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Winter Hair: What Vitamin D Deficiency Does and How to Avoid it

9 Min Read

Medically Reviewed by


During the colder months of the year, many of us suffer from winter hair. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s dry, static hair that easily can break. Though wintertime is cozy, with many chances to curl up inside with a good book, the darkness alone can be treacherous for both skin and hair. Those who live in the Northern hemisphere see the sun less, and get less D vitamin from that natural source. Deficiency in this vitamin could lead to depression, brittle bones and hair loss.

Why Vitamin D Is So Important

Vitamin D plays many parts in the body. Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is a well-known phenomenon, meaning a depression that is related to changes in season. For most people, this means that the feeling of depression starts in the fall. It then peaks throughout the darker winter months, to subside in the spring when the light and warmth comes back. This disorder can be treated with light therapy or medication.

But vitamin D also plays a role in SAD. All our cells have receptors, which receive chemical signals that direct them to function in certain ways. Some of the cells in the specific area of the brain where depression is developed have receptors for vitamin D, which means that vitamin D plays some kind of role in depression. One theory is that vitamin D affects the amount of happiness chemicals in the brain. As anti-depressant medications work to increase these “feel-good” chemicals in us, some believe that increased intake of vitamin D would have the same effect. Also, as our vitamin D levels are at their lowest in the wintertime when SAD peaks, it is very likely that there is a connection.

Vitamin D is also important for the health of our bones, teeth, lungs, immune system, keeping our insulin levels normal, and for our cardiovascular health.

What Does Vitamin D Have To Do With Hair Loss?

Many people see a change in their hair in the winter, as the air gets dry and cold. The humidity in summer air can be annoying for people with frizzy or curly hair, but in the winter the effect from being outdoors is the opposite. It is common with winter hair that is flat and dry, with brittle strands that easily get electrostatic. To maintain a healthy winter hair you need a different regimen than in the summer. And without the vitamin D we get from the sun, people who suffer from thinning hair may experience increasing problems.

The Role Of Vitamin D

The role that vitamin D plays in our bodies has been increasingly examined during the past ten years. One study, published in 2013, found a connection between lack of D vitamin and hair loss in women as young as 18 – 45 years. In women suffering from hair thinning or female pattern baldness, the levels of vitamin D were significantly lower than in women with healthy hair growth. Though it is too early to tell which factor is causing which, it does show that the two are connected. Also, without sufficient vitamin D, the body cannot absorb some of the vitamins and minerals that are vital for our hair growth, as zinc and calcium.

Even if you do not suffer from hair loss, increased levels of vitamin D may aid your normal hair growth and give your winter hair care a kickstart. According to a Japanese study from 2012, vitamin D can help create new hair follicles, which in turn increases hair growth. The researchers found that treating people’s follicles with the vitamin “significantly enhanced the growth of new hair over that of the control group”, and that “the hair grew thicker and lasted longer.”

And according to a 2007 Harvard study, vitamin D could also help awaken hair follicles that are dormant. When follicles are dormant, they do not produce any hair and balding occurs. In some cases, if you reactivate follicles, renewed hair growth begins.

How To Get Enough Vitamin D

Unfortunately for those living in the North, the main way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. The more skin you bare to the sun, the more vitamin D you soak up. Most other vitamins can be found in the food we eat. And we will be fine as long as we have a mixed diet. But there are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. So in the wintertime we may easily suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which will affect our hair and skin. So if you want to treat your winter hair, you should make sure to be outside as much as possible on sunny days and catch the daylight. This will also do wonders for your mood.

The other way to get enough vitamin D is through supplements. There are variations that only contain the exact vitamin you are deficient in, or supplements that target specific problem areas. Many natural hair supplements contain ingredients researchers have found vital for maintaining healthy hair growth. This include vitamin D, keratin, zinc and biotin. Even if you do not suffer from hair loss or problematic winter hair, supplements could still be considered. This is because they contain season specific ingredients that help you stay healthy during the dark winter months. If you do take a supplement that contains only vitamin D, make sure you stick to the recommended daily intake. There are different amounts advised depending on what you are treating for.

Text by Emma von Zeipel

Photo credits:Mitya Kuvia Flickr

Nickolai Kashirin via Flickr  

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