Losing hair after bariatric surgery occurs in most patients and is usually temporary. Learn more about the causes and treatments for hair loss to better understand what to expect after surgery.
Why Does Hair Loss Happen After Weight Loss Surgery?
Hair loss after bariatric surgery can happen because of its stress on the body and a lack of nutrients. Bariatric patients are on a restrictive diet following surgery.
This abrupt change in the patient’s diet affects how their hair grows. They sometimes don’t receive enough of the proper vitamins and protein to sufficiently support hair growth.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, hair loss takes place between three and six months following a weight loss procedure. This is whether it’s gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, or duodenal surgery.
The term for hair loss associated with weight loss surgery is telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs in people who’ve experienced significant weight loss or gastric surgery. It also affects people who have:
- Given birth.
- Experienced high stress levels.
- Experienced a high fever.
- Gone off birth control pills.
Overall, women most commonly experience hair loss after bariatric surgery. However, men can also lose their hair following the procedure.
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What’s a Normal Amount of Hair to Lose?
On average, a typical human sheds 50 to 100 hairs a day. Though it differs for everyone, someone experiencing telogen effluvium might lose up to 15% of their hair.
In a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine, 75% of the 112 women who underwent sleeve gastrectomy experienced hair loss. Among them, 80% reported that the thinning started three to four months following their weight loss procedure.
Bariatric surgery can lead to hair loss. But there isn’t an exact amount of hair you can expect to lose. Consult your doctor if your condition worries you, is worsening, or isn’t going away.
Can You Prevent Losing Hair After Bariatric Surgery?
Sometimes hair loss is unavoidable after the procedure due to the stress it puts on the body. However, you can get proactive about preventing hair loss after bariatric surgery through proper nutrition and a balanced diet.
A diet rich in the following foods promotes hair growth:
- Seeds and nuts, especially cashews.
- Fish and shellfish.
- Protein like chicken and turkey.
Hair is itself primarily protein, so consuming an adequate amount of protein is essential for hair growth.
Taking the proper vitamins and supplements can also promote growth.
Hair loss may also result from nutrient deficiencies, which are due to reduced absorption of nutrients. Vitamins commonly recommended for supporting hair health after bariatric surgery include:
- Biotin, or vitamin B7. This helps hair growth. A deficiency of this can cause hair to thin.
- Iron helps deliver oxygen to the hair follicle, promoting hair growth.
- Zinc plays a role in hair growth and repair. A zinc deficiency may contribute to hair loss. The body only needs a small amount of zinc, which is usually present in a multivitamin with minerals.
Maintaining a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet can help minimize hair loss and support healthy hair growth after bariatric surgery. Following your health care team’s guidance regarding protein, vitamin, and mineral supplementation can help with this as well.
What is the best shampoo for hair loss after bariatric surgery?
Some sources recommend using shampoos with ingredients like minoxidil to stimulate hair growth. However, there is no strong evidence that this will help hair loss after bariatric surgery.
Telogen effluvium associated with bariatric surgery is usually a short-term condition. Using topical treatments like minoxidil is unlikely to help because it can take up to a year to start seeing results.
Utilizing a volumizing shampoo or hair product or avoiding products that would weigh your hair down may help camouflage some of the hair thinning in the meantime. Your hairdresser can help you find products best suited to your hair type.
Will My Hair Return Back to Normal?
Most often, hair loss after bariatric surgery lasts for six months. After this time, your hair will most likely return and resume normal growth.
If you are no longer losing weight but still experiencing telogen effluvium, you may want to talk to your doctor. In addition to this, you may want to consider vitamin supplements or a diet rich in nutrients that support hair growth.
Losing hair after bariatric surgery is not life-threatening and generally means your body is reacting to the procedure in a normal way. However, losing large amounts of hair or hair loss that continues after six months may justify some concern. Reach out to UPMC Bariatric Services to learn more about weight loss options and treatments.
Christina Colizza. The best shampoos and treatments for thinning hair. Select, NBC News. Link
Jessica Booth and Keri Gans, RDN. Best Vitamins And Supplements For Hair Growth: An Expert Guide. Forbes Health. Link
Ozan Şen, Ahmet Gökhan Türkçapar, Journal of Laparoendoscopic & Advanced Surgical Techniques. Hair Loss After Sleeve Gastrectomy and Effect of Biotin Supplements. National Library of Medicine. Link
Public Education Committee. FAQs of Bariatric Surgery. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Link
Wen Zhang, Meiling Fan, Cunchuan Wang, Kamal Mahawar, Chetan Parmar, Weiju Chen, Wah Yang, and on behalf of Global Bariatric Research Collaborative, Obesity Surgery. Hair Loss After Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. National Library of Medicine. Link
About UPMC Bariatric Services
UPMC Bariatric Services is here to help if you’re struggling with obesity and want to lose weight. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical weight loss plans and can help you find the right path for a weight-loss journey. We will work with you to discuss your needs and develop and individualized treatment plan. We meet the highest level of national accreditation for bariatric surgery centers, and our team provides complete care. We offer our services at UPMC locations throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Visit our website to find a provider near you.