Arriba!! Welcome back to the journey of discovery for Vitamin D and hair loss. In Part 1 we did some soul searching on some basics of the mechanisms that vitamin D triggers and how it works in our body. It was just an intorduction, and that’s why in this Part 2 we are going deeper.
We will try to answer:
Is it the therapy we waited or is it just a new fad like many other hair loss treatments for men created by the dark force of pharmaceuticals companies?
Well, good news! It’s up to you to decide! So jump in because we are going bananas(hungry anyone?) in this episode!
Table of contents
- Vitamin D And Your Immune System
- Alopecia Areata and Vitamin D: The Studies
- Vitamin D Receptors and Hair Loss
- Vitamin D and DHT: How Are They Related To Almost All Hair Loss Treatments For Men
- Part 3 Is On Its Way...
Vitamin D And Your Immune System
First things first.
Let’s dive into some protective aspects of vitamin D so that you gain a bit of perspective on this king pre-hormone!
Truth is vitamin D deficiency can cause some pretty nasty illnesses. Some of them are:
- Cardiac conditions
Damn, that’s a nasty list.
Why do you care about this? Because everything in our body is connected. So the benefits of having a greater immune system can lead also to other benefits like thicker hair. But let me continue with hair loss and vitamin D for now. It’s pretty accurate to assume that your vitamin D levels are low unless you ‘re on a Bahamas beach drinking Pina Colada all day.
Vitamin D and Hair Loss Scenarios
Vitamin D, Inflammation and Hair Loss
Everything in and on your body serves a purpose and that includes your hair or the absence of it. But is hair loss something natural? Probably not. Hair loss is a disease fought on many fronts. That’s something I need you to understand. It’s not to blame the genetics only. In fact, it’s not to blame the genetics at all, if you ‘re 20 years old and started balding.
It’s the damn lifestyle!
Lifestyle includes many factors. Some of these are nutrition, environmental toxicity, and stress levels. The thing to remember here is that hair loss scientists all agree on something.Chronic Inflammation is the main cause of every disease in your body, including hair loss. Click To Tweet
Yes you heard that right. Chronic Excessive Inflammation is the master trigger of all diseases on Earth. It is indeed a big front when it comes to hair loss, and maybe the key issue for someone to adress first to address first.
But vitamin D comes to the rescue…
Vitamin D is notorious for turning off some “bad” key genes that are usually expressed when your body is inflamed. So if you losing hair because of inflammation, vitamin D is a good help to you!
Read that again. Not take a break and lt your shiny scalp face the sun for a minute. I’m waiting.
(we said a minute, what the funk??)
You loved it, didn’t you?
Of course, this assumption is made simplistically and has to be reviewed again and again by science. Like always, MORE research is needed. But, it seems that vitamin D plays a key role in inflammation and most illnesses are caused by inflammation. Like these we already mentioned. But that’s not the only explanation here.
Lack Of Sun On The Scalp
There is the evolutionary theory that men go bald because they do not absorb as much vitamin D as they should. Lack of sun exposure can be blamed for this. The theory concludes that because of this vitamin D deficiency, our body activates plan B so that we manage to get our dose.
What’s this plan B?
Balding! Yes, it’s freaking balding! Now before you rush to reject this notion, think about it for a moment…
When your scalp is full of hair, it’s pretty obvious that the sun rays have a hard time reaching your scalp’s skin. Which means no efficient amount of vitamin D is synthesized (remember: vitamin D is synthesized by the sun rays “hitting” your skin). So when you ‘re balding, you ‘re giving yourself a chance (you merciful creature..!) to produce more vitamin D.
Let’s say it as it is:
If your body has to choose between enough vitamin D levels and hair loss prevention, it will always choose the former!
Sorry, but it makes sense. If your deeed (dead) like the Scotch would say, what good will your looks do? Before you blame your body for this mess, let me remind you that your body adapts in order to save your ass. Not to make you a Brad Pitt-looking-dude.
This evolutionary theory can be explained twofold. First, the sun light waves may stimulate directly your scalp’s and face’s hair cells, which makes the argument of LIGHT therapy a must. But there is a second explanation we all agree. Lack of sun exposure means lack of proper vitamin D levels. Feels cold like iron, right?
“Wait, how is Iron involved with all this?”
Glad you asked!
Iron, Vitamin D, and Hair Loss
In 2013 researchers gather to research vitamin D and its relationship to ferritin. The latter is a protein that is found in your cells (hopefully) and allow them to store iron.
The scientists concluded that ferritin and vitamin D have a negative correlation with TE. That means that:
…when levels of iron(+ferritin) and vitamin D go down, Telogen Effluvium goes up.
Of course, (like always) more research is needed. While low levels of vitamin D have been associated with some types of hair loss, this does not mean for sure that there is a causation effect between that factor and that disease (hair loss). But as you can see by now, there are a heck of a lot more hair loss treatments for men than just Propecia and Rogaine!
Another thing to keep in mind is that usually women are iron defficient and not us. Also too much iron can lead to health problems, so take it easy here. Before we move on to the Grand Studies Of Vitamin D And Hair Loss, it’s a great moment to let you remind you that as with iron, youn need to regulate also other micronutrients like calcium, phosphate and Vitamin K2. In part 1 of this Vitamin D series, we made a quick reference at the end of that article!
Alopecia Areata and Vitamin D: The Studies
Before we move on to the breaking-news-discovery of part 2, let’s take a look at the results of some revealing studies on hair loss and vitamin D.
The following studies will prove an association of vitamin D deficiency and hair loss:
- A study showed a direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and alopecia areata.
- Another study showed that topical application of vitamin D on the scalp of a young boy treated his alopecia areata. Not only that but it also brought back his vitamin D receptors (these are receptors necessary for the absorption of vitamin D!).
- An Egyptian study found out that low levels of iron and vitamin D are associated with female pattern hair loss. The study also concluded that vitamin D regulates the expression of specific genes that promote normal hair growth.
- In another study, 90 percent of the patients with alopecia areata had low vitamin D levels.
It is believed that vitamin D helps damaged scalp skin cells to grow back (although tempting to just stick to the image of the semi-naked girl, don’t do it because she is not going to help you grow your hair back, science will!). When that happens, regeneration of new hair follicles follow.
Don’t you believe yet? Check the next study.
Turkish researchers made the following statement:
We believe that maintaining healthy rates of vitamin D in the blood, reduces incidents of TE (Telogen Effluvium) in patients. Click To Tweet
Usually, as it seems, patients with low vitamin D levels experience TE more often. For those that don’t know what a TE is, the next sentence is dedicated to you.
Telogen Effluvium is a kind of topical hair loss usually and occurs as an autoimmune disorder.
Dr. Abdel-Hamid and his colleagues found out that when people with vitamin D resistant genes were given vitamin D supplementation for 4 weeks, their hair was up to 70% restored. Another beneficial side-effect was that their low calcium levels were restored.
Note: Remember that vitamin D has a great role in calcium and phosphate regulation and absorption.
So by now, you ‘ve got the point. There’s something here! Male pattern baldness can be devastating for all of us here. But the same holds true also for people that lose their hair in an instant, like patients with Alopecia Areata. The differences between these two are many, but one of the most important ones is the hair regeneration and regrowth that can be achieved more easily in AA patients. That’s also why most of the experiments you ‘ve read included patients with AA.
That does not mean that male pattern baldness men like me and you don’t get the benefits. It’s only that it’s less observable. In Alopecia Areata you lose your hair very fast, so if you do the proper interventions you can gain some or all of it very fast back.
It’s like the money game. Most people that win the lottery, usually lose the money in a matter of 5-8 years (true story!).
So in male pattern baldness it’s difficult, if not impossible, to grow INSTANTLY new hair without the use of costly hair transplants.
That’s also why seeing results on natural-based hair loss treatments for men such as infrared light therapy(resembles the sunlight) can be of greater speed and ease most of the times. That holds true in both Alopecia Areata and male pattern baldness men patients.
It’s an autoimmune disease (Alopecia Areata and male pattern baldness – in some cases) and if you fix the main cause of inflammation, you can fix most of the damage.
In 70% of the cases, the hair has grown back when the proper natural interventions are done.
Vitamin D has shown great results with Alopecia Areata when administered for a time period of 4-8 consecutive weeks. For Alopecia Areata you can use topical calcipotriol. This funky name describes a derivative of active vitamin D in the form of cream or solution.
In another study done some years ago, 60% of the AA patients saw their hair growing back after using topical calcipotriol. It took 4 weeks!! These signs of hope are welcomed for us Boldapes with male pattern baldness… Impressive statements waiting for realization, fingers crossed!
Now it will get pretty geekish. If you don’t want to read more, just know that vitamin D receptors seem to be the future focus of scientists regarding hair loss treatmens for men..
For you geeks out there, keep reading.
Vitamin D Receptors and Hair Loss
VDR stands for Vitamin-D-Receptor.
But why should you care about the number of “VTR’s or DVD’s or how the hell is that name?!”. Well because the number of VDR’s on your scalp is a great predictor of vitamin D deficiency and hair loss.
Take a seat and enjoy the next paragraphs. Ready to blow your minds out (speaking)?
As we mentioned, balding guys seem to lack the proper number of vitamin D receptors that other men seem to enjoy. The VDR is a protein. It binds to vitamin D when the hormone is available in the blood.
The binding process happens on specific genes and it regulates many health functions in your body. VDR is found to affect around 230 genes! That seems a lot but it really isn’t. Your genotype is a huge mass of proteins and genetic material, but what’s intriguing here is the function of these 230 genes. Many of them are associated with autoimmune diseases and various types of cancers. So these genes are quite important and triggering them the right way can be beneficial and protective for your health and wellbeing.
“But, I don’t care if I get cancer and die yesterday, I just want to get my hair back!”
For you hippies out there, let me inform you that VDR’s are also located in … HAIR FOLLICLES. VDR’s are very important for normal hair cycling, meaning the stages/phases of hair life cycle (anagen, catagen, telogen). But how?
Vitamin D is supposed to be an anti-inflammatory agent. Its role in epidermal cell proliferation is also acknowledged even from the hard-core anti-vitamin D physicians. That specific role is very important for the determination of Alopecia in Alopecia Areata patients. This lack of vitamin D in the process of epidermal cell proliferation is being linked with a specific mutation of the VDR gene on the hair follicles.
To put it simply, if your VDR’s are sufficiently present and working properly and at the same time you get the proper amounts of vitamin D every day, you should fear no hair loss. At least not, from vitamin D factor, which is great news!
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Of course, there are not many studies that confirm the previous statement.
Low mutated VDR levels are not OFFICIALLY linked with baldness. But evidence is stacking up…
So let’s take a look at a study done that examined 60 people with hair loss. These people had either Alopecia Areata (AA) or Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) which translates also as male pattern baldness. The conclusion of the study indicated that:
VDR’s play an important role in the pathogenesis of AGA and AA.
To reach that statement, researchers documented tissue and serum VDR levels in AA and AGA participants. Then they compared those levels with levels of the control group (meaning those with full hair). The VDR levels of the AA and AGA participants were significantly lower than those of the control group.
Thousands mile across the Pacific Ocean, Dr. Kotaro Yoshimura, and his colleagues tried to find a link between hair follicles and vitamin D. They performed tests on rats and their findings where astounding...
When these researchers injected vitamin D into the stem cells of the rats’ scalp skin, these became hair follicles faster than the control group. Stem cells are the first cells in your body. The body uses these cells to produce different kind of cells (muscle, bones, neurons, organ, blood, etc..). Of course, the key here was again the high amount of VDR’s that were produced by these injections of vitamin D.
Dr. Yoshimura is a leader in the hair science and knows that VDR’s can be investigated more because there’s something there. He and his team are planning a trial to investigate how VDR activation can enhance hair implants in hair restoration surgeries. He thinks that:
A whole new world of possibilities. Good news for you with lots of cash out there to play with hair implants.
Noteworthy is also a study done at the University of San Fransisco. These researchers looked for vitamin D and hair grow correlation in mice. They discovered a molecule called MED. This molecule was able to suppress VDR’s and inhibit their ability to produce hair strands. When the researchers blocked those MED molecules, mice were able to grow new hair.
There is one last study done in Harvard. There, scientists at the Harvard Medical School discovered another molecule that can activate VDR’s.
But … when they tried to produce new hair they didn’t succeed. That’s to say that not all scientific efforts bare fruit – of course this applies to hair growth studies. Science is tricky and needs time to prove things. The correlations though are strong and revealing:
Vitamin D seems to play a huge role in hair follicles, by activating vitamin D receptors, regulating stem cells and enhance proliferation of good epidermal cells.
Vitamin D Receptor levels and baldness seem to relate to each other.
There seems to be a link between VDR levels and vitamin D blood level. Of course, this is a work in progress.
But there seems to be an indication that years of not taking enough vitamin D (from childhood on) can possibly deactivate Vitamin D Receptors. Then, the lack of these VDR’s inhibits the normal epidermal cell (in hair follicles) proliferation, which leads to abnormal hair stages (more catagen/telogen, less anagen). Hair follicles produce new hair strands(anagen) for 2-6 years before the hair falls (catagen and telogen).
After this fallout, follicles of the fallen hair strands stay dormant for a small time period.
Usually, that period lasts only a bit, not years. When your follicles decide for whatever reason to stay dormant permanently then you ‘ve got a problem. You ‘re balding officially. And our indication is that VDR’s inside hair follicles are deactivated before these follicles become dormant.
But as I mentioned, science needs to prove this, so stay tuned.
Keratinocytes, Anagen Phase and Vitamin D
How are your hair follicles affected by this event?
Well, vitamin D is a major player that helps with the anagen phase of your hair follicles. This process of anagen stimulation of hair follicles needs its triggers, the same way your penis needs testosterone to get erected. Bad example, bad ape! (Planet Of The Apes style)
But the truth is that vitamin D helps your keratinocytes (wow…thug name right there!) differentiate and proliferate. Did you know that those gangsters keratinocytes play their part during the anagen phase of your hair follicles???
I know… I’m excited too!
So, these keratinocytes do take part in the development of epithelial cells. Epithelial cells are necessary for strong hair strands.
Studies confirm that when the keratinocytes wherein healthy populations in each hair follicle, the hair of the patients had greater survival rate. Meaning in simple ghetto language:
(High) Vitamin D —> (High) Keratinocytes —> (High) Number Hair Strands —> Nice and Thick Hair
Of course, that’s not all we ‘ve got in your defense.
In the previous lines, we watched with agony (!!) the story of vitamin D as an independent substance and how it helps your hair grow. We also learned some basics on the hopeful discovery of Vitamin D Receptors and their relation to baldness!
I think you have now painted a picture of how important vitamin D healthy levels are for your hairline, especially when produced on the scalp by sensitizing the grand Receptors!
Now, we ‘ve got to the last great point about Vitamin D and baldness. Yes, your favorite substance DHT and it’s relationship to the king prehormone Vitamin D.
DHT is a problem as it seems for balding men. Can it back down without drugs? Maybe….
Is dihydro-TESTOSTERONE killing your “gains”?
So let’s see how our old-friend DHT is involved. Yes, that little hormone is responsible for both a lot of good and bad things in your prostate, facial hair and scalp hair.
As we already mentioned, prostate and DHT are highly related. Some studies have shown that men with low vitamin D levels in their blood are more susceptible to prostate cancer. Which means that somehow DHT is involved also. Which also means that baldness is a result of this link.
DHT is a hormone that derives from testosterone.
Dihydro(xy)testosterone is its full name. Testosterone is a hormone that needs some building blocks so that it can be built. Vitamin D is supposed to be a building block. “Does this even make sense or did you just came up with in your mind?” Although the mechanism behind this is not yet confirmed, the thing is that many studies show the positive correlation between vitamin D and testosterone:
- A study in Australia researched how old men, testosterone, and vitamin relate to each other. The results showed that old men with low vitamin D levels had lower free testosterone. That can be attributed to the inefficiency of old people’s bodies to utilize the mechanism of vitamin D production. Participants also had more bone fractures (don’t forget the relationship of vitamin D and calcium!).
- Another huge study conducted among 1362 men (that’s an army!), showed similar associations between vitamin D and testosterone. The researchers found that the relationship between testosterone (free and serum) and vitamin D levels was linear. That means that for every X amount of vitamin D taken, testosterone rose respectively by Y. They also concluded that when vitamin D reached ~80 nmol/L, testosterone levels stopped increasing.
- Finally, a study conducted in 1939, just before the escalation of the World War II, showed promising results for those men that love to be naked outside. Dr. Abraham Myerson found out that men with chest exposure to the sun for 5 consecutive days increased their testosterone levels by almost 120%! But the following golden nugget will blow your apish minds out. When men exposed their ge…, their …gen, their …genitals(! 😮 !) to the mighty sun, their testosterone decided to do a PR and increase by an astonishing 200%. Wait, what? W-H-A-T? Yes, you read correctly!! But, proceed with caution. Don’t go out full naked… at least cover your genitals if you do!!
Of course, these studies are showing the undeniable relationship between vitamin D and testosterone.
Testosterone production is correlated with DHT production… Usually in a negative way in adults (simplistically saying healthy testosterone production seems to hold a proper healthy ratio of testosterone / DHT).
DHT is produced in higher amounts in topical glands and tissues like the prostate and your scalp. There is an enzyme called 5a-reductase that helps to produce it. But we are still not quite there in understanding the full picture. With a little logic, it makes sense.
Old men are usually bald. Old men usually have lower free testosterone. Hmmm that seems suspicious to me…
I think it’s a strong correlation we should consider.
Which thus means that there is a relationship between vitamin D and DHT… If we raise testosterone and keep it in healthy levels, there might be a stopping mechanism that stops the negative ageing effects of DHT on our scalp.
Which in turn finally proves that:
There is definitely a correlation between vitamin D, testosterone and male pattern baldness. Click To Tweet
In what exactly way? No one is sure yet. But science usually follows observation. So waiting another 25 years for the studies to prove, is not the best of tactics if you want to save your hair and also have a great shot in having a thicker hairline!
“Wait, did you tell me that testosterone helps but DHT doesn’t?”
Well, there seems to be a preferred ratio between your testosterone and DHT, ok?
When DHT/free testosterone increases, then problems arise. From baldness to prostate cancer, you would like your free testosterone to rule over your DHT.
The thing is that DHT is not so sensitive as free testosterone to oxidation and vitamin D deficiency, which means that when you do not take your vitamin D you are mainly lowering your free and serum testosterone but not your DHT. This is a bad thing for your hair follicles because too much DHT free flowing within your scalp skin tissue seems to be harmful to the growth of the hair follicles.
Consider also that women don’t have a prostate and neither do have big amounts of testosterone nor DHT like you do and guess what? They are not balding too often too.
Guess who else isn’t balding…
These unfortunate men do not produce amounts of testosterone as they should, but they are fortunate enough to have a full head of hair most of the time.
There's a link between Vitamin D, DHT/testosterone ratio and male pattern baldness. Click To Tweet
Part 3 Is On Its Way…
Before we dive into the last part of this vitamin D guide for bald boldapes, let’s do a recap with a sauce of philosophical thinking.
Nowdays, many scientists still say that vitamin D’s role on hair loss is not scientifically approved yet. This means, by their standards, that we should not use vitamin D as one of the new hair loss treatments for men.
But I tend to disagree with those folks.
Like I already mentioned, there are many cases where science didn’t catch up with the facts. Furthermore:
Note: Science is half objective and half subjective. It needs to be that way, because if we rely only on our approved results, then there is no room for suggestions and improvements with new – not proven yet – ideas.
So if there are many correlations and something just makes sense, I think you should self-experiment with it (unless it’s drugs or something ultra stupid!). Being out under the sun is our nature and it makes sense that the absence of it can take a toll on our health – and beauty.
Of course, you have always considered the option to consult a health specialist but always ask for further advice and explanations. CAUTION: If he says to you that sun exposure without sunscreen causes cancer, you know what to do. Get to the chopper!! …as Arni used to say. And just fire him/her. Easy?
SUN EXPOSURE, WHEN DONE PROPERLY AND GRADUALLY, HELPS PREVENT CANCER.
More on how to communicate with health experts and how to choose the right ones here.
Of course, keep in mind that observations and correlations do not always translate 100% to causation. Which means, that usually there is more than one factor in play for every result you achieve or try to achieve.
Nevertheless, as you have already read, there are many findings to support that vitamin D is a superhuman weapon when used right. Also, it makes [email protected]&!ng sense. It’s the bloody sun (as Arthur from Peaky Blinders would say!)!
Haven’t you read the first part of this Vitamin D series? Take a good look first before you proceed to part 3!
So to wrap this up, don’t wait for science to prove this 100% because you will be bald by then and 20-25 years older. That’s why I recommend fix your vitamin D deficiency right away, and let nature takes its course.
In the next and final part, you will learn how to use Vitamin D to boost your hair growth with ways you probably know and one way you wouldn’t imagine…!
Aaa almost forget! Take a look here where we gather the best bullet points of this article altogether! Feel free to share with your best balding buddy!
Special thanks to:
US National Center for Biotechnology Information & National Library Of Medicine
Vitamin D Council
The Wall Street Journal
Live Strong Team
Health Line Team
Belgravia Center Team
Hair Loss Revolution Team
Top Hair Loss Treatments Team
The Atlantic Team
Real Self Team
- Aoi, N., Inoue, K., Chikanishi, T., Fujiki, R., Yamamoto, H., Kato, H., Yoshimura, K. (2012). 1 ,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Modulates the Hair-Inductive Capacity of Dermal Papilla Cells: Therapeutic Potential for Hair Regeneration. Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 1(8), 615-626. doi:10.5966/sctm.2012-0032
- Bikle, D. D., Tu, C., & Oda, Y. (2015). Calcium and Vitamin D Signalling in the Epidermal Response to Wounding [Abstract]. Immunology‚ Endocrine & Metabolic Agents in Medicinal Chemistry IEMAMC, 14(3), 128-136. doi:10.2174/187152221403150521104752
- Bollag, W. B. (2012). Mediator1: An Important Intermediary of Vitamin D Receptor–Regulated Epidermal Function and Hair Follicle Biology. J Investig Dermatol Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 132(4), 1068-1070. doi:10.1038/jid.2012.25
- Mazen, I., Ismail, S., Amr, K., Gammal, M. E., & Abdel-Hamid, M. (2014). Hereditary 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D-resistant rickets with alopecia in four Egyptian families: Report of three novel mutations in the vitamin D receptor gene. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, 27(9-10), 873-878. doi:10.1515/jpem-2013-0443