Tag Archive for: Biotin

Diet and Hair Loss: Is There a Relationship?

 

When you’re losing your hair, you’ll try just about anything to make it stop.  Shampoos, conditioners, essential oils, vitamins… they’re all fair game.  The easier and less invasive, the better.  So, it’s only natural that diet is a hot topic.  Diet is a manageable lifestyle change that could make a difference.  

But, if you’re like most people, you probably have more questions than answers when it comes to how diet and nutrition affect your hair.  According to a 2017 study conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), there’s a lot of conflicting information, causing confusion about what to eat.  Determining whether specific foods will help or hurt your hair loss condition is even more challenging.  We hear it all the time from patients.  “Can alopecia be reversed by changing my diet?”  “Which diet will best reduce the inflammation on my scalp?”  “Do I have to go gluten, dairy, and sugar-free?”  

Before you resort to radical measures, keep reading.  We’ll help you separate truth from fiction and share firsthand information from our own Dr. Ben Behnam, board-certified dermatologist and co-owner of Happy Head hair loss solutions.  

Can Improving Your Diet Prevent Further Hair Loss and Stimulate Growth?

Does what you eat affect your hair?  That’s the question that most people want to be answered.  After all, why bother changing your diet if it won’t make a difference?  The answer is yes; nutrition may indeed affect your hair.  One study found that nutritional deficiencies can cause telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, or alopecia areata. It also found that over-supplementation can lead to hair loss as well.  

The Wrong Diet Really Can Cause Scalp Inflammation

Nutritional deficiencies aren’t the only problem.  Scalp inflammation caused by an unhealthy diet is another issue.  A high fat, high-cholesterol diet has been found to stimulate the inflammatory process on the scalp.  A study conducted in 2018 found that mice who were fed a traditional western diet experienced skin discoloration, inflammation, and hair loss.  The mice’s hair turned black, gray, then white before falling out.  The diet, which induced inflammation, mimicked the aging process in humans and aged the mice’s hair by 36 weeks.  The hypothesis is that when what you eat generates an inflammatory response, it causes your hair to age prematurely.  

Which Diet Should You Choose to Prevent Hair Loss?

Now that we’ve established that the wrong diet is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your hair, which diet should you consider?  Keto, Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Mediterranean… the list of possibilities seems endless.   The truth is that further research is needed on the use of diet in alopecia treatment.  One study indicates that the Mediterranean diet, which contains foods with anti-inflammatory properties, may stimulate hair growth and health among people with androgenetic alopecia.  Figuring out the differences between each diet gets tricky, though. In many cases, overlap exists in the philosophies behind the diets.  

A Protein-rich Diet Helps Build Keratin

Regardless of which diet you choose, it’s important to select a protein-rich diet filled with fresh, unprocessed foods.  Hair is primarily composed of keratin, a mixture of filament-forming proteins.  To make keratin, your body needs protein.  All protein is not created equal, though, according to Dr. Behnam.  “Select pasture-raised chickens, raised on a farm and not in a cage,” says Behnam.  “When chickens are trapped in a cage, their testosterone levels increase from the stress of being in the cage.  When you eat caged chicken, you get extra testosterone that can potentially convert to DHT leading to more hair loss.”

Vegetarians Often Lack Enough Protein in Their Diets

Dr. Behnam finds that his patients who are vegetarians tend to lack the protein and vitamins necessary for adequate hair growth.  We’ll talk a little more about vitamins later, so let’s focus on protein for now.  Some excellent sources of plant protein can compensate for animal protein.  Those sources include nuts and nut butter, lentils, beans, peas, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and brussel sprouts.  

Dr. Behnam is a big advocate of protein powder, not only for vegetarians, but for all of his patients.  It’s important to use the right type, though.  According to Behnam, “Two types of protein powder are on the market.  One is whey protein isolate. Whey protein isolate powder is easily found in retail stores in muscle milk, and other types of sports shakes.  It’s less expensive.  The only problem is that whey protein isolate increases the concentration of amino acids such as valine and isoleucine, which lead to higher testosterone production.  That extra testosterone has the potential to convert to DHT and cause hair loss.  The solution is to use whey protein concentrate.  Whey protein concentrate is harder to find, but it will boost your protein without increasing your testosterone or DHT levels.”  

Do You Have to Give Up Caffeine?

If you can’t seem to get moving in the morning without a cup of coffee, don’t despair.  “Caffeine doesn’t affect testosterone levels,” says Dr. Behnam.  “You can enjoy it without worrying.  I recommend that you stay away from energy drinks, soy milk, and anything high in MSG, though.”  

Nutritional Supplements

Vitamins and supplements aren’t a big deal to most people.  You don’t need a prescription to get them, so they’re safe, right?  Not so fast.  Vitamins and supplements aren’t always as innocuous as they seem.  There are a couple of things you need to know:

  1. The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements
  2. Over-supplementation of selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and other vitamins have been associated with hair loss

That said, Dr. Behnam usually tests his patients’ Vitamin D and iron levels because deficiencies are prevalent and are well-documented reasons for hair loss.  Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the hair growth cycle.   While the exact reason why iron deficiency causes hair loss is unknown, reversal of iron deficiency in mice led to a reversal of hair  loss.  

Here’s the inside scoop on other essential vitamins:

Biotin

There has been a lot of hype about biotin supplements, shampoos, conditioners, and more.  Truth be told, biotin deficiency is rare.  Clinical trials have not shown biotin to be effective in stimulating hair growth without a true deficiency.  

Zinc

Zinc deficiency can be either acquired or inherited.  It is common among vegetarians since vegetables contain less zinc than meat.   Zinc deficiency causes telogen effluvium and brittle hair.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is the main ingredient in retinoids and retinoic acid.  It has been proven to work in conjunction with Minoxidil and Finasteride to increase absorption of the medications.  Vitamin A deficiency does not cause hair loss, although a connection between over-supplementation and hair loss has been found.  

Vitamin E

It’s not common for people to have vitamin E deficiencies.  More research needs to be conducted, but in one small study with 21 participants, people who received vitamin E supplements had an increase in hair count compared to people in the placebo group.  Too much vitamin E is too much of a good thing.  It can increase the risk of bleeding and decrease thyroid hormone production, resulting in hair loss.   

Balancing Your Diet Is A Process

Learning how to eat for healthy hair takes time.  Sometimes you don’t know if changing your eating habits or adding a particular vitamin will help until you try it.  If you’ve already been diagnosed with male or female pattern hair loss or some other type of alopecia, supplementing your diet with topical medications such as Minoxidil, Finasteride, Spironolactone, or Duasteride may be a good option for you.  Topical medications have been found to be as effective as oral medications without the bothersome side effects.  Even better, like your diet, our formulas can be customized to meet your specific needs.  For more information, contact us to determine whether you are a good candidate for Happy Head or one of our other prescription-grade hair loss solutions. 

Resources:

(01) https://foodinsight.org/survey-nutrition-information-abounds-but-many-doubt-food-choices/

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065400/

(04) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7109385/

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(06) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(07) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(08) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/#:~:text=Despite%20its%20popularity%20in%20the,multiple%20factors%2C%20including%20patient%20history.

(09) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/

 

Hair Loss Reversal 101: What You Need to Know

If you’re experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone.  According to the American Hair Loss Association, at least two-thirds of all American men will have noticeable hair loss by the time they turn thirty-five.  Women account for forty percent of all Americans experiencing hair loss. (01) Those numbers are much higher than you thought, right?

Sure, most people expect to get some gray hair, wrinkles, and a few extra pounds as they age, but hair loss?  That’s not usually part of the plan.  We can color our hair, use Botox for our wrinkles, and spend some extra time at the gym.  But what can be done about a receding hairline?  More than you think.

There are Different Types of Hair Loss

The first step is to understand the different types of hair loss.  All hair loss is not the same, so not all hair loss will respond to the same treatment.  We’re here to give you a crash course.

The Term Alopecia Encompasses More Conditions Than Most People Realize

When people think of alopecia, they usually think of alopecia areata, the type that Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have.  However, if you use Dr. Google, you’ll see that WebMD defines alopecia areata as an “autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter.”  The definition is accurate, but not all hair loss is alopecia areata. Alopecia is an umbrella term for many different hair loss conditions.

There’s a Difference Between Non-Scarring and Scarring Alopecia

Alopecia falls under two broad categories:  non-scarring and scarring alopecia. There’s a big difference between the two types.

When people have non-scarring hair loss, their hair just falls out.  No redness, scaling, flaking, itching, or burning occurs. The alopecia can come on fast and furiously, leaving people holding clumps of hair in their hands, or gradually over a long period of time.

Scarring alopecia is a different story.  Also known as cicatricial alopecia, scarring alopecia is an inflammatory condition that occurs in otherwise healthy people. The hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.  The hair loss can happen over time and go unnoticed, or it can happen quickly, causing symptoms such as severe itching and burning. (02)  Speed is essential when it comes to treating scarring alopecias.  The goal is to slow or stop further hair loss and promote hair regrowth in unaffected areas.

What Type of Alopecia Do You Have?

Many different types of hair loss fall under the categories of non-scarring and scarring alopecia.  Once you know what type you have, your dermatologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Examples of Non-scarring Alopecia

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss caused by stress, severe chronic illness, high fever, childbirth, thyroid disorders, major surgery, dieting, certain medications, etc.  Telogen Effluvium usually resolves itself over time.

Androgenic Alopecia

Also known as male and female pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia is a genetic condition experienced by up to 50 percent of men and women. (03)  Experts believe that pattern baldness is due to an excessive androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) response which causes hair follicles to miniaturize.  When the hair follicles shrink, hair loss occurs.  Androgenic alopecia typically causes frontal hair loss in men and diffuse hair loss at the crown and top of women’s heads.

Alopecia Areata

If your hair falls out in clumps around the size and shape of a quarter, you may have alopecia areata.  This condition is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your body attacks its own hair follicles.  With alopecia areata, hair loss is unpredictable and can happen anywhere on your body.  Sometimes the condition resolves itself.  However, it can also reoccur without notice.  Many research studies are currently underway to understand the cause and effective treatment. (04)

Traction Alopecia  

Constant pulling on hair due to tight ponytails, buns, braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, hair extensions, weaves, and more can cause traction alopecia.  This condition, that’s common among actresses and models, can cause small bumps that resemble pimples.  Fortunately, traction alopecia can be reversed if you stop pulling your hair back.

Examples of Scarring Alopecia

Lichen Planopilaris

Lichen Planopilaris is the most common type of scarring alopecia.  Although it can affect both genders, lichen planopilaris is more likely to affect women aged 40 to 60 than men. (05)  Redness, itching, burning, and tenderness can accompany frontal or other pattern hair loss.

Central Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia (CCCA)

CCCA is found almost exclusively among black women aged 30 to 55 year-old.  The cause is still unknown and is being researched.  Women who experience CCCA experience inflammation and associated hair loss in the crown area. (06)

Effective Hair Loss Treatment Complements Your Diagnosis

After your dermatologist determines the cause of your hair loss, he or she will discuss treatment options with you.  Keep in mind that hair reversal treatments are not one-size-fits-all.  In some cases, “cocktails” which combine specific medications and protocols may be needed. Just to give you an idea of what’s out there, here are some of the most frequently used medications and treatments:

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is available over-the-counter as a topical foam and liquid and by prescription as an oral pill.  Minoxidil is a vasodilator reduces miniaturization of the hair follicles and elongates the growth phase.

Minoxidil has proven to promote growth among men and women with male and female pattern hair loss.  Minoxidil is also often recommended to patients with scarring alopecia to promote growth in unaffected areas.

Once you start using Minoxidil, you need to continue. When you stop using the medication, any new hair that grows will most likely be shed.

Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)

Finasteride is a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor originally designed to treat enlarged prostates.  The medication, available both as a pill and a topical solution, blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that inhibits hair growth.

Clinical studies have found Finasteride to be highly effective in reversing hair loss in both men and women with scarring and non-scarring alopecias. (0708)  Topical Finasteride is often used to treat androgenic alopecia, while oral is typically recommended for scarring alopecias.

Finasteride is only available by prescription and is not recommended for women of childbearing age.  Check with a board-certified dermatologist to see if you are a good candidate for the topical or oral treatment.

Corticosteroids

Topical or injected steroids are often used to treat hair loss that is induced by autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris.  The corticosteroids allow hair to grow by inhibiting the autoimmune disease.

Steroid treatments are only available by prescription and should be surprised by a qualified dermatologist.

Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

PRP injections have become a popular treatment for healing wounds and regrowing tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

PRP has regenerative properties and has been primarily tested on patients with androgenetic alopecia. (09)  When injected into the scalp, PRP is believed to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and increasing the size of the hair shaft.

As the name suggests, PRP injections are made from platelets derived from your blood.  Blood is first drawn, and then spun at super high speeds to separate the blood components.  The resulting plasma is highly concentrated.

PRP use is still in its early stages and can be expensive.  Research also indicates that PRP is most effective when used with Minoxidil, Finasteride, and other hair growth treatments.

Biotin

Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, has become a familiar hair growth supplement.  Sold in supplements or as an ingredient in hair care products, Biotin is promoted as a way to make your hair grow longer and healthier.

Does it work?  Well, the jury is out.  Not enough research has been conducted to say yeah or nay. (10)  It won’t hurt you to try a new shampoo that contains Biotin, but there’s no evidence to indicate that it will help.  Biotin deficiency is rare. (11)  Most people get adequate amounts through their regular diets.

Many Biotin supplements sold are not FDA approved, and high concentrations of Biotin can interfere with the results of some lab tests. (12) As with any oral supplement, check with your doctor before testing it out.

Hair Transplants

Hair transplant procedures and techniques continue to improve over time.  Rather than using noticeable plugs, today’s surgeries move hair strips or carefully selected hairs from one area to another to promote growth that looks natural.

When determining whether a patient is an ideal candidate for a hair transplant, dermatologists consider several factors, including:

  • Type of hair loss
  • Degree and pattern of baldness
  • Patient age
  • Hair color
  • Donor hair density
  • Patient expectations

Although hair transplants are expensive and time-consuming, they are an effective, reliable, and safe way to get lasting results.

It’s Important to Set Realistic Expectations When Treating Alopecia

We’re fortunate to live during a time when hair loss research is prolific, and the list of hair replacement options is growing.  Whether you’re 25 or 55, you don’t have to live with bald spots, a receding hairline, or thinning hair, even if your genetics or immune system are working against you.

The first step is to find a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist you trust and get diagnosed.  He or she will help you select the right treatment option for your type of alopecia and lifestyle.  Remember to set realistic expectations for your hair regrowth.  Treatments don’t work overnight, so be patient and track your progress over time.  After all, small signs of stubble today can lead to a fuller head of hair tomorrow.

Resources:

(01) https://www.americanhairloss.org/

(02) https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cicatricial-alopecia

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/

(04) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470325/

(06) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/2768748

(07) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809380/

(08) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/

(09) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/platelet-rich-plasma-does-the-cure-for-hair-loss-lie-within-our-blood-2020051119748

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(12) https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/update-fda-warns-biotin-may-interfere-lab-tests-fda-safety-communication