There can be any number of reasons behind why someone may be suffering from hair loss. While stress, diet, and lifestyle are all key factors we decided to look at one that can play a big role but is often shrouded in mystery... Ferritin
WHAT ACTUALLY IS FERRITIN? (AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?)
While those in the industry are comfortable with what Ferritin is it’s often a bit of mystery to patients; essentially, Ferritin is a protein which stores iron in your cells for your body to use later. Measuring Ferritin levels gives us a good indication of the amount of iron stored in your body. But the key thing to note is that it is not the same as your iron levels.
When looking at hair loss, you want to make sure you’re focusing on the right marker.. i.e. your Ferritin levels and not your iron levels. It’s actually possible for a person to have low ferritin levels without even being anaemic.
WHAT ARE THE IDEAL LEVELS FOR FERRITIN?
In peer reviewed research and documentation Ferritin numbers of 80-100 ng/mL are considered optimal for maximum hair generation capability, however readings at 20ng/mL can be considered medically 'normal' so if you are looking into causes for your hair loss it’s important to get the actual results of any blood tests rather than just accepting a medic’s opinion that they look normal.
A ferritin reading towards the lower end of the range will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on your hair. This is because it has a direct effect on your hair growth cycle. Hair follicles do not continually produce hairs throughout our lifetime, but rather they go through phases of growing a hair and resting. When a follicle is in the ‘growing’ phase, this is called anagen, and when it is in the ‘resting’ phase, this is called telogen. On average, a hair will grow for 5 years before falling out and being replaced. If we do not have sufficient stored iron, the duration for which an individual hair grows will be reduced.
WHAT CAUSES LOW FERRITIN LEVELS?
Hair loss due to low ferritin is one of the most common types of hair loss we see in women. Rarely men can be affected too, but it is menstruating women who are most likely to be affected, as blood loss depletes iron stores.
CLINICAL STUDIES INTO THE IMPACT OF FERRITIN ON HAIR LOSS
There have been numerous studies and abstracts over the years looking into what causes specific types of hair loss.
Back in 2013 there was a study looking into the role iron played in hair loss with the conclusions being that Iron may play a certain role and especially in premenopausal FPHL.
A very recent study (Feb 2020) looked into the Ferritin levels for Telogen Effluvium (TE) and Female Pattern Hair loss in 80 patients and found that serum Ferritin was significantly lower in the TE and FPHL group than the control study showing that this clearly plays a part in hair loss.
IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS ABOUT LOW FERRITIN LEVELS?
The good news is that hair loss due to low ferritin is entirely reversible (yay!), and can be relatively easy to correct. Once you know what your Ferritin level is, your trichologist / Consultant will be able to recommend the best level of supplementation for you based on your individual circumstances.
Whilst it is helpful to include iron rich foods in your diet, such as red meat, dark green vegetables and dried apricots, you may need to take supplements to fully restore your Ferritin levels. Any supplements you take should be under the advice of your healthcare professional and it’s especially important not to take Iron supplements unless on the advice of a specialist, following appropriate blood tests.
If you are concerned about your Ferritin levels or any other nutritional deficiencies that may be causing your hair loss it is always worth seeing a healthcare professional in the first instance as hair loss can often be a marker for your over all health and show any potential underlying health condition.
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