Can Scalp Fat (Brown Fat) Save Your Hair?

By Paul Taylor

Increased brown fat levels in the scalp might encourage healthy hair growth, and a lack of it might be linked to hair loss.

Many factors can affect hair loss development. This article explains how brown scalp fat (subcutaneous fat) could be an important area of research in our quest to fully understand the hair loss process.

A Scalp Fat-Hair Loss Coincidence?

Subcutaneous fat layer of skin

Brown fat (brown adipose tissue) is found deep down in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. It's often referred to as "baby fat" too because it comprises as much as 5% of the body weight in a newborn baby.

Brown adipose tissue levels decrease with age. But it's now known to be still present in adults - it's most abundant in younger women and much less so in older, overweight men. Source:

So, basically this means that most men lack brown fat and do suffer hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), whereas most women and children have higher brown fat levels and don't suffer hair loss.

I do not believe this is simply a coincidence.

The Science Behind This Idea

Research* has shown that the follicles of vigorously growing scalp hair are embedded in a layer of brown adipose tissue. However, in people with androgenetic alopecia, there's a lack of it around dormant follicles (bald areas are mostly depleted of fat tissue), but in the lower rear (occipital) region where hair loss does not occur, a thick layer of fat tissue is present. And it appears that this loss of fat layer occurs before follicle miniaturization and hair loss begins.

* The following article states: "Researchers have noted the accumulation of this fat around healthy follicles that are vigorously growing hair, and its relative lack in around dormant follicles, and have postulated that these fat cells serve a supportive function for the hair follicle." Source:

All of which strongly suggests that brown adipose tissue serves a supportive role for hair follicles and hair growth.

This type of hair loss develops due to skull bone growth (skull expansion) which progressively constricts the blood vessels of the scalp and reduces the blood supply required by the follicles to grow hair. So it may well be that brown fat offers some resistance against this process.

And I believe there are two possible reasons for this:

1. Angiogenesis (vascularization).

2. Cushioning effect against the skull expansion process.

1. Angiogenesis (Vascularization)

Brown fat encourages angiogenesis* (new blood vessel formation). And that's important because hair undergoes a growth cycle. And during the growing phase of that cycle, follicles will continuously try to grow deep down into the dermis of the skin where they can receive an abundant supply of blood.

However, in those who suffer hair loss, this process is hindered by skull expansion. So, if brown fat levels can be increased, this might create new blood vessels and allow healthy hair to start growing again.

* Source: Angiogenesis in an in vivo model of adipose tissue development. Jaap G. Neels, Terri Thinnes, David J. Loskutoff. FASEB Journal 10.1096/fj.03-1101fje. Published online April 14, 2004.

2. A Cushioning Effect

Given that a layer of brown adipose tissue will increase the thickness of the dermis, it may provide a cushioning effect that can reduce blood vessel constriction and increase scalp flexibility.

How Can You Increase Your Scalp Brown Fat Levels?

The omega 3 fish oils, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acids) have been associated with BAT activity. So, it may be that, by consuming a very high omega 3 diet, you can do something to help your hair grow.

Perhaps the best evidence for this idea comes from the Inuit people (Eskimos) who consume extremely high levels of omega 3 fish oils from their diet, and have a very low incidence of androgenetic alopecia. Learn more: ethnicity and hair loss.

You might be able to increase your levels of brown adipose tissue from omega 3 fish oil supplements containing EPA and DHA. Otherwise, omega 3 can be obtained from eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, etc. Vegetarian sources of omega 3 can be obtained from walnuts, pumpkin seeds, linseed (flax), etc.

Note: vegetarian sources of omega 3 have to be converted to EPA and DHA by the body.

Oily fish

However, there is uncertainty as to how much omega 3 will get converted into BAT and then find it's way into your scalp.

So whilst diet might improve the growth of your hair, it's sensible to try a number of ideas in your battle against baldness: the hands-on techniques I successfully used to stimulate my own hair regrowth are now helping many others to do the same - read reviews?

A Few More BAT Facts

  • BAT (i.e., brown adipose tissue) serves as a heat insulator, shock absorber and provides energy for the body.

  • BAT has the ability to produce heat without the need for shivering and is of interest to scientists right now because it does this by burning calories from normal fat (white adipose tissue). This means that it may have an application in the weight loss industry.

  • Recent research shows that BAT is related to skeletal muscle.

  • BAT is brown because it is highly vascularized (i.e., it contains blood vessels) and contains a large number of mitochondria (which provide energy).

  • Exposure to the cold will activate BAT activity.

  • BAT may play a supportive role in successful hair transplants - learn more?

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