bad for hair. Maybe you have gluten intolerance?

      Ed.

  • Young Blood

    Reply Reply May 29, 2017

    Can you do an article on dandruff? It’s relationship with hairloss. JD Moyer talks of encountering adult cradle cap while following your regimen. Is cradle cap dandruff? What is happening? Can you please elaborate?

    Looking Forward

    • Manuel

      Reply Reply May 29, 2017

      I’ve been doing the massages for almost four months now. Still getting quite a bit of dandruff, but it used to be more in the first two months. Just sharing my personal experience so far…

      • Rob

        May 30, 2017

        Thanks Young and Manuel. Dandruff is often just a function of the acute inflammation induced during the sessions. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, readers who have taken a week off from any mechanical stimulation often report back that their dandruff almost completely disappears. I wouldn’t worry about it unless your scalp is also constantly tender, in which case you should go easier during your massage sessions.

  • Paz

    Reply Reply May 30, 2017

    Hi Rob , quick question.( A bit tricky)

    I take pumpkin seed oil supplement twice a day . Pumpkin seed apparently has the highest amount of zinc in dietary terms.

    Is this ok , along with general zinc rich diet. I mean can the same pumpkin seed oil tablets which block DHT , also promote healthy zinc levels without the need of zinc supplement??

    It seems you need to be really overboard with zinc in order to get overdose.

    Thanks

    • Rob

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      Hey Paz — I’m not sure if the zinc in pumpkin seed oil is as bioavailable as the zinc from animal sources. In general, I think you’re fine! I supplement with 100mg zinc gluconate daily (an in terms of elemental zinc, the amount of absorbing from that supplement is significantly less than what I’m ingesting). I also eat 6-8 oysters weekly. If you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet on top of supplementing pumpkin seed oil, I think your risk of copper imbalances / other issues stemming from zinc overloading can be mitigated.

  • Pete

    Reply Reply June 1, 2017

    Rob – you say you “tolerate 50 mg of zinc gluconate, twice daily”.
    How does that relate to the oysters/other zinc sources you eat?
    What I’m after here is how to estimate the total zinc intake so as not to overdose. There’s zinc in many foods, I haven’t checked everything yet.
    I take a spoonful of brewer’s yeast daily, that amounts to about half of the recommended zinc intake per day at least according to the package. I realize that’s probably minimum rather than maximum. (For the yeast however that appears to be the maximum). And of course I also eat various other foods that contain some zinc such as eggs, fish, dried fruits…

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 2, 2017

      Hey Pete — have you tried FitDay.com? Inputting your daily food choices should give you a readout as to how much zinc you’re getting, and if you should be tapering down. In general, men can tolerate up to 100mg of zinc daily, and for a couple of months. Beyond that, if you’re going to keep consumption high, you’ll also want to start focusing on balancing out zinc’s adjuncts (like copper) and other trace elements / nutrients. Overall, I might have a little more than 100mg of zinc daily from the supplementation + all the other food sources. But I won’t keep my intake that high for long.

  • Pete

    Reply Reply June 2, 2017

    Yeah, I found out about Fitday in your book and had a look, I may try it. Seems very useful. Thanks!

    • Manuel

      Reply Reply June 2, 2017

      Personally, I really like cronometer.com.

      • Pete

        June 2, 2017

        Thanks Manuel. A quick search revealed many people seem to be switching from Fitday to Cronometer… I’ll try both.

  • Tara

    Reply Reply June 3, 2017

    Hi Rob!

    This is probably not the right place to ask this question, but I was wondering if you’ve looked at the Hairprint Shampoos? They appear to be formulated very differently from standard shampoos. They talk specifically about the residue problem with the majority of products out there.

    I’m thinking of trying these.

    https://myhairprint.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/228974147-Hairprint-Shampoos-Conditioners-Descriptions-Suggested-Use

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 5, 2017

      Hey Tara,

      Thanks for reaching out. In general, I advise against all shampoos and conditioners. The problems: they’re unnecessary, they strip your hair of sebum and promote excess sebum production, most are full of endocrine disruptors, and they can burn a hole in your wallet. I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner in years. For more information, I wrote this post:

      https://perfecthairhealth.com/why-i-stopped-using-shampoos-and-conditioners-forever/

      Best,
      Rob

      • Tara

        June 14, 2017

        Thanks, Rob! I read that article too and I have your book so I know you’re against shampoo! I just haven’t gotten to the point where I feel comfortable skipping it completely yet. I know there is an adjustment period but I just don’t know if I can go to work at my office daily while the little hair I have looks so bad from lack of shampoo. =( I guess I stop have to figure out what I can live with.

      • Rob

        June 14, 2017

        Thanks Tara. Send me an email! We can figure out a solution.

        Best,
        Rob

  • DJB

    Reply Reply June 4, 2017

    Hi Rob – I recently purchased your basic book/video package. I’d like to first compliment you on an extremely professional job of doing the detailed research and sifting through the junk information that’s out there to find the real facts and packaging it into a form that non-scientists can understand and assimilate.

    You obviously care more than most doctors do about this anxiety-inducing subject and I hope you realize how much of a service you’re providing to men everywhere who suffer from the experience of real or potential hair-loss.

    My question is a little off-topic but hoping you can offer some guidance. I have some personal physical limitations (which I won’t get into here) and so for right now at least, I’m unable to complete the full regimen for daily massages that you recommend BUT I want to do something to preserve the hair I have AND grow back any I may have lost (I have a full head of hear but have noticed some thinning on my crown and possible loss around the temple area and I have no intention of letting it go any further).

    All of that said, I’ve created a “ramp-up” version of your regimen where I’m starting with just 1 session per day (rotating through the hairline, vertex and side areas as you recommend) for a shorter duration (3 minutes for warm-up and 4 minutes for the pinching, deep massage and stretching segments). My plan is to build up to the full regimen over time as my physical capabilities increase but my rationale is that something is better than nothing.

    Which leads me to my question(s):

    1.) Am I doing any harm to my scalp by NOT doing the full twice-a-day at full duration regimen you recommend? I realize I’m not receiving the maximum benefit but my question is am I doing any harm by doing an abbreviated regimen? IS something better than nothing?

    2.) I’m also concerned that I’m completing each segment with just the right amount of pressure (not too little, not too much) so even though I’ve watched your video a number of times, I’d like to schedule a Skype session at some point to get live, real-time feedback that I’m completing the various segments (e.g., pinching, etc.) properly.

    Thanks for any guidance you can offer on my concerns which I’m sure other men share.

    DJB

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 5, 2017

      Hey DJB,

      Thanks for your support! To answer your questions–

      1) In 99% of cases, you won’t be doing any harm at all. In fact, many success stories have come from readers doing the massages for a shorter-than-advertised period. JD Moyer is one of them:

      http://www.jdmoyer.com/2015/04/13/hair/

      2) I’m happy to schedule a Skype call. Send me an email, and we’ll make it happen!

  • Young

    Reply Reply June 4, 2017

    Hey Rob,
    I am into the process for 2 months but I keep having hair falling off (50+) during massage sessions. Most of these are the thinner miniaturized kind and I seem to have skull expansion. Is the hairloss a form of concern. Looking for your thoughts. Also MANUEL how is the thing progressing?

    Thanks

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 5, 2017

      Hey Young – as we’ve discussed in email, the challenge is that since you haven’t read the book or watched the demonstration video, it’s impossible for me to help you. The reason why is because both of us have no benchmark for how you’re interpreting the massages, or where you might be going wrong. In general, 50+ shed hairs per session is much too high.

  • Ed

    Reply Reply June 5, 2017

    Hi Rob,

    I’ve been doing the scalp massage for a few months. I have a patch of hair that seems to be growing in a different direction!

    Is that something that you noticed? It might be completely unrelated but thought I’d ask.

    Regards,
    Ed.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 5, 2017

      Congrats Ed! That’s great news.

      In general, regrown hairs grow back in the same direction as they were before their loss. For instance — when I saw vertex regrowth, I ended up also regrowing the cow-lick that I’d lost years earlier.

      In any case, it’s all encouraging! See how the hair settles in a few months time.

      • Ed

        June 6, 2017

        Cheers Rob.

        By the way, how long did your crown take to recover? I know with hair transplants, it can take up to 18 months for the full result.

        Ed.

      • Rob

        June 6, 2017

        My crown took about 10 months — with slight thickening continuing throughout the following year. Nowadays I just focus on maintenance — which means the same diet + lifestyle, but significantly less mechanical stimulation exercises (typically only a couple per week).

        I’ve heard the same about the recovery window for hair transplants. Unfortunately, these aren’t always the best benchmarks for gauging real regrowth, since a hair transplant is more along the lines of hair “transferring” and not actually hair “regrowth” 🙂 Otherwise, other readers’ regrowth timeline varies. A few people see success within 5-6 months. The overwhelming majority need more time (myself included).

  • Pete

    Reply Reply June 13, 2017

    You recommend raw oysters for zinc. I’ve been reading about oysters and am a little less apprehensive about them than before, but for various reasons I still prefer the idea that they’re dead by the time I get my hands on them…
    So, do you think canned oysters are still good for zinc etc..? Here’s somebody who’s saying they are: http://getfit.jillianmichaels.com/nutritional-content-canned-oysters-1671.html

    Also, when you suggest “eat a few ounces of shellfish once a week” is that (mostly) for the zinc or what..? As it seems only oysters have more zinc than mammals (https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Zinc.aspx). Other shellfish (both mollusks and crustaceans) come far behind.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 13, 2017

      Hey Pete,

      When it comes to quality, fresh oysters trump canned oysters. But if you’re only occasionally consuming canned oysters, that’s probably fine.

      The recommendations for oysters extend far beyond zinc and to selenium and B-12. Specifically, B-12 is heat sensitive, and so consuming raw oysters tends to be better than cooked.

  • Ray

    Reply Reply June 20, 2017

    Hi Rob, do you have a link to a study that shows Zinc actually decrease DHT? There seems to be conflicting opinions around the internet wherein some are saying Zinc actually increases DHT.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01485018109009378

    This study seems to say that Zinc actually increases DHT.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 20, 2017

      Hey Ray,

      Great find! Thank you for sharing the study. In general, the consensus on zinc (at least in research overviews) is that zinc decreases DHT by reducing 5-alpha reductase, and it reduces 5-alpha reductase by reducing the formation of the NADPH cofactor needed for 5-AR expression.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3253436/

      The studies showing this are done in vivo. With that said, the study you’ve referenced seems to conclude the opposite.

      It might be that in cases of a zinc deficiency, zinc increases both testosterone and DHT to normal, healthy levels. The other thing is that the study from the journal you linked was published in 1980 — so it could just be that the general consensus on the zinc-DHT connection has changed over the years as more research refuted that conclusion. In any case, thanks for sharing the study. I’ll dig into it more over the weekend.

      Best,
      Rob

  • Sylvia Cole

    Reply Reply June 26, 2017

    Thanks so much for this excellent information.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply June 27, 2017

      Thanks for reading Sylvia!

  • Shirley Francis

    Reply Reply July 16, 2017

    The sight of oysters makes me gag….
    Like downing a SNOT BALL….even a person eating one gags me…I can’t look……
    Anything else but (gag) oysters for zinc????

    • Rob

      Reply Reply July 19, 2017

      Hey Shirley! Thanks for reading. There are recommendations in the guide inside the article. If you enter your email address into the opt-in form, my email service provider will send you the zinc guide and you can read my thoughts on zinc supplementation — which type of zinc to take, why, how to take it to maximize absorption, and whether taking zinc is a good idea for your specific type of hair loss.

      Let me know if anything’s unclear inside the guide! I’m happy to help.

      Best,
      Rob

  • Ben

    Reply Reply July 27, 2017

    Hey Rob, I was just wondering what kind of copper supplement I should take with the zinc. Should I get gluconate as well? Because I’ve read that the body doesn’t absorb copper gluconate very well.

    • Rob

      Reply Reply July 27, 2017

      Hey Ben — thanks for reaching out. In terms of copper supplementation, I’m not sure! I haven’t yet started supplementing with copper, and instead, have been weaning on and off of zinc supplementation and upping copper-rich foods in the interim to make sure my levels don’t fall out of balance. I’d recommend the same approach if you’re having trouble finding a copper supplement with a proven background for success (in both bioavailability and as a complement to zinc supplementation).

      Best,
      Rob

  • Laura

    Reply Reply July 27, 2017

    My 9 year old daughter was diagnosed with diffuse alopecia areata last December. She lost most of her hair over the course of 3 months but it has all since grown back. Recently she has started shedding again and has a few small spots. Before her hair loss her temperament completely changed. She became irrational, irritable and overly emotional. She was like a different child. Last month I took her to an integrative pediatrician who tested her for pyroluria among other things. Turns out she has very low zinc, high copper and borderline pyroluria. We are supplementing with zinc and B6 and B12. It has been about 3 weeks…she still seems to be shedding. How long does it usually take supplements to be effective??

    • Rob

      Reply Reply July 28, 2017

      Hey Laura,

      Based on what you describe, it sounds like your daughter’s diffuse alopecia areata is the symptom of autoimmunity. And based on the changes to her behavior, I’d suggest the first place you turn for testing and treatment (aside from addressing a zinc / vitamin B deficiency) — is her gastrointestinal health.

      Aside from pyrrole disorder, have you done any full-spectrum tests for gut microorganism composition? Parasite testing? Or testing for a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth?

      Typically, zinc deficiencies are often compounded with hypothyroidism — especially in women. Addressing one but not the other often leads to less-than-beneficial treatment, so I’d suggest you also test her thyroid function. In fact, it might be hypothyroidism that’s driving the zinc / B deficiency in the first place.

      Best,
      Rob

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