Can Dehydration Cause Hair Loss?

Woman experiencing hair loss

Seeing a big wad of hair in the drain after showering or pulling out multiple strands as you style your hair can be alarming. You may wonder how much hair it’s normal to shed throughout the course of the day and if you’re losing too much.

If you are losing more hair than what’s normal for you, it’s natural to wonder if it has something to do with your diet. After all, what we eat and drink impacts every aspect of health. Could drinking more water be the antidote to hair loss? Here’s what dermatologists have to say.

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Can Dehydration Cause Hair Loss?

Hydration is paramount to health. The body literally can’t function without it. Every single cell depends on the body being well-hydrated. But the connection between hydration and hair isn’t so straightforward. After all, hair is made up of dead cells. Do dead cells need water?

According to Dr. Lauren Penzi, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, while hydration does play a role in hair health, dehydration typically does not lead to hair loss. “Hair loss is often multifactorial and influenced by a number of factors. Dehydration alone, unless severe, is unlikely to be the sole cause for hair loss, but it certainly can be indirectly related,” she says.

Dr. Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and the founding director of Eternal Dermatology, agrees, saying, “While it’s certainly important to drink enough water for general health so that the body can function properly, there is not a direct connection between hair loss and dehydration."

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That said, Dr. Penzi does say that hydration plays a role in hair health. “Hydration is necessary for proper circulation, including circulation to your hair follicles. Circulation is important because this is how vital nutrients are delivered to the hair follicle that [is] essential for proper hair growth,” she explains, adding that adequate hydration is also necessary for maintaining the structural integrity of the hair shaft. “Dehydration can make the hair more brittle and prone to breakage. It can indirectly contribute to overall hair thinning, loss of volume and loss of shine,” she says.

What Can Cause Hair Loss?

While dehydration is not typically a cause of hair loss, both dermatologists say that not getting enough nutrients can contribute to it. “Eating a balanced, well-rounded and nutritious diet is essential for the health and growth of your hair,” Dr. Penzi says. She explains that protein, amino acids like l-cysteine and l-lysine, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and biotin are especially important to get enough of for hair health.

“If you’re deficient in nutrients, it can lead to weaker hair which falls out or breaks more easily,” Dr. Rodney says. “I always emphasize to people [who want healthy hair] that it’s important to have a balanced diet as well as stay properly hydrated."

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While it’s important not to be nutrient deficient, Dr. Rodney says it’s impossible not to overdo it either. If someone thinks they are losing their hair, they may believe consuming nutrients in excess can help. Dr. Rodney says this is not the case. In fact, she emphasizes that this is dangerous and could lead to consuming toxic levels of vitamins. So while it’s important to get enough nutrients, it’s important not to go overboard too.

Dr. Rodney says that it’s also important for people to know that it’s completely normal to lose hair throughout the day. “It’s normal to lose around 200 strands of hair every day,” she says. For some people, it’s completely normal to end every shower with a knot of hair circling the drain and it’s nothing to worry about.

However, both doctors say that if you notice a sudden uptick in the amount of hair you’re losing, that’s when it’s time to see a dermatologist about it because this could be a symptom of an underlying health condition that needs to be treated. “If men start to notice thinning of their vertex scalp or bitemporal recession, it is likely a sign of androgenic alopecia and time to see a doctor. Similarly, women who notice a loss of density on the crown or frontal scalp with a widening of their center part should also visit their dermatologist,” Dr. Penzi says.

When it comes to hair health, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy diet and see a dermatologist if you notice a sudden rise in the amount of hair you’re shedding each day. But you certainly shouldn’t worry about every hair you lose.

Next up, here's everything you need to know about alopecia, a hair loss condition that impacts millions of people.