Iron and Healthy Hair

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Iron has an important role in hair growth.  But consuming too much iron could potentially be harmful rather than helpful.  Patients often wonder if they should be consuming more iron to their help hair loss. Do you really need more iron?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrition deficiency in North America. Iron deficiency refers to a state when the storage levels of iron in the body are reduced. When iron storage levels are reduced enough, the body can’t make enough haemoglobin and can’t make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.  When the haemoglobin levels drop below a certain level, a condition develops called "anemia."   Therefore, an individual may develop iron deficiency first and then develop anemia over time.

Iron deficiency is common and there are many causes. In fact, there are dozens of reasons to have low iron. It’s important to check with a physician to evaluate specific causes of iron deficiency.Iron deficiency is especially among pre-menopausal women on account of blood loss from menstrual cycles.    Because iron has an important role in hair growth, I routinely ask patients to get blood tests to measure haemoglobin levels as well as various iron tests.  The most common iron test is called the ‘ferritin test.’  For optimal hair health, I recommend patients take increase their daily intake of iron until ferritin levels rise above 40-50 ug/L. Levels below 20 ug/L can often be associated with hair shedding even if the patient has not yet developed an anemia.

If haemoglobin levels or ferritin levels are low, I recommend the patient be evaluated by a physician.  Sometimes an individual simply needs to consume more iron. This can come from meat, chicken, fish, grains and eggs as well as other foods.  Patients with significantly reduced iron levels, may also be advised by their doctor to take iron tablets.  

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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