Iron & Hair - A Confusing Topic

In a previous blog post, we discussed iron and its’ possible role in hair loss. The focus of this blog post is to re-visit the role of iron, presenting evidence supporting the role of iron in hair loss as well as evidence suggesting iron does not have a role in hair loss. Looking at both sides of the fence will allow for a well-rounded argument with the sales person in the vitamin aisle at the grocery store.

There is evidence that hair loss may occur in individuals that have low iron.

A study conducted of 50 women with chronic telogen effluvium (CTE) reported that these individuals increased hair shedding over long periods of time1. In this study, 72% of the women who had CTE also had very low iron2. To give some perspective, in the US, only about 9 to 11% of women are iron deficient3. In a hospital based study, 116 patients who had telogen effluvium (TE), showed a much lower percentage of women with low iron4. Only about 34% of the women had low iron levels (below 12 µg/l)4.

There is evidence that iron supplements help with hair loss.

A group of 22 women who were treated with a combination of iron and an essential amino acid for 6 months showed a decreased amount of hair preparing to shed5. This represents a 39% reduction in hair shedding5.

There is evidence that iron is not involved in hair loss.

In another study only 6% of almost 200 women, ages 11 to 72 years old, complaining of hair loss were shown to have low iron6. When five of these women with low iron levels then took iron supplements, there was no reversal or changes in their hair loss6.

So there you have it, both sides to the story. Iron levels may or may not contribute to hair loss.  Perhaps in the future we will be able to tease out the truth about iron as it relates to hair.

Article by: Sarah Versteeg MSc, Mediprobe Research Inc. 

  1. Rushton DH. Nutritional factors and hair loss. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):396–404.
  2. Rushton DH, Ramsay ID, James KC, Norris MJ, Gilkes JJ. Biochemical and trichological characterization of diffuse alopecia in women. Br J Dermatol. 1990 Aug;123(2):187–97.
  3. Looker AC, Dallman PR, Carroll MD, Gunter EW, Johnson CL. Prevalence of iron deficiency in the United States. JAMA. 1997 Mar 26;277(12):973–6.
  4. Malkud S. A Hospital-based Study to Determine Causes of Diffuse Hair Loss in Women. J Clin Diagn Res JCDR. 2015 Aug;9(8):WC01–4.
  5. Rushton DH, Norris MJ, Dover R, Busuttil N. Causes of hair loss and the developments in hair rejuvenation. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Feb;24(1):17–23.
  6. Sinclair R. There is no clear association between low serum ferritin and chronic diffuse telogen hair loss. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Nov;147(5):982–4.