Save 40% when you buy the entire hair kit. See the kit
For women, our hair can feel intrinsically tied to our sense of beauty. So when your crowning glory starts to look a little thin and lackluster or you’re spotting excessive hair in the drain, it’s natural to feel worried. But it’s important to know that more than half of all women will experience thinning hair in their lifetime, and it becomes more common as you get older.
Hair loss in females can happen for a ton of reasons, from genetics to hormones, and even nutritional deficiencies. If you were recently diagnosed with iron deficiency and started to notice signs of hair thinning, you may be wondering, “does low iron cause hair loss?” If so, we got ya covered.
Before you Google spiral, this article will cover what anemia-related hair loss looks like and if hair loss due to iron deficiency will grow back. Oh, and we have science-backed treatment options you can consider. Told ya, we got ya.
Iron deficiency is exactly what it sounds like — a condition that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough iron. And an iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is usually diagnosed when hemoglobin levels fall two standard deviations from the typical mean, which your healthcare provider can help determine for you.
In some cases, your body can become deficient in iron due to malabsorption and digestive issues (like celiac disease) that prevent you from properly absorbing and using the iron in food. Additionally, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’re more likely to have an iron deficiency, as you typically get less iron from plant sources versus animal sources.
Anemia is often seen in pregnant women, while premenopausal women are also more likely to have lower iron stores because of menstrual blood loss.
When any type of blood loss occurs, you also end up losing iron. Thus, bleeding in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract from inflammatory bowel disease — like the celiac disease we previously mentioned — or any other gut conditions can also up your risk of developing an iron deficiency.
A nutrient deficiency can influence both hair structure and growth, so what you eat does, in fact, matter. A deficiency can cause telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss that can occur with sudden weight loss or if you lack essential nutrients.
Of the various nutrients from biotin to vitamin D, the number one deficiency is actually iron. And while an iron deficiency has been linked to hair loss, there aren’t enough studies yet to show solid evidence that they’re related.
That said, in one study on 113 patients with female pattern hair loss, serum ferritin (a measure of levels of iron in your body) was lower than in the control group. These findings show that premenopausal female pattern hair loss may be linked to iron deficiency, even though the role of iron isn’t totally understood.
It’s worth noting that an iron deficiency is believed to only lead to hair shedding if it’s severe enough to cause anemia. Your dermatology provider can determine exactly what type of deficiency you have so you can best figure out how to treat it.
Since the signs of hair loss due to anemia may not look different than typical signs of hair loss, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to analyze your lab results. Blood work will help your healthcare professional determine if iron deficiency is the root cause of your hair loss.
Some general side effects of iron deficiency can include pale skin, weak or brittle nails, fatigue, cold hands and feet, plus dizziness or lightheadedness. And as we’ve mentioned, the specific symptoms of hair loss from anemia look like typical signs of hair loss, which can show up as:
A widening part
Overall thinning of the crown of your scalp
Reduced hair density, especially over frontal scalp
A thinning hairline
There are a lot of different ways to treat an iron deficiency, and we’ve got a few pointers below. But you’ll always want to speak with your healthcare provider first.
Many people are asymptomatic when their iron is low, so a blood test is the best way to check iron levels. Your healthcare provider can then accurately determine serum ferritin levels, which is a count of the total iron stores within your body.
From there, they can figure out an appropriate treatment plan, which may include iron supplements or incorporating more iron-rich foods into daily meals. This brings us to…
To regrow hair from an iron deficiency, you may want to up your iron intake. Foods like salmon, tuna, shellfish, red meat, poultry and whole eggs are all great sources of dietary iron. Vegetarian? You can find iron in lentils, white beans, nuts and leafy greens like spinach.
Also crucial to note is that vitamin C is like a wingman to iron. It helps with intestinal absorption of iron, so squeeze a little citrus over that steak or spinach salad.
Learn more about foods for healthy hair so that you’re ready to ace your meal prep. And speaking of prep, trying cooking on that nifty cast iron skillet. It may also help up your iron, but how much it helps can vary.
When you’ve lost hair, it may feel like nothing can stop the shedding or bring back the hair you’ve lost. The good news is that treatments are available to both stop hair loss and regrow hair. Just be sure you start one as soon as you notice hair loss — it will give you the best chance of saving what’s left.
Some of the most common hair regrowth treatments for women include:
Minoxidil drops: A tried and true treatment, minoxidil is FDA-approved to treat female pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), but it’s also used off-label for various other causes of hair loss. Minoxidil helps shorten the telogen (resting) phase for hairs and prolongs the anagen (growth) phase. It’s also believed to boost microcirculation by the hair follicles. All these various mechanisms can help thicken and regrow hairs in as little as two months, with peak results coming in around four months. Our 2% drops are especially easy to use and they're available over-the-counter, so adding to cart is simple.
Oral minoxidil: If you’d rather not mess with your styling routine, oral minoxidil might be the right treatment for you. Though it’s not FDA-approved, clinical trials have shown promise at various dosage strengths (0.25 to 2.5 mg daily).
Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray: A solid pick for postmenopausal women, this two-in-one spray uses finasteride to target the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — a potential cause of female pattern hair loss — and help stop hair loss. It’s combined with minoxidil to help promote hair growth.
Spironolactone: Another option for hormonal hair loss, this daily pill is easy to include into your routine. An antiandrogen drug, it helps reduce testosterone production, which reduces symptoms like hair loss or acne that can be caused by excess androgen.
Prevent breakage by giving your strands TLC. If you bleach or color often, try to stretch appointments so your hair isn’t as prone to damage. Additionally, lay off the hot tools or crank the heat down so you’re not scorching hair. Healthy hair will look thicker and shinier, which is the end goal, right?
There’s a lot of different factors that can affect hair health, and if an iron deficiency seems linked to your hair loss, there are definitive steps you can take.
Get tested. Don’t just go on a hunch here. Work with your healthcare provider and get blood work done to determine if you have low iron levels.
Eat iron-rich foods. Nosh on a balanced diet with iron-rich foods like lean meat, seafood, white beans and green vegetables. Picky eater? Even fortified cereals may help. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if an iron supplement is necessary. You don’t want to just take iron supplements for hair loss willy-nilly based on what looked pretty at CVS.
Try a science-backed hair loss treatment. These treatments can amp up hair growth and save what you still have. Options like minoxidil can work in as little as two months and by four months, you could see major improvements.
Got more questions? Read our guide on female pattern baldness for a deeper dive. Or if you’re ready to find a healthcare provider-recommended hair regimen, you can get started with a super easy, no-pressure online quiz.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
How it works
Not sure which products are right for you? Take our free Hair Quiz and get a personalized routine recommendation.