Understanding Hair Loss after Weight Loss Surgery

Hair loss is a little known, but common, potential side effect of weight loss surgery. For prospective or post-operative patients, facing hair loss can be frightening or stressful. It is important to understand how, why and when hair loss occurs and what you can do about it. The key fact to keep in mind is that this type of hair loss is not permanent!

The type of hair loss that usually occurs after surgery is called Telogen Effluvium. Throughout our lives our hair follicles shift between a growth stage, called anagen, and a phase in which they are resting or falling out, called telogen. Normally about 10% of your hair follicles are in the telogen phase – those are the strands that you shed naturally on your hairbrush or in the shower.

When an event, such as surgery, puts stress on our bodies one physical response to this stress is an increase in hair follicles in the telogen phase. This occurs one to six months after surgery and results in a sudden increase in hair loss. This type of hair loss usually appears as thinning at the crown of the head and does not result in the receding hairlines associated with genetic hair loss.

New hair grows in to replace the lost locks, and you can expect regrowth within six months as long as there are no other underlying medical issues. In the meantime, there are several things you can do to take care of yourself while coping with post-operative hair loss:

Maximize your nutrition. Poor nutrition and deficient protein can contribute to hair loss. Follow prescribed nutrition guidelines closely and eat the recommended amount of protein.
Take vitamin supplements. Studies have shown that zinc and iron may help treat hair loss, and other vitamins such as Biotin, B12, and Omega3 fatty acids can contribute to metabolic health.
Visit your primary care physician to rule out other potential causes of hair loss such as thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiencies or other illnesses.
Relax! This type of hair loss is natural and occurs following different types of surgeries, after childbirth and other stressful situations. The percentage of hair lost is relatively small and it will grow back, typically within six months.