Weight loss surgery is the process of changing the flow of food through the digestive system. As a result of the surgery, people are able to lose weight at a rapid pace. But, if you consider what this procedure is – a significant transformation of your body – it is clear to see why it can impact other areas of your health and wellbeing, including your hair. Some men and women who undergo weight loss surgery will experience hair loss in the months to follow. The good news is it is often just a temporary concern and nothing to worry about in the long term.
Why Is It Happening?
A key concern for people who have weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is understanding why they are losing their hair. It is true this surgical procedure offers benefits to your health including helping to reduce your weight, which can improve hormone regulation in the body. But it also causes a condition called telogen effluvium. This is a technical term you may not know much about, but it has to do with your hair’s normal growth cycle. Most people who have weight loss surgery will experience at least some hair loss as a result.
Hair loss in telogen effluvium begins suddenly. You may feel as though you have lost a significant amount of hair immediately. It can continue over a few weeks. It does not last, in most people, longer than about six months. There are various degrees of severity possible here, but the most common concern many men and women have is understanding why they are losing their hair and if it is going to come back. Most people will find improvements occurring within a matter of months. Total hair loss is not common, though, so report any of these concerns to your doctor.
Why does this happen? There are several key reasons:
- The surgery itself is considered a shock and trauma to the body. It is a form of illness and, as a result, the body stops growing hair to deal with the healing process more effectively.
- Hormone imbalance is another concern, especially for those who are dealing with hypothyroidism as a component of their weight loss journey.
- Your diet is changing, too. Most people who go through weight loss surgery will experience a significant change in diet, often a drop in calories. And, you may not be getting all of the nutrients you were.
Understand the Hair Growth Cycle
It all has to do with the hair growth cycle. During the growth phase, called anagen, about 90 percent of all of the hair follicles are present. However, in the second phase, called telogen, the rest of your hair remains. This is a type of resting phase. It lasts from one to six months, but most typically is about three months on average. After this phase, the hair follicles begin to wake up and produce hair as well, while other areas will fall into the resting phase. This cycle ensures healthy hair.
However, when a sudden event like weight loss surgery happens, it creates a shock to the system. As noted, this type of shock causes hair loss to occur. Any hair in the resting phase at the time of the surgery is likely to fall out. Hair otherwise in the growing phase will enter into the resting phase. This is due to the stress on the body and change in your hormones as a result. You will feel like it is a lot more than 10 to 15 percent, but most people only lose a very small fraction of their hair.
Over time, the system rights itself. That is, when your hair moves into the growth stage again, the old hair will fall out of the follicle to make room for the new. However, it can also come out before new hair grows in, creating the hair loss you experience.
Keeping this in mind, men and women going into weight loss surgery should expect to see their hair thin due to the stress of the procedure. Over a period of three to four months, most of it will grow back, restoring your hair to the look and normal level you are used to.