Are skin issues a sign of underlying nutrient deficiencies?

The body has a way of telling you when things are not working right in your body. Whether it is a change of mood, an increase in weight or something changing on your skin. It's important that you look out for these signs, so that you are able to resolve any issues before they become a problem.


For example, a rash, skin dryness, hair loss or thinning, or discolouration can all be signs of nutrient deficiencies in the body. The good news, is that there is help available - so what are the signs and what do they mean?

Changes in skin: Possible signs of nutrient deficiencies 

Here are some changes to look out for that might imply your body is deficient.

Pale complexion

An unhealthy pale colour to your skin may be a sign of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 or folate deficiency. The skin may become pale when you are anaemic or when your circulation is not working effectively. If you do look pale, it is advisable to test for nutritional deficiencies which will give you a good overview of any nutrient shortcomings. A professional nutritionist can advise on which test to take.

Impaired wound healing

If you have found that you are bruising frequently, or a wound or sore is taking longer to heal than you would usually expect, you may be deficient in vitamin C and zinc. A simple test for zinc deficiency is a taste test. As above, seek advice from an expert before looking into supplements and for information on getting tested.


Dermatitis includes dry, itchy and reddening skin which can be a sign of zinc, niacin and essential fatty acid (such as omega 3s) deficiency. You can isolate a niacin deficiency, as the skin normally reacts to sunlight causing red lesions. This can be especially evident when someone has their chest exposed on a sunny day and a necklace shape rash occurs.

Nail discolouration and brittleness

Your nails give a lot away. White marks or lines on the nails are a sign of a zinc deficiency. A brown-grey colour, as well as vertical grooves and spoon shapes on your fingernails may be signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Meanwhile, brittle nails may indicate an iron deficiency.

Testing for a substance called methylmalonic acid and/or homocysteine in the blood is useful to understand whether you have a functional vitamin B12 deficiency, rather than just testing the serum alone. Enlarged red blood cells on a routine full blood count test are also a sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Hair loss or thinning

Hair loss can present as thinning hair or in patches known as alopecia areata. Many nutrients are important for healthy hair, but deficiencies in the B vitamins, especially biotin and niacin, vitamin A, zinc and iron, all contribute to hair loss.

As hair loss is complex and can be caused by many different factors, a good starting point is to test for nutritional deficiencies and then determine the root cause of such deficiencies.

There are many other signs that indicate things may not be going as swimmingly as you might think, so look out for these. For example, blocked hair follicles, dark skin patches and changes in your eyes such as dryness, impaired night vision and photophobia, are also worth checking.

But if and when skin issues do arise, don’t fret! Be thankful to your body for giving you a sign that something isn’t right. You can then seek guidance and take the appropriate action to make sure things don’t get worse, and so the issue can be resolved in a preventative and straightforward way.

If you have skin issues and would like to explore the underlying cause of your condition so you can start to take a personalised approach to healing, please get in contact with The Autoimmunity Nutritionist clinic. The clinic offers a free 20-minute health discovery call to kick off the process to get you back to health.

Alternatively, search Nutritionist Resource to find a qualified nutritionist near you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W1G & Harrogate HG1
Written by V. J. Hamilton, Autoimmune Disease Expert | BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT
London W1G & Harrogate HG1

Victoria is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and member of BANT, focusing on autoimmune disease including skin disorders, heart disease & neurological issues as well as gut health & fatigue. Victoria has a BSc in Biochemistry & Immunology which she uses in her practice, using only evidence-based nutritional therapies to support chronic conditions.

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