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Hair is an integral part of our identity for many of us, whether you prefer to wear it long or short, keep it natural or experiment with different colors and shades.
Experts recommend several precautions you can take to keep your hair happy, especially when you wash it. If you enjoy a shower that is on the warmer side, you may want to reconsider the temperature, as using hot water to wash your hair can weaken your locks and lead to more hair loss. Experts recommend washing with warm or lukewarm water and then rinsing with cooler water to retain moisture and prevent breakage.
But if you’re already following these steps and notice that you’re losing more hair than usual, it could be an indication that you need a blood test, especially if you’re a woman. Losing hair suddenly may not be tied to your genes and could indicate a medical condition such as pregnancy, thyroid disease, anemia, autoimmune disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and various skin conditions.
And taking a daily supplement for another medical condition could also play a role, experts now warn.
Vitamin A is vital to your health, keeps your vision in tip-top shape and keeps both your immune and reproductive systems functioning. Interestingly, it also plays a vital role in keeping your hair healthy.
“Vitamin A is used in the treatment of hair loss to stimulate hair growth, repair damaged hair and keep the scalp moist,” Michael May, says FRCS, medical director and chief surgeon at Wimpole Clinic in London. “It’s also an antioxidant, which helps fight free radicals that cause hair damage.”
For people with alopecia areata — or sudden hair loss with one or more bald spots — one of two forms of vitamin A, beta-carotene, is particularly helpful. According to May, this is largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, taking too much vitamin A can have the opposite effect on your hair and harm your health, experts warn.
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The second form of vitamin A, retinol, is the variety that poses a threat when overused, according to May. Vitamin A toxicity can only occur if you take too many supplements because the levels in food are “way too small to cause serious harm.” The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 4,300 International Units (IU), but taking more than that amount (about 10,000 IU per day) can lead to hypervitaminosis A, also known as vitamin A toxicity.
“If you take too many supplements of the retinol type for an extended period of time, your hair follicles go into overdrive,” May says. “This means that your hair is reaching the end of the development phase too quickly and starting to fall out.”
When your body can’t keep up with this loss and produce enough hair to replace it, thinning and baldness will occur, he adds.
Your health care provider may recommend a vitamin A supplement if you are on a restricted diet that requires extra vitamin A, or if you have conditions such as pancreatic disease, eye disease, or measles, Enrizza P. Factor, says clinical dermatologist and researcher at My Vitiligo Team. You may also be instructed to take these supplements if you have impaired night vision or skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne, according to: Krista ElkinsNRP, RN, specialist at HealthCanal.
But while vitamin A is essential to keep you healthy, too much of a good thing can cause problems beyond hair loss, and experts recommend that you talk to a doctor before you start taking supplements. If you’ve already taken too much and experienced hair loss, the Wimpole Clinic recommends stopping or “drasically reducing” your intake to allow your body to use up the reserves stored in your liver. After the levels return to normal, you should see your hair growing normally.
Fortunately, the average healthy person can get all the vitamin A they need through their diet. Red, yellow, orange and dark green vegetables are all healthy sources of vitamin A, as are eggs, liver, fortified milk and cheese, the Wimpole Clinic states.