Does whey protein cause hair loss?

If you’ve done shopping for any kind of nutritional supplements, you know that whey protein is one of the most widespread available. Protein shakes made with whey protein isolate are a staple of diets often recommended for those who want to add muscle mass. Whey protein powder can even be helpful for weight loss, if used as a way to control appetite.

But like other supplements, there is a potential for some negative side effects for those who use whey protein. One of the most common of these conditions is hair loss. Many avid gym goers and others who use whey protein shakes – especially men – may wonder if whey protein could cause them to lose hair. 

While there is some scientific evidence to indicate that whey protein isolate may accelerate hair loss in certain cases, protein is also an important element of having healthy hair. This article will discuss protein’s connection with hair, why some people may experience accelerated hair loss, and some other options for people who may be concerned that whey will accelerate male pattern baldness.     

How whey protein is used

To recap its nutritional importance: Whey protein is a valuable form of protein, a macronutrient formed from amino acids. Whey protein naturally occurs in many dairy products, but you can also find isolate forms available in supplements. Whey protein isolate is a highly filtered form of whey protein. In general, whey contains a very small amount of lactose (less than 1%). However, the fine filtration of whey protein isolate leaves it with virtually no lactose content.

The consumption of whey protein is associated with several positive health benefits, including:

Whey is also valuable as a “fast-digesting protein,” meaning it can be more valuable for those trying to increase their protein intake after a workout because it is absorbed into the body more quickly. 

Whey protein’s connection with hair

Protein in general is important for healthy hair, skin and bones. In fact, hair follicles are mostly composed of proteins. A sufficient protein intake is vital for maintaining hair health as well as sufficient bone density and muscle mass. This is especially true for people who engage in intense activity most days, whether through a physically demanding job or a rigorous training schedule.

However, there is some evidence that suggests certain forms of whey protein may accelerate hair thinning and male pattern baldness. A 2017 study found whey protein isolate as a supplement was associated with a larger degree of acceleration in hair loss. 

But other studies have found that nutritional deficits could actually be a contributing factor to the loss of hair through male pattern baldness and other factors, like natural aging. Still other scientific research suggests that no supplements, including protein, should be consumed in excess to make up for a deficiency in another nutrient believed to be causing hair loss. 

Traditionally, elevated testosterone levels are also correlated with hair loss. However, there is still research to be done in this area, as some science suggests that therapy to adjust testosterone levels in women can actually lead to more hair growth.

Another form of baldness called alopecia is mostly associated with immune system issues. With alopecia, hair falls out in patches throughout the head, as opposed to the typical thinning or receding hairline that is common in other forms of baldness.

The bottom line is that there’s still a lot of unknowns when it comes to understanding any potential links between nutrition and hair loss. It’s also important to keep in mind that hereditary-pattern baldness – another term for being born with the genetic predisposition for baldness – is the most common cause of hair loss. Your genes are much more likely to have an impact on the amount of hair you lose when compared to your diet, hair washing habits and nutrient intake. 

Does whey protein cause hair loss?

There is no evidence that consuming whey protein will directly lead to hair loss. This is especially true for people who weren’t experiencing any kind of hair thinning or receding hairline prior to beginning to use protein regularly. 

As mentioned in the previous section, there is a chance that consuming whey protein isolate supplements specifically may cause an acceleration of hair loss that a male is experiencing. If you are someone who experiences hereditary-pattern baldness, there are several things you can do to avoid potentially exacerbating the problem by consuming whey protein isolate:

There are also certain transplant procedures that can move hair from areas of your body with plentiful hair growth to your scalp. Consult with a hair transplant surgeon or dermatologist to get more specific advice on hair thinning treatments that might work for you. 

Keep in mind that any changes to your dietary supplements made to account for hair loss or thinning may affect you in other ways. It’s important to take a look at your nutrition as a comprehensive whole, evaluating your intake of macronutrients like protein as well as micronutrients like vitamin C and vitamin D. 

The final word on whey protein

Most people won't have any issues with consuming protein supplements, whether they come in the form of whey protein powder, BCAAs or any other kinds of products designed to help improve protein intake. Whether your goal is fat loss, increasing muscle mass, or simply improving your overall health, protein dietary supplements can help.

However, if you are already dealing with male pattern baldness, alopecia, or hair loss from any other conditions, you may want to choose your supplements more carefully. Consider picking an alternative kind of protein like casein or pea, or think about trying other forms of supplements like creatine. Make sure you consult with a health care professional such as a nutritionist, dermatologist or other doctor to get final approval on any new supplement you may be taking.